High-level Conference on Science and Technology (Dubai, UAE, 27-30 October 2002)
Statement by His Excellency
Ambassador Dr. Hussein Ghubash
Permanent delegate of United Arab Emirates
to UNESCO and Chairman of the G77 in Paris

Your Excellency, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-
Maktum, Deputy Ruler, Minister of Finance
and Industry, Patron of the Conference,

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to host this prestigious scientific gathering in the city of Dubai, a city of modern communications technology that is one of the most promising centers of science in the Arab world. Dubai is also a land of religious and cultural tolerance and of peace.

I welcome you all and thank you for participating in this conference, which my country is hosting. Your participation will provide the impetus for the implementation of the Havana Program of Action, particularly as it relates to science and technology and the strengthening of South-South cooperation.

The future of our countries depends on scientific research as the key to the creation of knowledge and achievement of progress. There is vast potential for cooperation between us in the field of research. These opportunities have yet to be adequately exploited so as to strengthen our capacities and make us more effective and innovative players in the international scientific arena.

Science has made great strides in understanding positive and negative infinity, while genetic engineering, DNA decoding and micro- and information technology hold out the promise of global transformations that defy the imagination. It is these subjects, which you experts will be discussing with a view to examining the future prospects for these discoveries, their impact on us and how they will be used to promote the development and well-being of man.

Yet, is it not disconcerting at a time when the barriers of distance, time and place are being dissolved that humanity has never been so divided by economic disparities, the knowledge gap and the variable fortunes of peace and security. Is it not perplexing that every time science makes a leap forward or a new discovery is made, man loses a little of his security and the feeling of fear for mankind's future grows? Indeed, even man's ability to see his short-term future is undermined. Is this a consequence of the division between science and philosophy or of the absence of moral thought behind scientific aims? Is it the result of the fact that the concept of values is missing from scientific research methods and outcomes or of the epistemological separation between the natural and social sciences?

These are all questions which we in the developing world are asking as we endeavor to forge a new relationship between science, man, development, and the realization of justice and progress, whereby science embraces a system of values that caters for the concerns of mankind.

The process of the accumulation of vast amounts of knowledge and achievement of scientific breakthroughs has not been accompanied by similar progress in the moral and political domains. The spirit of social Darwinism, which applies the theory of natural supremacy and selection to man, society and States, continues to dominate the conduct of political, economic and social relations between States. The law of the jungle determines the survival of the fittest.

What is happening with the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights makes it incumbent upon our countries to close ranks against violations which seek to confine the enjoyment of the benefits of scientific and technological progress to the few, even though this progress is the fruit of the efforts of numerous civilizations and cultures and of the contributions of all mankind. Therefore we need to work to ensure that discoveries that relate to the human being and living beings are excluded from the Agreement, since they are the common heritage of all mankind.

The daily and growing threat of the scientific and technological marginalization of the South makes it vital that we place science and technology at the top of our agenda. This means that we needed to address the issues of knowledge and openness to the global research system as a matter of priority for our national programmes in the framework of South-South cooperation.

On a different note, we know that development is the corollary of social and cultural progress and that sustainable development cannot be achieved unless it is comprehensive and takes the human person as its central object. In this perspective, science and research are the engines and driving forces behind sustainable development.

The continuous exodus of scientific brainpower towards the rich countries of the North not only greatly harms the countries of the South, by depriving them of resources, but also denies them the opportunity to develop a strong scientific sector for the future using native talent. Indeed, the growing demand for these resources and the gravity and wide scale of this problem give it all the appearance of a new form of colonial competition in which the developing countries are being robbed of their scientists, inventors and development leaders.

More than 20,000 scientific and technical experts in various specialized fields are lost to Africa alone each year when they take up employment in laboratories and research institutions in Europe and the United States of America. The statistics show that in the Arab region over one million highly skilled trained professionals work outside their countries of origin.

This brain drain must be stopped as a matter of urgency. To do this, we need to set aside more resources to spend on science and research development and to create all the necessary conditions to help us retain these valuable skills. We also need to set up a wide network of contacts between expatriates and the local scientific community and encourage their participation in national scientific projects.

Your Excellency,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We look to science and technology, and primarily to scientists, to help overcome three interrelated challenges that are facing today's world. Firstly, we need to overcome the problem of the knowledge gap between the North and the South. Secondly, we need to answer the question of how science can be enlisted in the service of sustainable development in our societies. Finally, we need to establish rules that create harmony between man and his environment.

The countries of the South cannot fail to triumph in this endeavour, if their scientists here in Dubai agree to draw up a charter which establishes a common set of rules capable of preparing our societies to keep pace with new scientific developments in a social atmosphere that is favourable to science, supportive of creativity, innovation and change and that offers an enabling climate for scientific research and technological development.

We believe that the depth of our underdevelopment is reflected in a situation of stagnation, which neither encourages nor provides any stimulus in society for systematic thought or scientific and technical research.

This charter must provide a conceptual definition of science and its role in civilization in the framework of a contract between society and its scientists, which ensures that the values, goals and aims governing scientific output in our developing world serve the strategic goals shared by all our countries.

If knowledge is power, it is also freedom. Today knowledge rests in the hands of the powerful, among whom can be counted the corporations that control 90 per cent of all scientific research and technology transfers and use that knowledge for hegemonic ends. The knowledge that we are striving to create is one that grants the freedom to escape from the prison of dependency, ignorance, disease and hunger and to protect our future generations, cultures and nations.

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