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First Ever Islamic-World Summit on Science and Technology

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

56 Muslim Countries Pledge to Increase Investment in Energy, Science, Health, Water and Food Security at First Ever Islamic-World Summit on Science and Technology


 World leaders and senior officials representing 56 Muslim nations yesterday pledged to increase investment in science and technology as a means of tackling food, water, health and climate change challenges at the first ever Islamic-word Science and Technology summit.

Summit delegates included the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, Uzbek President, ShavkatMirziyoyev, Pakistani President, Mamnoon Hussain, Bangladeshi President, Abdul Hamid and Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani amongst other Heads of State. The summit was organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the world’s second largest intergovernmental body after the UN.

The summit concluded with all 56 nations adopting two historic documents;

(i) The Astana Declaration on enhancing “science, technology, innovation and modernization in the Islamic world”:

 The Astana Declaration “reaffirmed the commitment of member states towards increasing investment in education, science, health and water in order to achieve the goals of the OIC’s 2025: Plan of Action and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2030).”

The declaration also called on “all Muslim world countries to strengthen the culture of education and science, especially for youth and women as a means of enhancing social and economic modernization and socio-economic progress.”

The full declaration can be accessed here.

(ii) The OIC Science, Technology and Innovations Agenda 2026:

The OIC STI Agenda 2026 was also approved by all member states. The document is composed of a series of policy commitments and recommendations designed to achieve key Islamic world development goals by the year 2026. These include:  (a)    Preparing for the Islamic world’s future energy needs:

Renewable Energy targets:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases by targeting a renewable energy share of at least 10% in national energy mix of OIC States by 2025”
  • Introduce micro-grids, integrate them into national systems, and encourage distributed standalone systems for small communities;
  • Design and develop energy storage systems such as fuel cells (5 MW for 2 hours) and batteries (such as Lithium Ion and Vanadium Redox) for small storage applications;

Nuclear energy goals:

  • Initiate peaceful applications of nuclear technology in power and non-power sector, consistent with respective obligations of Member States, and their commitments under regulatory safety/security standards as enunciated by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
  • Establish joint projects among Member States for nuclear power plant equipment.
  • Initiate programmes for manufacturing radio-pharmaceuticals, and using radiation for sterilisation of medical and food products, as per IAEA norms.
  • Encourage preparation of multinational programmes for safe disposal of highly radioactive waste under IAEA guidelines.

(b)    Protecting against water shortages:

  • Increase efficiency in water use and combat desertification using new technologies and farming methodologies;
  • Prepare national water budgets at the ‘local’ levels where possible, supplemented by monitoring of sub-aquifers, glaciers, and loss in canals;

(c)     Pre-empting food shortages:

  • Encourage setting up National Gene Banks for conservation and exchange of PGR (plant genetic resources) with research centres in Member States;
  • Undertake legal and other measures in Member States for protection of the ‘geographical’ origin’ of their traditional foods and crops.

 (d)    Managing Big Data with security in the digital economy:

 Connect OIC Member States through secure, high speed, fibre-optic land and sea based networks and satellite links. This would need to be a secure intra-OIC network in addition to SEAMEWE 3 and SEAMEWE 4, with service nodes within the OIC Member States, in order to avoid disruption and enhance security;

         Ensure faster transition to e-government for faster and more transparent decision making;

         Harmonize regulatory policies, frameworks and IP laws to facilitate easier sales, and commissioning of IT products and services across Member States.

(e)     Space exploration, astronomy and accelerators and Synchrotron Light Sources:

         Jointly design and launch remote sensing satellites for observation, crop estimation and disaster management, rescue at sea, and weather prediction.

         Create a ground-based 4m telescope using adaptive mirrors and laser ‘guide stars’ can now provide the same or better resolution as the Hubble space telescope. There is need for at least 3 – 4 such observatories in different OIC regions.

         Centres for Space Technologies may be established. This may lead to an Inter-Islamic Space Agency, focusing on projects from space launch systems to manned vehicles.

(f)      Filling the Education, Research and Skills gap:

  • Increase the share of Member States in global scientific output (publications and patents) by 100% in the next ten years.
  • Double the number of R&D workers per million population in OIC member states.
  • Increase the share of high technology goods and services in the economies and trade of Member States, aiming for 10% by 2025.
  • Aim for at least 50 universities for inclusion among the top 500 universities according to recent international ranking by 2025.
  • Attain a target of minimum 20% enrolment in technical / vocational education among the 15-19-year age group
  • Promote networking and linkages within OIC and with leading world universities for research partnerships, sharing of knowledge, experience and best practices.

(g)    Health:

  • Encourage increasing of health financing in order to raise it to a minimum of 10% of national budgets by 2025 and allocate nearly half to cover essential scientific healthcare and financial risks in accordance with the relevant national laws in each member state.
  • Improve training of all para-medics and technicians in conformity with the best international practices;

(h)    Enhancing knowledge transfer through Intra-OIC Cooperation

  • Address lack of mobility among faculty and researchers in OIC countries by expanding the OIC’s Educational Exchange Programme to promote exchange of students, faculty and researchers. The OIC Exchange Programme may be named the Al Haytham Programme after the Muslim scientist Ibn Al Haytham, regarded as the father of modern optics.

Implementation of the aforementioned policies will be in consultation with the member states, all relevant OIC institutions and organs and global partners.

The OIC Assistant Secretary General for Science and Technology (and former Ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia), Ambassador Naeem Khan, said “the world’s Muslim majority countries, by yesterday supporting ambitious scientific and technological development goals, are also supporting the welfare of the Islamic world.”

“As more people in the Islamic world emerge out of poverty, energy demand is increasing. This is being aggravated by climate change, with many OIC countries inhabiting climate-sensitive regions already facing desertification and degradation of land and water. Several studies have also shown a link between climate change and the subsequent effect on drought, food prices and the outbreak of conflict.”

“As a result, the OIC organised the first Islamic-world science and technology summit to galvanise the Muslim world in investing in the core scientific and technological tools to generate solutions against emerging development threats”.

He added “” Energy production and consumption remains one of the 21st century’s major challenges”.

“Energy consumption and production is a major challenge in the Islamic world where many of the OIC’s 57-member states are well placed to harness the power of renewables, yet also still rely heavily in traditional fossil fuels.”

“In order for OIC member states to create a diverse energy mix that incorporates renewable energies, scientific and technological advancements will be essential. That includes advancements in energy storage technologies, greater use of distributed micro-grids to integrate renewable energy and research efforts into solar cell efficiencies.”

The OIC Secretary General, HE Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen, said “Islam lays special importance on seeking knowledge. The Quran’s first injunction was to ‘Read’. References are frequently made in the Quran to those who reflect and contemplate. And over a thousand years ago, algebra, astronomy, geography, medicine and industrial chemistry were all pioneered across the Islamic world for nearly half a millennium. That is precisely why part of the inspiration behind the OIC’s first ever Science and Technology summit was Islam’s own ‘golden age’ of science.”

“Rather than seeing science as an alien doctrine that threatens Islamic traditions, the Islamic world must re-orient its perspective by reclaiming science as part of its own heritage.”