Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS)

The 21st Meeting of COMSATS Coordinating Council successfully held in Almaty

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The 21st Meeting of COMSATS Coordinating Council was hosted by COMSATS’ Centre of Excellence in Kazakhstan, the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU) on 3-4 April 2018. The meeting was attended by the Council members or their representatives from 14 Centres of Excellence of COMSATS: BCSIR-Bangladesh, Embrapa Agrobiologia-Brazil, CIF-Colombia, NRC-Egypt, IROST-Iran, ICENS-Jamaica, KazNU-Kazakhstan, NMC-Nigeria, CIIT-Pakistan, ITI-Sri Lanka, IRCC-Sudan, HIAST-Syria, TIRDO-Tanzania, and CERTE-Tunisia. The representatives of SESRIC-Turkey, Edibon International-Spain and ICGEB-Italy also participated in the meeting as observers. Moreover, the meeting was attended by the Deputy Director-General of the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Technology (TIB), China, in connection with TIB’s request for induction in COMSATS’ Network of International S&T Centres of Excellence.

Apart from the Council members, the inaugural ceremony of the meeting was attended by the senior officials of KazNU and COMSATS, as well as representatives of diplomatic missions of Pakistan and Egypt in Kazakhstan. During the inaugural ceremony, Prof. Dr. G. M. Mutanov, Rector, KazNU, welcomed the local and foreign participants and expressed pleasure on hosting the meeting. He informed the participants about the recent initiatives taken by the government of Kazakhstan to strengthen the S&T sector in the country as well as to participate in forums of international cooperation. He informed that KazNU has been actively participating in COMSATS’ programmes since joining the Network, wherein two COMSATS’ capacity building workshops were hosted by the university during 2017. He hoped that the present Council meeting will facilitate KazNU’s collaboration with other Centres. He expressed willingness to initiate joint research projects in collaboration with other Centres of Excellence for introducing new technologies for improving the lives of people in the developing countries. He wished the participants a productive meeting.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi, Executive Director COMSATS, expressed gratitude towards KazNU for generous hospitality and excellent arrangements for the meeting. He stated that the universal and inclusive nature of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires more than ever before to invest in education, health and environment and on the top, forging partnerships and building cross-border cooperation that may facilitate the cross-cultivation of experiences and knowledge; building competencies and reducing the technological gap between the developed and developing nations of the world. He added that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is the key for finding solutions to multi-faceted global challenges: from the aftermaths of climate change to the jeopardies of war and conflict to the perils of poverty, hunger and food scarcity. He stated that inscribed in COMSATS’ mission, is the need for the achievement of sustainable development through judicious use of science and technology, which is materialized through joint efforts of 21 Centres of Excellence of COMSATS. He opined that the Centres of Excellence have the potential to act as catalysts for achieving the objectives of the Organization. He hoped that the Council in the present meeting shall strategize and determine the future course of action for achieving social, economic and environmental sustainable development in compliance with the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

In his inaugural address, Prof. Dr. Ashraf Shaalan, President NRC, Egypt, Chairperson COMSATS Coordinating Council, paid great importance to the scientific and technological cooperation among the developing countries for achieving socio-economic development and preserving the resources and environment at the same time. He considered COMSATS a potent forum for such kind of collaborations. He stated that energy is the backbone for development, and encouraged the Centres of Excellence to collaborate in the field of renewable energy. He also shared with the participants the key decisions of the 2nd meeting of COMSATS Technical Advisory Committee, which was held in November 2017, in Trieste, Italy, during which the Centres of Excellence were encouraged to initiate joint projects in the areas of the SDGs. He thanked KazNU for the warm hospitality.

At the occasion, Prof. Dr. Tlekkabul Ramazanov, Vice-Rector for Research & Innovations, KazNU read out the messages of the Chairman of the scientific committee at the Ministry of Education and Science, Kazakhstan, as well as the President of the National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan. In the messages, the foreign participants were warmly welcomed. The Centres of Excellence were encouraged to determine effective mechanisms of collaboration for seeking new ways for the integration of science and technology and improving the standard of living of the masses.

