ECOSOC HOLDS IMPLEMENTATION FORUM AND PANEL ON INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN THE TRANSFER OF TECHNOLOGY IN AFRICA
President of Colombia Addresses Economic and Social Council
3 July 2013
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this morning held an Implementation Forum in which it heard about initiatives in support of the theme of the Annual Ministerial Review on science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It held a panel discussion on international cooperation in the development, transfer and diffusion of technologies in Africa and least developed countries. ECOSOC also heard a keynote address by the President of Colombia.
In his statement, Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, said that the challenges facing humanity had become increasingly complex to tackle but there were also many opportunities to seize in order to make progress in justice, equality and sustainability. Bringing about sustainable development and eradicating poverty were not independent global challenges but needed to go hand in hand with concrete action from governments, academia and civil society. Implementation was lacking at every level and the desired results had not been achieved yet, so more needed to be done. Developed countries, in particular, which represented 60 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product, needed to turn words and promises into concrete action. Developing countries were growing twice as quickly and were making difficult reforms which were starting to bear fruit, thus making a significant contribution to development.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council held an Implementation Forum and heard presentations on initiatives in support of the Annual Ministerial Review’s theme. Presenting the initiatives were: Rolandas Krisciunas, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania; Toshihiko Ota, Mayor of Toyota City, Japan; Jim Mclay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations Office in New York; Carol Lanteri, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Fuad Mrad, Executive Director of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’s Technology Centre; Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships; Cosmo Zavazava, Representative of the International Telecommunications Union; Antonio Prado, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; Cristina Navarrete Moreno, World Bank Innovation Labs; Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Teresa Jamaa, Representative of Wireless Reach Initiative; and Hashem Al-Mustafawi Al-Hashimi, Representative of Qatar to the International Telecommunication Union. Adnan Amin, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency, acted at the Moderator.
Participants in the Implementation Forum presented a number of initiatives illustrating the importance of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development and addressing key current challenges. Presentations included projects in the fields of renewable energy, transportation, partnerships for investment and innovation, and creation of knowledge repositories and communities of practice to promote innovation.
Also this morning the Council held a panel discussion on international cooperation in the development, transfer and diffusion of technologies in Africa and least developed countries, moderated by Adnan Amin, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency. Participating in the panel were Charles Kitwanga, Deputy Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office for Environment of Tanzania; Martial De-Paul Ikounga, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology; Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Dirk Willem Dijkerman, Special Advisor, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Strategy; and Francisca Okeke, Professor of Physics, University of Nigeria, and Winner of the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award.
During the discussion, speakers highlighted challenges and opportunities for African and least developed countries in the context of technology. While economic development in Africa in recent years was evident, particularly in the context of information and communication technologies, it was also important to consider the contribution that technology could have in other important sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing which still faced a significant productivity gap. Speakers also emphasised the development of technology as part of promoting local ownership rather than the mere transmission of technology. The field of intellectual property provided an example of how information itself was also important, in particular, given challenges faced by newcomers in this area. Speakers also highlighted the importance of an enabling environment to ensure technology had a positive impact on development; while others stressed the responsibility of the international community to contribute to the development of least developed countries.
Sudan, Venezuela, Benin, South Africa, Mexico and Nigeria took the floor during the panel discussion.
The Council will resume its work this afternoon, at 3 p.m., when it will hold a panel on universal health coverage and, in parallel, will continue with its High-level Segment general debate.
NESTOR OSORIO, President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the Implementation Forum provided a dedicated space for focusing on how the Council could serve as a central hub for achieving future goals. It was important to strengthen the role of the Annual Ministerial Review as a tool for integrated and coordinated follow-up through a preparatory process. The Forum could help to emphasize one of the great strengths of the Council, namely bringing together policymakers and mobilizing them to achieve goals so that words could turn into action and boost sustainable development. Mr. Osorio said that science, technology, innovation and culture had great potential as promoters of sustainable development and could foster access to knowledge and promote the creation of decent jobs.
ADNAN AMIN, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency and Moderator, said that the Innovation Forum sought to develop concrete initiatives and an operational framework and interface for science, technology and innovation.
