United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for all countries to put greater emphasis on developing their capacities in science and technology, saying that building a reservoir of knowledge in these areas could help the world tackle ills ranging from extreme poverty to illiteracy.
In an opinion piece published today in Science magazine entitled "Science for all nations," the Secretary-General says that no country that wants to shape informed policies and take effective action on such issues as the economy, environment and terrorism can afford to be without its own independent capacity in science and technology (S&T).
Mr. Annan recalls that while world leaders adopted a set of eight time-bound, measurable targets to reduce extreme poverty, fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and help 100 million slum dwellers - collectively known as the Millennium Development Goals - progress on achieving them by 2015 has been mixed at best.
While there are many reasons for the lack of advancement, the Secretary-General writes, what is needed is a true partnership of developed and developing countries that includes S&T. "Cooperation among the scientific and technological communities of different countries and regions yields a large collective reservoir of knowledge and expertise," he says.
The Secretary-General notes that a recent report by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) proposes new initiatives to strengthen national scientific capabilities worldwide and to foster global cooperation. It recommends that every nation develop an S&T strategy that reflects local priorities, including support for basic science, education, and training that will allow it to achieve local competence in priority areas. Meanwhile, a second IAC report to be released this summer will contain specific recommendations for using S&T to improve agricultural productivity in Africa.
"These efforts by the IAC show that the spirit of global partnership is alive and well within the scientific communities of the world," he says. "I hope that we will build further on that momentum and that it will spread to other spheres of human endeavour."