THE Commission on Science and Technology for
Sustainable Development in the South
(COMSATS) has acquired increasing international relevance with the rise of the Global South. As an inter-governmental organization located in Islamabad representing 27 member states from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, it has been engaged in promoting South-South Cooperation among countries of the Global South. COMSATS is a unique organization of the Global South with its network of 23 Centres of Excellence spread across different countries of the developing world. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has highlighted the importance of South-South Cooperation to generate new ideas and projects that will enable the Global South to make greater contribution in promoting sustainable development. In keeping with its mandate to promote science and technology for socio-economic development COMSATS has enhanced its interaction with the United Nations, European Commission, Commonwealth, UN Agencies and Regional Commissions.
In recognition of the essential role of South-South Cooperation in the implementation of two landmark international agreements on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement, COMSATS has mobilized its member states in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developing climate resilience, applying technologies to accelerate the development process and strengthening partnerships with international organizations. Past year was marked by two noteworthy accomplishments for COMSATS with the setting up of the COMSATS Centres of Climate & Sustainability and the Accra Forum on Science & Technology for Sustainable Development. Both actions reflect the growing role of COMSATS in the context of the UN 2030 Development Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. Both the initiatives were based on COMSATS philosophy of promoting collective action among its member countries under the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals to tackle global challenges of climate change and sustainable development. These innovative approaches have created opportunities to set up mechanisms to foster exchange of information and good practices, strengthen capacities, transfer of technologies, knowledge sharing and establishing networks. Global South is expected to suffer from climate change in terms of reduced agricultural productivity and increased water insecurity as well as by non-climatic factors such as poverty, hunger, high prevalence of disease, low levels of adaptive capacity. Hence key drivers for climate-sustainability nexus need to be enhanced, namely: capacity building, technology development and transfer, infrastructure development, financial support and institutional building.
In recognition of the dual relationship between sustainable development and climate change. COMSATS Centres of Climate & Sustainability (CCCS) was established to focus on the nexus between climate change and sustainable development. CCCS project will address challenges of climate change and sustainable development in developing-country settings. CCCS is a multi-stakeholder institutions working in the framework of South-South & Triangular Cooperation to bring innovative approaches to tackle climate change challenges in line with the policies and practices of developing countries and their international obligations. Since its initiation fifteen COMSATS member countries have joined the CCCS network and are establishing CCCS units in respective institutions. Soon all the units will be electronically connected to provide easy access for exchanges, linkages and collaboration.
COMSATS has attached importance to capacity development and knowledge brokerage. Workshops for CCCS researchers to enhance knowledge on sustainable development issues, climate change and proposal writing and bankable documents are being organized in collaboration with University of Kent in the UK, International Centre for Climate & Environment Sciences in Beijing and attachment with experts in academic institutions in the US. The second key initiative of COMSATS has been the Accra Forum on Science & Technology for Sustainable Development. The proposal was based on the realization that developing countries were showing varying degrees of progress in different spheres of scientific and technological pursuits and that sharing of scientific knowledge and partnerships would help accelerate pace in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Forum will serve as a platform for COMSATS member countries in facilitating interaction, establishment of networks and multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote science and technology cooperation, capacity building and examining technology needs and gaps. The Forum would also address issues relating to impact of technological change on achievement of SDGs, indigenous knowledge, home grown innovations and dissemination of information on good practices. The Accra Forum will generate greater cooperation between COMSATS Centres of Excellence, science academies and other science advisory mechanisms to promote information exchange on science and technology based solutions to the SDGs. The Forum will help cooperate with science and technology-related institutions in the North in building competences to harness technologies for sustainable development. It will also reinforce South-South and Triangular Cooperation.
This year will be significant for COMSATS. Commission Meeting at the level of Heads of State/Government of COMSATS member states will be held in Accra, Ghana on 14-15 April. The summit meeting will be hosted by the President of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Chairperson of COMSATS who is a leading statesman on the African Continent and an eminent international personality. The Accra Forum on Science & Technology for Sustainable Development will be launched during the Commission Meeting in Accra. Prior to the Commission Meeting at Accra there will be meetings of the COMSATS Coordinating Council at the level of Heads of COMSATS Centres of Excellence in Karachi in March and the COMSATS Consultative Meeting at Islamabad to be attended by Ministers of Science & Technology of COMSATS member states. The upcoming meetings will provide impetus to the work of COMSATS in strengthening South-South and Triangular Cooperation and intensifying interaction with the international community on global development issues.
Looking ahead COMSATS as an organization growing in importance within the Global South is well placed to support South-South and Triangular Cooperation on critical issues of sustainability, climate, science and technology. In this vital task COMSATS will cooperate with science and technology institutions in identification of solutions to SDGs, support capacity building science and technology programmes, secure resources, skills and expertise in addressing global challenges and building partnerships at the regional and international levels to attain these key objectives.
—The writer is a former Ambassador and presently working as Adviser COMSATS.