ROLANDAS KRISCIUNAS, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said a Lithuanian company had developed advanced biodegradation technology to transform polluted areas, such as soil pollution around oil stations. This provided a good example of how scientific innovation could lead to a cleaner environment.
TOSHIHIKO OTA, Mayor of Toyota City, thanked the Council for their support in the aftermath of the east coast earthquake. A small community project had been developed in Toyota City for the consumption of energy using advanced technology to establish a system of independent communities that could assist one another. Telecommunications were also being used to link different facilities, make recommendations on the basis of road conditions and consumer behaviour, and ensure an optimal use of energy. A 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions had been achieved and jobs had been created.
JIM MCLAY, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations Office in New York, said that Pacific island countries had abundant renewable energy resources that were not fully exploiting them. In March 2013, New Zealand in collaboration with the European Union hosted a Pacific Energy Summit, whose aims were to match Pacific leaders and 79 renewable energy projects with major donors and to encourage prompt investment decisions. By the end of the event, commitments worth $500 million had been made. New Zealand itself had committed $65 million to projects in the Pacific countries. Innovation could power investment, said Mr. McLay, and the Pacific region could provide a model for turning ambitious energy projects into reality.
CAROL LANTERI, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Monaco paid particular attention to the fight against tropical diseases and had been developing a Senegalese platform for clinical research which provided vaccination against some of the most lethal parasitical diseases. The Senegalese non-profit organization had been selected because of its high-level research into tropical diseases. Ensuring that the initiative lasted over time was highly important to Monaco, in a bid to strengthen North-South cooperation in medical research and to emphasize the role played by developing countries in protecting the health of local populations.
FUAD MRAD, Executive Director of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’s Technology Centre, said that science, technology and innovation could transform societies and increase capacities. In 2012 a sample commercialization tool had been implemented for four countries and an online platform for young companies in need of investment. In total 114 companies had registered in two months and, after mentoring, 34 top companies had agreed to meet regional investors from the Middle East and North Africa region and, after carrying out a tour for meeting and matching, 11 business deals had been made. The goal was now to scale up this project to increase the number of deals and matching meetings. Technology was naturally about implementation and it was only natural to focus a meeting on implementation. Delegations were urged to consider if this initiative, through international partnership, could also be implemented in other regions.
AMIR DOSSAL, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, responding to the presentation, said that this was the kind of initiative needed to meet existing challenges. Organizations like the national chambers of commerce were part of this effort to bring financing and he recommended that this kind of initiative was replicated in other regions. The economic regional commissions were present and he urged them to explore the possibility to establish national centres in different regions.
COSMO ZAVAZAVA, Representative of the International Telecommunications Union, said that mobile phones were an easy, widely used piece of technology. They were also the technology of the future, moving from voice to data and transforming the way the world did business but also all other activities in daily lives. The International Telecommunications Union was launching a new global initiative, which aimed to use mobile phones to provide easy access to healthcare for those who needed it, as well as access to banking services and government services. This new initiative was expected to make a positive impact on the lives of millions around the world.
ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the International Telecommunications Union was an important partner in the region and there were several regional cooperation programmes to improve infrastructure, such as broadband connection. Mr. Prado highlighted the establishment of the annual Latin American and Caribbean School for Policymakers in Science, Technology, Innovation and Broadband, which provided annual training on the design, follow-up and implementation of public policy. In addition, several intergovernmental fora had been organized and had issued resolutions and declarations.
CRISTINA NAVARRETE MORENO, World Bank Innovation Labs, addressed innovation policy, which could be a powerful tool to promote employment, competitiveness and growth. The key challenge was to build an effective and efficient innovation ecosystem: innovation policy was hard to define and involved a number of different agendas. Policy practitioners faced challenges in designing operative solutions. The World Bank was working on a virtual platform emphasising a ‘know-how’ approach, including information repository and a community of practice. The information repository included a number of different materials, including statistics and case studies. A virtual global space was being created for users to interact, share experience, and employ the information available.
