The 23rd Meeting of COMSATS Coordinating Council was held virtually due to COVID-19 related restrictions, on 14th July 2020. The meeting was attended by the Council members or their representatives from 19 Centres of Excellence of COMSATS, including BCSIR (Bangladesh), ICCES (China), TIB (China), CIF (Colombia), NRC (Egypt), UTG (Gambia), CSIR (Ghana), ITS (Indonesia), IROST (Iran), ICENS (Jamaica), KazNU (Kazakhstan), NMC (Nigeria), ICCBS (Pakistan), CUI (Pakistan), AQU (Palestine), ITI (Sri Lanka), HIAST (Syria), TIRDO (Tanzania), and TUBITAK MAM (Turkey), in addition to 24 officials of COMSATS Secretariat who joined the meeting from Islamabad. The participants also included the Heads of the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS), Indonesia, and the University of The Gambia (UTG), The Gambia, which have recently joined COMSATS’ Network.
The meeting was opened by Prof. Dr. Ashraf Shaalan, Chairperson of COMSATS Coordinating Council, who appreciated the efforts made by COMSATS Secretariat for organizing the online meeting amid COVID-19 crisis. He warmly welcomed the two new Centres of Excellence belonging to Indonesia and The Gambia to COMSATS Network. Sympathizing with those who have been affected by COVID-19, Prof. Shaalan hoped that the world will soon rise above this challenge through combined efforts.
Speaking at the occasion, the Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi, recalled that the present meeting, earlier planned to be held at ICCBS, Karachi during March 2020, was inevitably postponed due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Dr. Zaidi stated that this crisis has strengthened the resolve of COMSATS and its Coordinating Council to continue striving for promotion of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in STI for coming up with solutions to such and other problems of the developing world through all possible means.
During the technical sessions of the meeting, the Minutes of the previous (22nd) Meeting of COMSATS Coordinating Council were approved by the Council. A briefing was given on implementation status of the decisions taken by the Council in its previous meeting, while COMSATS’ Annual Activity Report (April 2019 – June 2020) was also presented. The Coordinating Council expressed satisfaction over the implementation status of the decisions of last Council meeting, annual activity report (2019-20) and future plans.
The Council deliberated upon the ongoing projects and programmes, including COMSATS Centre for Climate and Sustainability (CCCS), postgraduate scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships offered by various Centres of Excellence, capacity building activities, Telehealth programme, activities of International Thematic Research Groups, publications, and other programmes for achieving SDGs.
Noting with great concern the devastating global impacts of COVID-19 affecting almost all of the COMSATS Member States, the Council members explored possibilities of collaborating with one another and pool their expertise, human and technological resources to counter the pandemic. They also considered focusing their collective efforts on fields that would be relevant in addressing the socio-economic needs and challenges of the Member States in post-COVID-19 scenario. The meeting also discussed financial and administrative matters of COMSATS and the Centres pledged to play due role in sensitizing their respective governments to the importance of making due and sustained financial contribution to COMSATS’ programmes.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the Council appreciated the efforts made by the Executive Director COMSATS and his team for, inter alia, strengthening of COMSATS Network of International S&T Centres of Excellence with the addition of new members; increased interaction, collaboration, and exchange of human and technological resources among the Centres of Excellence; increased opportunities of postgraduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships offered by the Centres of Excellence for the Member States; enhanced efforts for strengthening R&D collaborations among the Centres of Excellence; new initiatives taken for fostering regional and international cooperation; frequent interaction with the Chairperson of COMSATS (President of Ghana) in order to receive guidance for achieving the objectives of the organization; organization and/or sponsorship of eleven (11) international and fourteen (14) national capacity building events which benefited the scientific workforce of the Member States and Centres of Excellence; strengthening of South-South and Triangular Cooperation through increased interactions with international organizations, and conclusion of various MoUs/Agreements; and enhanced interaction with the diplomatic communities of existing and potential Member States.
The Council members also agreed to meet online at least once a year. It was decided that the implementation status of the decisions of this year’s meeting would be reviewed during the next (24th) meeting of the Coordinating Council to be held in Karachi, tentatively scheduled for March 2021.