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KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY MINISTER ON THE ROLE OF SCIENCE IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

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KEYNOTE ADDRESS PRESENTED VIRTUALLY BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF STATE FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY MOHAMMED H. ABDULLAHI ON THE ROLE OF SCIENCE IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AT THE NATIONAL WORKSHOP ON SCIENCE DIPLOMACY HELD ON 9th MARCH 2021

 

Protocols

First let me acknowledge the great strides under the DG/CEO  Engr. Prof. Ikechukwu Ukwuoma for continually engaging the stakeholders and indeed the General Public on topical issues, as we seek to elevate our country in the commodity State

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is my profound pleasure to present this keynote address on Science Diplomacy and Sustainable Development (SD4SD) and also welcome participants to this Workshop. Today’s event will remind us of the significance of Science and Technology in creating a crisis – free society that promotes peace and prosperity irrespective of race and colour.

 

Introduction

You are no doubt aware that the present challenges facing the world are making it clearer that there is need for cooperation among nations more than before. The existing relations among nations could be fostered through knowledge sharing and interactions among the scientific communities. Science Diplomacy, a process by which states represent themselves and their interests in the international arena when it comes to areas of knowledge, is a crucial soft power within the diplomatic channels that can be used to address global issues. Through it, a country can project influence and importance on a global scale even more than the existing forms of diplomacy among nations. In their efforts to produce vaccines to stop the spread the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists crossed the international and political boundaries and the results are obvious. Many vaccines have been produced while researches are still going on to improve their efficacy.

The unsuccessful attempts at addressing global climate change impacts is not unconnected to the existing gap between the scientists and the political leaders. Through Science Diplomacy, nations can come together and implement agreements on emission cuts and embark on sustainable methods of resources exploitation and utilization to make the world a better place to live.

Science, technology and innovation is unarguably the modern engine that drives sustainable development both locally and globally.  It can be argued that Nigeria as a nation has what it takes to advance locally and connect with opportunities offered by international partnerships to further enhance her development as a nation, but a lot needs to be done. This keynote speech briefly highlights the place of science, technology and innovation and the role of international relations in Nigeria’s sustainable development.

 

Science, International Relations and Sustainable Development: the linkages

Science involves the generation of knowledge in a systematic manner, based on well-defined and replicable methods. Since the development of the scientific process, which begins with the formulation of testable propositions and hypotheses, human life has been transformed completely. For instance, advances in engineering and medicine have improved quality of life considerably. However, the application of the scientific method is not limited to the positivist world of natural, physical and medical sciences; science finds application also in the configuration, rate and direction of human interaction. Thus, it is not an anomaly to speak about how we can deploy science in international relations. Moreover, the true essence of science is to make human life more meaningful; hence, it is apt to reflect on how we can deploy science in sustainable development.

International relations concerns the dynamic connections among political entities – particularly, countries – on one hand, and among countries and the global political system produced by their interaction. In other words, there is the relationship between countries, and there is the relationship of countries with the international political, legal and economic systems. Viewed this way, it becomes easy to see how science can be a critical issue in international relations. Not only do countries trade in knowledge, the remit of this trade is heavily influenced by multilateral organs produced by the interaction of these countries. A case in point is how the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) regulates the global intellectual property (IP) system although most countries have their own domestic IP governance.

From the foregoing, we can easily see how international relations is connected to sustainable development. Sustainable development is premised on the principle of attaining human development goals (such as affordable housing, reliable transportation infrastructure, food security and so on) without compromising the capacity of the natural environment to continue supporting the attainment of the development goals. In other words, with sustainable development, we imply that we develop today without limiting the development chances of future generations. Clearly, achieving this requires common goals, trust, cooperation and mutual understanding among nations on a global scale. It is impossible to attain sustainable development in a world where every country looks out only for itself or is indifferent to the plight of others.

Issues in International Relations and Sustainable Development in Nigeria

  • Problematic emigration: It is no new knowledge that Nigerians and Africans at large relocate to developed countries in search of better opportunities, and more often than not, career fulfilment. The issues below reflect the rate of knowledge emigration from Africa:
    • About 127,000 highly qualified African professionals left the continent between 1960 and 1989 (ECA)
    • Africa losses 20,000 professionals on a yearly basis. International Organization for Migration (IOM)
    • Nigerians in Diaspora are estimated at about 15 million (PwC), a significant fraction of these are professionals
    • There are about 4,000 Nigerian medical doctors practising in in the United States of America and about 5000 registered in the United Kingdom
    • This continuous outflow of skilled labour contributes to a widening gap in S&T between Africa and other continents.
    • The UN recognises that “emigration of African professionals to the West is one of the greatest obstacles to Africa’s development”
    • Government initiated actions to turn “brain drain” to “brain gain” by inaugurating the Nigerian Diaspora day- a day in July of every year. This forum aims at facilitating active participation of Nigerians in Diaspora in the developmental process. The first Nigerian Diaspora day took place in July 2006 concurrent with the Diaspora 2nd science and technology conference
  • Weak contribution to global scientific productivity
    • Africa’s share of global scientific output fell from 0.5% in the mid -1980’s to 0.3% in the mid -1990’s.
  • Poor domestic M&E of international conventions (e.g. the Paris Agreement, etc)
  • Domestic insecurity connected to porous borders
  • Poor global image of the country due to widespread corruption and endemic insecurity issues, limiting international investment and productive relations. In 2019, Nigeria’s ease of doing business index reached the lowest since 2010.