GRETCHEN KALONJI, Assistant Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said this initiative would contribute to providing information but highlighted that there were other initiatives under way with the view of collaborating and avoiding duplication. Since 2005 the European Union had implemented a similar platform and UNESCO since 2010 had launched online the science policy information network (SPIN) which covered Latin America and, since 2011, UNESCO had aimed at scaling this initiative to include the globe through the project goSPIN.
TERESA JAMAA, Representative of Wireless Reach Initiative, said that access to wireless technologies had the potential to change people’s lives. A new project had just been launched in collaboration with the Spanish University for Distance Learning, with the aim of offering online, free of charge training in business development and entrepreneurship. The course, which was offered in Spanish, would teach entrepreneurs how to use some of the latest wireless technologies. There were plans to offer the course in Portuguese and English in the future and to provide certification.
HASHEM AL-MUSTAFAWI AL- HASHIMI, the Representative of Qatar to the International Telecommunication Union, said that wireless use had a positive effect on the future of humanity. In the framework of recent changes in Qatar, a Ministry for Technology and Communication was been established, and the Government had been investing intensively in creating an innovative and modern economy. Qatar had also devised a five-year strategy for science, technology and innovation, and was currently focusing on offering high-speed broadband to at least 90 per cent of households by 2015.
ADNAN AMIN, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said that there had been a spectacular growth in renewable energy; at a time when innovation and business models were improving, some systemic barriers remained, such as limited information concerning the cost of renewable energy. The cost of solar and wind energy, for example, had decreased and the Agency had launched an initiative with a number of key stakeholders to map the costs of renewable energy deployment in order to aid decision making. This could become one of the most effective tools for investment decisions.
AMIR DOSSAL, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, said that the Implementation Forum served as a platform to showcase these initiatives. Perhaps the Council should consider creating a global database of these projects to serve as a learning tool. Mr. Dossal suggested that information about these projects and outcomes was published in the form of a database for which a number of the initiatives introduced so far could serve as building blocks. The International Telecommunication Union was also working on a number of projects and it would be good for others to learn about this.
Keynote Address by the President of Colombia
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, President of Colombia, said that the challenges facing humanity had become increasingly complex to tackle but there were also many opportunities to seize in order to make progress in justice, equality and sustainability. Bringing about sustainable development and eradicating poverty were not independent global challenges but needed to go hand in hand with concrete action from governments, academia and civil society. Implementation was lacking at every level and the desired results had not been achieved yet, so more needed to be done. Developed countries, in particular, which represented 60 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product, needed to turn words and promises into concrete action. Developing countries were growing twice as quickly and were making difficult reforms which were starting to bear fruit, thus making a significant contribution to development. It was high time to look at the developing world and accept with humility that there were many lessons to be learnt from the measures which developing countries had implemented.
The issue of global stability was a critical point. The financial crisis had caused great instability around the world, and the Latin American region had been suffering for the past six years because of unstable exchange rates. The world today was characterized by instability and inequality. To change things, the world must set long-term goals and build conditions for the future. The Millennium Development Goals and the sustainable development goals were entirely compatible, even though the former were for the developing world and the latter for the entire world. Colombia was proud to have promoted the initiative of the sustainable development goals and had taken enormous strides towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially in order to eradicate extreme poverty and the related exclusion from society, healthcare, education, civic rights and opportunities in general. The rate of unemployment had been reduced during the past three years in Colombia, the goal of universal coverage in basic education had been achieved, and huge efforts had been made to put an end through dialogue to internal conflict. Colombia would greatly appreciate the ongoing support of the international community in that respect.
Panel on International Cooperation in the Development, Transfer and Diffusion of Technologies in Africa and Least Developed Countries
MARTIN SAJDIK, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that science, technology and innovation had the power to transform societies and improve economic competitiveness and resilience by generating knowledge and technological and social innovation. The development of technology and innovation and the benefits they offered could promote sustainable development in Africa, which was a continent full of promise. The Istanbul Plan of Action, adopted two years ago, recognized the transformative power of science and technology.
