The 16th Meeting of COMSATS Coordinating Council was successfully held on 2-3 May 2013, at Accra, Ghana. The meeting was hosted by COMSATS’ Centre of Excellence in Ghana, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with support from its parent department, the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Government of Ghana. The meeting was held in conjunction with the 2nd Meeting of COMSATS Consultative Committee (1st May 2013).
A joint inauguration ceremony of the two meetings was held on the morning of 1st May 2013, which was attended by senior officials belonging to the diplomatic community, universities and R&D institutions in Accra, as well as the participants of the two meetings. Dr. Abdulai Baba Salifu, Director-General CSIR, in his Welcome Speech, expressed pleasure on hosting meetings of COMSATS’ main organs in Ghana. Dr. Salifu shed light on the focused areas and on-going programmes of his organization, and informed that the activities of CSIR are well-aligned to the national needs of Ghana. In his Introductory Remarks, the Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. Imtinan Elahi Qureshi, stated that the concurrent holding of meetings of COMSATS’ Consultative Committee and Coordinating Council in Ghana will facilitate a stronger South-South cooperation by bringing together the government officials having greater administrative powers to take decisions and allocate necessary funds and the working scientists in these countries, having the expertise to spell out specific requirements for R&D and also to implement relevant programmes. The Federal Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), Government of Pakistan, Mr. Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar, who is the incumbent Chairperson of COMSATS Consultative Committee, considered the absence of political will and misplaced priorities as major retarding factors for development in S&T in the developing countries and called for a major paradigm shift, whereby S&T should be placed at the core of developmental agenda of these countries. Speaking on the occasion, the Chairperson of COMSATS Coordinating Council, Dr. Eduardo Posada Florez, Director CIF, Colombia, stated that the social, climatic and topographic conditions of the developing countries are very different from those in industrialized nations and, therefore, need the development of original solutions well adapted to their particular characteristics. He quoted tropical diseases, biodiversity, climate changes and natural hazards as few examples of fields of common interest to the developing countries, for which expertise is available in COMSATS’ Network of S&T Centres of Excellence.
In his Message, delivered to the august gathering by the Director General CSIR, H.E. Dr. Joe Oteng Adjei, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Republic of Ghana, assured of his full support for the programmes and activities of COMSATS. He accentuated the role of strong investment in S&T sector and international cooperation in achieving socio-economic progress, and informed that his Government is actively working on the better Ghana agenda. Recounting some of the activities of COMSATS in its Member Countries, the honourable Minister considered COMSATS as an excellent platform for pooling of resources and expertise, and hoped that the meetings would be able to achieve their desired outcomes. Other distinguished guests of the Inaugural Session included the Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Ghana, Deputy High Commissioner of Nigeria in Accra, and the Director (Science, Technology and Innovation), Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Ghana.
Apart from the senior officials of COMSATS Headquarters, the meeting was attended by Council Members or their representatives from 12 Centres of Excellence of COMSATS; BCSIR-Bangladesh, Embrapa Agrobiologia-Brazil, ICCES-China, CIF-Colombia, NRC-Egypt, CSIR-Ghana, IROST-Iran, NMC-Nigeria, ICCBS-Pakistan, CIIT-Pakistan, IRCC-Sudan, and TÜBİTAK MAM-Turkey. Moreover, the senior officials of the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), Sri Lanka, and the Center of Earth Sciences, Metallurgy and Ore Beneficiation (CESMOB), Kazakhstan, attended the meeting in order to formally present their requests of induction in COMSATS’ Network. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of TWAS and UNESCO, and a member of COMSATS Technical Advisory Committee as observers.
The meeting deliberated on a 14-point agenda. Under the agenda-item related to the Future Programmes of COMSATS, the Council discussed at length different ways and means for effective implementation of the new initiatives of COMSATS; namely, establishment of COMSATS Technology Park at CIIT, Pakistan; launching of COMSATS Distinguished Professors Scheme; and constituting a Network of experts on ‘Science, Technology and Innovation Policy’. During a separate agenda-item, progress reports of the three operational International Thematic Research Groups (ITRGs) on ‘Climate Change and Environmental Protection’, ‘Information and Communication Technologies’, and ‘Natural Products Sciences’ were presented to the Council by the groups’ respective Lead Centres, as well as matters related to the launching of remaining ITRGs were discussed. In accordance with the standard format of the meeting, the Executive Director COMSATS presented COMSATS’ Annual Activity Report (May 2012 – April 2013); the heads/representatives of the Centres of Excellence made presentations on the scientific activities of their respective Centres during the period since the last Council meeting; and the Advisor (Programmes) COMSATS briefed the Council on the administrative and financial matters of COMSATS as well as the implementation status of the decisions taken by the Council in its previous meeting.
The key decisions taken by the 16th Coordinating Council meeting include: induction of ITI-Sri Lanka in COMSATS’ Network; approval of the proposed amendments in the Charter of the Network of International S&T Centres of Excellence; re-election of Dr. Eduardo Posada Florez, Director CIF, Colombia, as the Chairperson of Coordinating Council for a further term of three years; and removal of the Biosphere Reserve – Beni Biology Station (BBS), Bolivia, from COMSATS’ Network, which has discontinued research activities and can no longer function as COMSATS’ Centre of Excellence. The Coordinating Council also showed satisfaction on the administrative and financial affairs of COMSATS, and approved the organization’s budget for 2013-14. It was decided that the next (17th) meeting of the Coordinating Council will be hosted by the Iranian Research Organization for Science & Technology (IROST), Iran. The COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), Pakistan, was chosen as an alternative host.
The meeting issued a Communiqué that encourages the Centres of Excellence to: increase the number of their scientific collaboration visits within COMSATS’ Network; avail the standing offers of 100 postgraduate scholarships per year by CIIT-Pakistan and seven PhD scholarships and five post-doctoral fellowships by IROST-Iran, and to offer such scholarships/fellowships to students from COMSATS’ Member Countries; regularly contribute News reports and scholarly articles for publication in COMSATS’ two-monthly Newsletter and biannual journal, ‘Science Vision’; extend full support to the Secretariat in the implementation of COMSATS’ five-year strategy, in particular, the launching of more ITRGs by the respective Lead Centres; ensure regular payments of the Annual Membership Contributions by their respective governments; and to explore avenues to operationalize the Endowment Fund approved during the Second Commission meeting. The meeting also encouraged COMSATS Secretariat to continue its efforts towards enhancing the Membership of the Commission and the Network of Centres of Excellence.