The Prime Minister was addressing the inaugural session of the 14th General Assembly meeting of the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) here at the Jinnah Convention Centre.
The two-day General Assembly meeting will study a number of scientific projects including a mega project initiative that aims at pooling diverse capabilities, resources and expertise of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
The Prime Minister said,
“We live in an age of scientific innovations and technological advancement. In the knowledge based societies of the 21st century only those nations could aspire to lead which excel in science and technology.”He recalled the contribution of Muslim scholars and pioneers in the field of science and medicine for 600 years, and regretted that the glorious period of creative scientific activity ceased as the Islamic Ummah lost the intellectual leadership.
He said despite enormous human and material resources, the Muslim world still counted among the backward due to lack in scientific and technological advancement.
“We must build our human capital and invest in science and technology to catch up with rest of the world,” he said.
The Prime Minister appreciated COMSTECH for fulfilling responsibility to help OIC member countries in promoting a culture of research and innovation in science and technology.
He mentioned several important developments under the umbrella of COMSTECH including bringing in its fold, all science and technology institutions of OIC to function as one whole body, which he said would enable efforts in a coordinated manner.
Gilani said he would like Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman, Coordinator General of COMSTECH to prepare policy guidelines in consultation with the OIC General Secretariat and under the overall supervision of the COMSTECH Executive Committee to translate decisions of COMSTECH General Assembly into concrete steps.
He proposed holding a meeting of science and technology stakeholders of the OIC system in Pakistan before August 2011 and asked the Ministry of Science and Technology to make necessary arrangements for this meeting in Islamabad.
He mentioned that the funding of science and technology programmes had borne fruit with the operationlization of Science Technology Innovation Organization (STIO) at a meeting in Riyadh in February, 2010.
Gilani said with a clearly defined mandate to act as implementing arm of COMSTECH, STIO will be crucial in promoting science and technology. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said this could be perceived as a significant step, allowing COMSTECH to strengthen the science and technology infrastructure of OIC.
He said it would also prove central in implementation of the earlier plans contained in Vision 1441 and Ten Year Programme of Action.
He mentioned that COMSTECH on its own had managed to obtain almost twice as much fund for its Science and Technology programmes as financial contributions by its member states. This development, will allow COMSTECH to focus its energies on its primary role as a coordination and policy making supreme body of the OIC on Science and Technology, he said.
He acknowledged the role of Saudi Arabia in bringing STIO this far and urged those who had not joined STIO to fully implement the 10-Year Programme of Action during the remaining 5-year period.
He appreciated the efforts and keen personal interest of Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of OIC in finding at least a partial solution to the long standing challenge of funding.
He mentioned that Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Pakistan had committed five million US dollars each for a total approved budget of US$ 70 million for 2011 for undertaking scientific programmes of STIO within their respective countries during the current year.
Gilani said the Coordinator General of COMSTECH had placed special emphasis on capacity building for young scientists by raising funds from external sources like Islamic Development Bank Jeddah (IDB), International Foundation for Science (IFS) in Sweden, the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) of World Health Organization (WHO) and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).
He said to help COMSTECH pursue its commendable course of action in building indigenous research capability, Pakistan had provided US$ one million annually.
The conference’s agenda include joint design, manufacture and marketing of small and medium sized planes, affordable cars, communication satellites and production of biotechnological-based drugs and vaccines.
The OIC General Secretariat is working on a plan of action for the implementation of this initiative which covers five OIC Member States; Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia and Kazakhstan. The 14th session of the COMSTECH General Assembly will also study the draft of the Atlas of scientific innovations.
Prime Minister Gilani also presented COMSTECH Awards in his capacity as the Co-Chairman of COMSTECH.
Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in his address urged the COMSTECH to focus on providing policy guidelines for education particularly in science and technology amongst the member states.
He also stressed upon the OIC members for the implementation of recommendations of the General Assembly, child and maternal health, scholarships, strategy for confronting pandemics and epidemics and joint strategy to improve the quality of life.
The Prime Minister also attended the plenary session. Dr Attaur Rehman presented a report on the activities of the COMSTECH.
Earlier in his brief remarks Dr Atta said “knowledge determines progress and education is the only way out of economic problems the Ummah was facing.”
He appreciated the government for allocating seven percent of the GDP for the education sector.
The General Assembly will submit its recommendations to the 12th Islamic Summit which will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in March 2011. There is an increasing interest in the field of Science and Technology in the Islamic world especially after the adoption of Vision 1441H for S&T at the OIC Islamic Summit of 2003 in Puterajaya, Malaysia.