 

The Role of Science in Strengthening the Link between International Relations and Sustainable Development

Many, if not all, of the problems identified as negative issues related to the nexus between science diplomacy and sustainable development in Nigeria can be addressed by scientific and technological advancement.  Science diplomacy broadly refers to scientific and technological collaborations or relations among countries, to address global issues. Although it is a new field of study focusing on the nexus of science and international relations, the engagement of knowledge experts in diplomatic relations between countries has always been in existence.

There is an increasing need in the global economy for partnerships between science and policy. The current knowledge era makes it pertinent for all economic and political facets to incorporate knowledge outputs from science and technology. Scientific research leads to knowledge generation and knowledge provides the basis for directing the course of human actions. In the words of Louis Pasteur, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” Undoubtedly, scientific discoveries have increased international linkages and relations among countries, and even guide multilateral agreements among nations.

Science provides a solid foundation upon which cross-country relationships are built. A nation’s ability to leverage on cross-country knowledge and innovations depends on its diplomatic strengths. Governance and diplomatic relations are now being driven by technological advancements. In addition, governments now see the need to incorporate science and technology in their foreign policies.

Globalization, driven by scientific and technological advancements especially in communication and transportation, has reduced the world into one global village. Information, resources, and people are now able to move from one part of the world to another, and this movement continues to accelerate at an alarming rate (Haynes and Utter, 2018). In addition to the opportunities and benefits that come with globalization, are global issues such as climate change, trade wars, terrorism, racism, and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic, which require international interventions. International collaborations are needed more than ever to mitigate these adverse effects of globalization, and to exploit its advantages; and this has given rise to cross-country scientific collaborations. International research collaborations have tripled over the past one-and-half decade, and this trend is expected to be sustained as researchers continue to unite to deal with proliferating global issues (Crew, 2019).

Scientific collaborations between the developed North and developing South is key to driving global relations and achieving sustainable development. Sustainable development requires that deliberate steps are taken to ensure that the development efforts of the present do not jeopardize future development efforts. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development dictates that all countries must work in collaborative partnership to ensure the implementation of the SDGs. In particular, Goal 17.6 is to “enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on, and access to, science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing…” (UN, 2015). This helps to create a global knowledge network with a common goal to enable sustainable living among humans.

 

The Role of Diplomacy in Strengthening the Link between International Relations and Sustainable Development

Strategies for cross country relations need to be intensified in the light of human emigrations. While human emigrations now occur at unprecedented levels due to globalization, it creates opportunities for increased relations among nations, as every country now has its citizens, many of whom are skilled labour, located in other countries. An important strategy for managing these labour migrations is the Global Skills Partnership (GSP), which is a bilateral agreement between equal partner countries, such that the receiving or destination country provides technology and finance to skill-up potential migrants in their countries of origin, prior to migration (Clemens and Gough, 2018). Such strategies as the GSP highlight the role of diplomacy in driving sustainable growth and development.  To harvest the inherent gains presented by productive diplomacy, however, there is the:

  • Need to develop an active portfolio of science diplomacy strategies – All international efforts need to be driven by science. Diplomacy requires expertise in communication.
  • Need for science and technology desk at all foreign missions
  • Need for capacity building in science diplomacy for ambassadors and foreign mission workers.

 

Conclusion

In the current global village where every nation is bound to operate, knowledge is the greatest capital and it is driven by science, technology and innovation.  Every nation that is serious and focussed on developing this capital must invest in science, technology and innovation development at home.  Connecting home-grown advancements in STI to opportunities offered by global partnerships must also be driven by strategic international diplomatic relations. Joining these dots is most essential for sustainable development in the current era.

We hope the outcome of this Workshop will identify ways that simplifies Science and Technology Transfer and Exchange procedures as well as strengthen International Technical cooperation’s programmes.

I thank you for your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Clemens, M.A. and Gough, K. (2018). A Tool to Implement the Global Compact for Migration: Ten Key Steps for Building Global Skill Partnerships, Centre for Global Development (CGD) Brief. https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/tool-implement-global-compact-migration-ten-key-steps-building-global-skill-partnerships.pdf

Crew, B. (2019). The top 10 countries in research collaboration, https://www.natureindex.com/news-blog/data-visualization-top-ten-countries-research-collaboration

Haynes, T. and Utter, D. (2018). Science Diplomacy: Collaboration in a rapidly changing world, https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/science-diplomacy-collaboration-rapidly-changing-world/

United Nations (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld/publication

 

 

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