AS­TANA SUM­MIT PLACES SCI­ENCE AND TECH­NOL­OGY AT FORE­FRONT

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - SADIK ÜNAY

THE DEN­SITY of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the sum­mit by prom­i­nent lead­ers from the Mus­lim world tes­ti­fied that the agenda on sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy was sin­cerely em­braced by na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tions

In an age of mul­ti­po­lar global com­pe­ti­tion, in­ten­si­fy­ing pro­tec­tion­ism and ri­val­ing drives for in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness, na­tional ca­pac­i­ties for sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy have ac­quired re­newed strate­gic im­por­tance. Hu­man­ity is at the eve of the Fourth Industrial Revo­lu­tion that will con­nect industrial man­u­fac­tur­ing and our daily lives with dig­i­tized con­trol sys­tems. There­fore, the fo­cus of in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion will grad­u­ally shift from con­ven­tional industrial-mil­i­tary spheres to more com­pli­cated realms of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­ti­za­tion. Ris­ing areas of the knowl­edge econ­omy, such as biotech­nol­ogy, nan­otech­nol­ogy, ge­net­ics, op­tics, lasers, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, soft­ware and new-age stor­age tech­nolo­gies, such as big data and cloud, in­creas­ingly de­ter­mine both the course of per­sonal ca­reers and na­tional prow­ess in the global po­lit­i­cal econ­omy.

In this con­text, it is nec­es­sary that the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion (OIC), as the sec­ond largest in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion in mem­ber­ship af­ter the United Na­tions, con­cen­trate its en­ergy on the is­sue of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy to fos­ter co­op­er­a­tion among its mem­bers. In this vein, fol­low­ing years of prepa­ra­tion and soul search­ing, the First Sum­mit of the OIC on Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy was held in As­tana, the thriv­ing cap­i­tal of Kaza­khstan. The choice of venue was per­fectly com­pat­i­ble with the gen­eral theme of the sum­mit, as the rapid trans­for­ma­tion of As­tana from a small town in the Kazakh steppes into a world-class cap­i­tal over the course of the last two decades is a tes­ta­ment to neatly planned im­ple­men­ta­tion of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy to ur­ban­iza­tion.

While the Mus­lim world keeps strug- gling with end­less civil wars, in­ter­nal strife, sec­tar­i­an­ism, rad­i­cal­ism, all sorts of ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence, a lack of proper ed­u­ca­tion and a dearth of sci­en­tific ac­tiv­ity, it was ex­tremely im­por­tant that is­sues in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy were dis­cussed at the level of state lead­ers. There­fore, the first ever OIC Sum­mit on Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy started a his­tor­i­cal process through which mul­ti­fac­eted is­sues re­lated to sci­en­tific re­search, higher ed­u­ca­tion re­form, fi­nanc­ing and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of tech­nol­ogy be­gan to be dis­cussed as strate­gic pri­or­i­ties among Is­lamic coun­tries. This devel­op­ment is per­fectly in tune with the logic of emerg­ing global com­pe­ti­tion.

This week, I had the per­sonal priv­i­lege to par­tic­i­pate in the As­tana Sum­mit and fol­low pre­sen­ta­tions by the lead­ers, the diplo­matic pro­ceed­ings and dis­cus­sions and na­tional de­mands first hand. Dur­ing the ses­sions, the top­ics that came fre­quently to the fore in­cluded the need to im­prove ed­u­ca­tional in­fra­struc­ture and pro­vide bet­ter fund­ing for hard-core sci­en­tific re­search. Link­ages be­tween fi­nan­cial sec­tors and the re­search com­mu­nity through ven­ture cap­i­tal, mi­cro-credit and an­gel in­vestor schemes were also dis­cussed. The im­por­tance of univer­sity-in­dus­try link­ages and ex­change of best-prac­tice ap­pli­ca­tions among Is­lamic coun­tries were also high on the agenda. The sum­mit was per­fectly hosted by Kaza­khstan Pres­i­dent Nur­sul­tan Nazarbayev who has shown his per­sonal en­thu­si­asm for sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy as gate­ways for na­tional, re­gional and global devel­op­ment on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. The im­pres­sive clos­ing cer­e­mony of En­ergy Expo 2017, which was held in As­tana dur­ing the OIC Sum­mit, also show­cased new tech­nolo­gies in re­new­able en­ergy and de­mon- strated the modern face of Kaza­khstan.

In the mean­time, the den­sity of par­tic­i­pa­tion at the sum­mit by prom­i­nent lead­ers from the Mus­lim world tes­ti­fied that the agenda on sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy was sin­cerely em­braced by na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tions. Fif­teen heads of state and prime min­is­ters were present, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Hasan Rouhani, Azer­bai­jani Pres­i­dent İl­ham Aliyev, Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Gani, Uzbek Pres­i­dent Shavkat Mirziy­oyev, Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Mam­noon Hus­sain, Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­cholas Maduro (rep­re­sent­ing the Non-Aligned Move­ment) and Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina Pres­i­dency Coun­cil Mem­ber Bakir Izzetbe­goviç. More than 80 na­tional del­e­ga­tions were also rep­re­sented by min­is­ters and high-level diplo­matic corps. A spe­cial ses­sion on the plight of the Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Myan­mar was held dur­ing the sum­mit with the ini­tia­tive of the Turk­ish del­e­ga­tion and the As­tana Dec­la­ra­tion was adopted af­firm­ing the com­mit­ment of mem­bers to al­le­vi­ate poverty, in­crease bud­gets for ed­u­ca­tion and ac­com­plish the goals en­vi­sioned in the OIC 2025 Plan of Ac­tion and the UN Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals.

Need­less to say, mean­ing­ful progress in in­ter­na­tional plat­forms re­quires sub­stan­tial time, con­certed ef­fort and en­ergy. But the fact that Mus­lim states and the OIC as their um­brella in­sti­tu­tion have started a process through which progress in modern sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy is eval­u­ated as a strate­gic pri­or­ity at the lead­er­ship level gives us hope. Knowl­edge is power and the Mus­lim world needs to im­prove its ac­cess to modern knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy to keep up with in­ten­si­fy­ing global com­pe­ti­tion.

The first ever OIC Sum­mit on Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy started a his­tor­i­cal process through which mul­ti­fac­eted is­sues re­lated to sci­en­tific re­search, higher ed­u­ca­tion re­form, fi­nanc­ing and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of tech­nol­ogy be­gan to be dis­cussed as strate­gic pri­or­i­ties

Sadık Ünay

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