ADNAN AMIN, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency and panel discussion Moderator, said that Africa had been through a traumatic transition characterized by a lack of growth and poverty, but today was experiencing unprecedented growth and development. There were, however, remaining challenges mainly to do with the lack of technology and sustainable development. Technology transfer could only happen as the result of investment, growth and development. In this context, Mr. Amin asked the first panellist what have been the technology drivers in Tanzania and what was expected in the future.
CHARLES KITWANGA, Deputy Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office for Environment of Tanzania, said that when looking at Tanzania, the 2025 vision and the top agenda, the question was how to leverage technology for development. Broadband based on fibre optics was connecting universities and research institutions. Furthermore, a database on research had been developed, enabling people to access information and research activities. Tanzania was one of the least developed countries and science and technology were crucial for the vision for its transformation into a middle income country.
ADNAN AMIN, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency and Moderator, noted that information and communication technologies had been an important driver of innovation and investment in African countries. However concerning their impact in other sectors, for example in agriculture and manufacturing, what were the effects of increasing investments in research and development.
CHARLES KITWANGA, Deputy Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office for Environment of Tanzania, responding to the moderator’s question, said that concerning agriculture in Tanzania, efforts had been made to provide irrigation infrastructure, different technologies and other resources to small farmers as well as connections to medium and large-scale farmers. The challenge was to empower small farmers so that they were not dependent on the larger players in the market.
MARTIAL DE-PAUL IKOUNGA, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, highlighted the conceptual constraints related to attitudes towards technology transfer, and it often assumed a passive perspective. The understanding of technology transfer could have a bearing on the follow up and the mechanisms for science and technology put into place. It was important to consider a large number of factors including the different sectors receiving investments in Africa. Regarding science, technology and innovation, African leaders should not simply be aware but should take ownership of technologies. Technologies must be taken on board and this was what was being asked of African leaders. Dynamic policies for science and technology were needed and it was also important to avoid duplication.
ADNAN AMIN, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency and discussion Moderator, said that technology was integral to the way the world dealt with development. In the African Union, where did Mr. Ikounga see the major opportunities for industrial growth, investment and technological diffusion and what kind of human resource policies were needed to support those opportunities?
MARTIAL DE-PAUL IKOUNGA, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, said that the simplest and most direct system would be for persons to be able to feed themselves and have a better life, which encompassed many sectors, including agriculture. Through agriculture one could tackle issues relating to industrialization and everything relating to marketing, distribution and trade. It was self-evident, therefore, that agriculture should be at the top of the list, although there were additional areas in which Africa could do more, such as education.
ADNAN AMIN, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency and discussion Moderator, said that the term “capacity-building” was used a lot in similar fora and asked Mr. Lopes how he saw the challenge of capacity building.
CARLOS LOPES, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said that there was a certain level of assertiveness in Africa today, which showed that the continent wanted to discuss matters on a different basis. It was essential to ensure that natural resources in Africa were utilized in the best possible way. Africa was now looking at ways of engaging partners, including in capacity-building. Mr. Lopes pointed out that capacity retention and capacity utilization should also be taken into account, so it was better to talk of capacity development rather than just capacity building. The perspective of eliminating the category of “least developed countries” from the African continent was pretty good, and multi-layered capacity development could play a big part in this.
ADNAN AMIN, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency and Moderator, said many debates in international fora focused on the intellectual property regime and about the need to move beyond, however, it was paradoxical that the intellectual property regime had indeed promoted development by rewarding entrepreneurship.
CARLOS LOPES, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said that this was an important issue and value addition required an understanding of the full value-chain. The value of intellectual property was where most of the income came from and therefore the accumulation of patents had an important effect. Intellectual property regimes were not often friendly to newcomers but benefited those already there. Least developed countries, Africa and newcomers would have to receive special treatment in a crowded intellectual property system, where multinationals benefited from a number of advantages and, even from a regulatory point of view, it was very hard to start. Close attention for the needs for special treatment should be paid.
