UN forum in Beirut hears call for science and technology ‘renaissance’ in Arab States

UN forum in Beirut hears call for science and technology ‘renaissance’ in Arab States

Prime Minister Hariri opens forum
Kicking off a three-day United Nations forum in Beirut, participants from across the region called on Arab countries to overhaul their science and technology policies in order to create jobs and cut poverty.

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri underscored the need for Arab governments to join hands with the private sector in attempting to bridge the “gaping” divide between the technological progress seen in the Arab world and that found in Western countries.

The Prime Minister also voiced regret over the failure of the majority of Arab states to include the issue of technology transfer among their decision-making priorities. “The human resources are available [and] the markets are available,” he said. “What remains is the will.”

The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Mervat Tallawy, agreed on the need for action. “The problem is how to raise awareness of the potential of these new sciences, how to find the people who are determined to make change and exploit technology, and how to change traditional ways of thinking,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), his Special Adviser, Salim Radwan, called attention to the power of information and communication technologies to promote more open, more just, and more prosperous societies. Citing the ILO’s World Employment Report 2001, he noted that “both productivity and employment were increasing in countries where information and communication technologies were most diffused.”

Ahmad Zuwail, the 1999 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, said nothing less than an Arab renaissance of science and technology would allow the Arab countries to achieve progress. He called on Arab States to “sponsor and encourage human creativity and excellence” and pointed out the region’s strengths in this area. “People still have the brainpower and history is on our side,” he said. “What we have lacked is a rational system able to transform the premises of a rich culture and to take advantage of new advances in the world.”

The forum is being jointly organized by ESCWA and the ILO under the patronage of Prime Minister Hariri.