Subsequently, the plenary session of the International Farabi Readings was held during which Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi was presented a gold medal for his contributions towards facilitating the scientific collaborationof KazNU and Kazakhstan with other developing countries.

During the technical sessions of the meeting, the Minutes of the previous (20th) Meeting of COMSATS Coordinating Council were approved by the Council. As per the standard practice, the Advisor (Programmes) COMSATS briefed the Council on the implementation status of the decisions taken by the Council in its previous meeting, while the Executive Director COMSATS presented COMSATS’ Annual Activity Report (May 2017 – March 2018).

A key decision taken during the meeting was the induction of the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology (TIB), China, in COMSATS’ Network based on the presentation made by its Deputy-Director General as well as the prescribed proforma for technical evaluation submitted by the university. It was hoped that the induction of TIB in the Network would add to COMSATS’ wealth of human and technological resources for achieving sustainable development. Moreover, the heads/representatives of the Centres of Excellence made presentations on their Programmes related to South-South and Triangular Cooperation, and future plans for COMSATS’ Network. The Chairman of the Edibon International, Spain, made a presentation on the scientific expertise, equipment and soft-loan facilities that can be extended by Edibon International for the upgradation of the Centres of Excellence as well as facilitating the initiation of joint technical projects.

The representatives of international partner organizations attending the meeting as observers also made their presentations, in which they highlighted the ongoing programmes and activities of their respective organizations as well as possibilities of their collaboration with COMSATS. Furthermore, the progress reports of the International Thematic Research Groups (ITRGs) on ‘Information and Communication Technologies’, ‘Mathematical Modeling’, ‘Renewable Energy’ and ‘Agriculture, Food Security and Biotechnology’ were presented to the Council by the Group Leaders/representatives of the Lead Centres.

The Council members also deliberated upon the ongoing programmes of COMSATS, including MS and PhD scholarships, Post-doctoral fellowships, Telehealth Programme, Capacity building activities and Publications, as well as possibilities of linking the Programmes with SDGs. The Centres explored the possibility of initiating joint projects having regional significance in line with SDGs. The matter of formulation of Criteria for evaluation of nominated Centres for induction in COMSATS’ Network, as well as the role of Technical Advisory Committee in enhancing collaborations among Centres of Excellence and their up-gradation were also discussed. As per the standard practice, the Advisor (Programmes) presented the Administrative and Financial Matters of COMSATS.

It was decided that the next (22nd) meeting of the Coordinating Council will be hosted by the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology (TIB), China, during 2019. Moreover, the Water Researches and Technologies Centre of Borj-Cedria (CERTE), Tunisia, was selected as alternative venue.

During the meeting, NRC-Egypt signed two MoUs with BCSIR-Bangladesh and CIIT-Pakistan for collaboration under the umbrella of COMSATS for achieving common objectives. Moreover, NRC-Egypt signed another MoU, which will later be counter signed by ICCES-China.

During the closing ceremony of the meeting held on 4th April 2018, the Executive Director COMSATS paid gratitude to the organizing committees of KazNU and COMSATS for making excellent arrangements for the meeting. He hoped that the Centres of Excellence would actively contribute towards achieving the sustainable development goals through South-South and Triangular Cooperation in science and technology. The President NRC (Chairperson Coordinating Council) thanked the organizers for their tireless efforts. He looked forward to visiting the laboratories of KazNU on the following day in order to explore opportunities of collaboration. The Vice-Rector for Research & Innovations, KazNU, stated that it was an honour for KazNU to have hosted the meeting and looked forward to active collaboration of KazNU with other Centres of Excellence.

The meeting issued a Communique, which inter alia encouraged the Network members to streamline their programmes in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals; benefit from COMSATS Tele-health Programme for meeting the healthcare needs of the Member States; and collaborate with each other for executing joint research and development projects having social and economic impact.

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