ADNAN AMIN, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency and Moderator, said that in the field of renewable energy intellectual property was important for innovation, but also for developers and investors and countries. Regarding technology transfers information was also important, for example, information about how to get started in the context of intellectual property. Mr. Amin asked Gyan Chandra Acharya about developments and key challenges concerning the situation of least developed countries.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, stressed that at their conference in Istanbul, least developed countries had clearly expressed the aspiration to graduate for this category. There had been significant progress and but the remaining productive capacity gap should be addressed. Overall, the context of the least developed countries and the traditional process of the development of this process would take too long. A quantum leap was needed on the basis of technology, investment on infrastructure and sustainable agriculture and development. Ensuring access to technology was an important enabler, but technology adaptation and inclusiveness were also needed. Mutual accountability mechanisms giving priority to science and technology in national development strategies and improving the nexus between the public and private sectors were also important. Unless an application environment was in place, technology would not have the expected impact on development.
ADNAN AMIN, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency and discussion Moderator, asked when and by whom the technology bank would be set up.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that a study was being conducted and a presentation would be made to Member States. Turkey had already made a commitment to set up the international technology bank.
FRANCESCA OKEKE, Professor of Physics, University of Nigeria and Winner of the 2013 L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award, said that science was the basis for technology and innovation and the key to prosperity for every nation. Science required systematic instruction in education and should not be confused with superstition. Ms. Okeke said it was unfortunate that science was often seen as being more suitable for men than women, so it was important to encourage women and girls to study science.
DIRK WILLEM DIJKERMAN, Special Advisor, Development Strategy, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that the world had changed, so they also had to change the way they did business and the way they developed knowledge. The topic of science and technology was a great example of that. Knowledge capital did not just consist of knowledge as a commodity, but there was also intangible knowledge, which was equally important. Nowadays, in many countries more and more money was invested in knowledge capital development. Governments had a key role to play and should create a regulatory environment which struck a balance between investing in primary and tertiary education.
Sudan said that least developed countries in Africa were facing a number of challenges, including debt, conflict and climate change. Sudan requested the panellists to address these and suggest how the international community could offer support.
Venezuela said that the development of least developed countries was the responsibility of the international community and asked panellists, in this regard, what the urgent priorities of the international community were to ensure that technology transfers reached these countries, in particular with regards to vocational training.
Benin said that the acquisition and ownership of technology was beyond their simple transfer and that building a value chain was important to create added value. The acquisition of technology was important to change the state of play and allow producers to enjoy the benefits of their labour.
South Africa said that more should be done to ensure greater equity in the transfer of skills development and capacity-building from developed to developing countries. Retention strengthening in the least developed countries was an important strategy.
Mexico said that it was encouraging that there were successful cases of African countries removing themselves from the list of the least developed countries. How could they ensure that good practices were shared with countries from other regions in a similar situation?
Nigeria said that in Africa there was an educational mismatch, with many persons studying subjects which had nothing to do with development. How could that issue be addressed so that people would begin to align themselves to science, technology and innovation?
MARTIAL DE-PAUL IKOUNGA, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, said that a key question concerned communication and training people about the importance of science and technology. It was a question of making technology more relevant so that there was a match between what was taught in the classroom and the demands of the industry.
FRANCESCA OKEKE, Professor of Physics, University of Nigeria and Winner of the 2013 L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award, commenting on the remarks by Kenya, said that exposing students to both social sciences and technology education should not detract from opportunities for specialisation.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that a strong accountability mechanism, good governance and strong leadership were needed at the national level. International cooperation was very important for the development of science, technology and innovation strategies.
DIRK WILLEM DIJKERMAN, Special Advisor, Development Strategy, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that the elements he saw as essential were striking a balance between investment in education and health, good management of tax policy, and global and cross-institution cooperation.
CHARLES KITWANGA, Deputy Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office for Environment, Tanzania, said that Governments should invest more in education but in a way which would help to avoid brain-drain.
CARLOS LOPES, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said that the protection of indigenous knowledge was absolutely fundamental. He pointed out that a lot of the least developed countries in Africa had made adjustments to their public expenditure, which marked a departure from what the situation was in the past. He also said that Africa was not just discussing climate adaptation but was also very concerned about climate change, and many African States had developed appropriate strategies.
For use of the information media; not an official record