ISLAMABAD-Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has urged the COMSATS’ member states to work collaboratively to deal with the menace of COVID-19 pandemic and help address the associated socio-economic challenges.

He was speaking at the fourth Ministerial-level Consultative Committee Meeting of the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) held here as its head and attended by participants of 30 delegates from 19 countries. The meeting was an august gathering of three ministers, a vice minister and other high-level government officials belonging to Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Turkey, Bangladesh, Somalia, Zimbabwe, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Uganda. Speaking on the occasion, the federal minister highlighted Pakistan, the host country of COMSATS Secretariat, as an ardent supporter of COMSATS’ mandate since inception.

“Working in close proximity of the Secretariat, my ministry is a witness to the hard work and devotion with which the organisation is striving towards its mission at the highest and the grass-root levels alike,” the minister remarked. The participants deliberated on a nine-point agenda during the meeting virtually hosted from COMSATS Secretariat, Islamabad. Speaking on the occasion, the Secretary to the Committee and Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. S.M. Junaid Zaidi encouraged the member states to use COMSATS’ forum to incubate partnerships and find new innovation approaches to support and speed up the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The meeting also had participation from international organisations including: The South Centre, Switzerland; International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Italy; United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Thailand; The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Italy; and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Pakistan. COMSATS Centres of Excellence in China, Colombia, Egypt, Gambia, Iran, Indonesia, Jordan, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Turkey provided the perspective of the COMSATS’ Network of International Science and Technology Centres of Excellence that has been engaged in scientific cooperation through regular annual meetings. Ambassadors and diplomats of member states in Islamabad also attended the meeting. The meeting resulted in revitalised commitment from the focal ministries of COMSATS member states.

The delegates called for and agreed on having stronger ties among scientists and researchers for solving common development problems; effective cooperation and initiatives at highest levels for emergent situations, such as COVID-19 pandemic, scientific and academic exchanges, as well as developing strategies for addressing issues such as food security and climate change.

It was proposed in the meeting that there should be a joint crisis management fund. The participating countries appreciated COMSATS’ role in providing a strong science and technology cooperation platform to developing countries and pledged to do their best in further strengthening it.

The areas identified for cooperation and mutual support included: multilateral research, refugee management, science diplomacy training, data science, climate sciences, energy, post-pandemic preparedness, agriculture, biotechnology, food security and nutrition, capacity building, science, technology and innovation-led knowledge economy, and sustainable development goals. Pakistan has established cooperative relationships in Science and Technology with a number of countries and establishment of various centres of excellence in research, innovation and entrepreneurship in artificial intelligence and allied technologies; advanced technologies in biomedical materials; mineral resources engineering; agriculture food technologies; and railway engineering are underway, all under the ministry’s knowledge economy initiative.