‘Silencing the guns for peace and development’
Intergenerational impact has far reaching consequences for the survival of humanity given the extinction challenges calling for urgent actions
The African Union (AU) which comprises 55 countries from the continent of Africa held its annual summit in Addis Ababa on 9 and 10 February 2020. The theme focused on tackling the problem of violence so that peace could usher in a period of sustainable development. “Silencing the Guns for Peace and Development” encapsulates the aspirations of the people of Africa for a peaceful environment. Peace and stability are intertwined with policies and strategies aimed at socio-economic betterment of the people – a desire which is shared by the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) with the AU. 12 of the Organization’s member states and 07 scientific centres in the Network of Centres of Excellence are from Africa. The President of Ghana H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo is the current Chairman of the Commission which is a privilege as it provides an important perspective on the sustainable development issues.
COMSATS and Africa have special relationship. At the Foundation meeting held in 1994 the support extended by the leaders from Africa generated momentum for collective response to the challenges of underdevelopment in the South. The member countries from Africa in the last 25 years’ journey have been important partners of COMSATS and are a valuable source of guidance and advice. Prof. M. H. A. Hassan from Sudan has continued to provide intellectual impetus to the work of the scientific centres. As the former head of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and now Life Member of the Coordinating Council of COMSATS, he has maintained interest in advancing the goals of the Commission. The leaders of COMSATS have also shown commitment to the actualization of the vision of creating peaceful societies and in promoting science, technology and innovation for sustainable socio-economic development of its member states.
Africa is a vast continent with multifarious development needs. The countries of Africa are striving to surmount the difficulties associated with human and material resource constraints, human resource development issues, capacity building for combating the adverse effects of climate change, dire health concerns and food insecurity. COMSATS is conscious of its role in helping mitigate some of these challenges in its member states. Within its mandate and structural framework, programmes and various initiatives have been tailored to fill the gap in development through different means. Substantial space has been provided in the Organization’s bodies to the African member countries to play a meaningful role and a leading part in steering research and development as well as capacity building, education and training. COMSATS continues to work towards more countries of Africa joining its fraternity thereby fostering harmony among the developing countries.
2020 Summit of the AU took place at a significant juncture. The regional and international organizations have shown prioritized inclination towards supporting the African continent in overcoming the development challenges. The United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres who participated in the Summit highlighted a related aspect of the theme “Silencing the Guns” by drawing attention to human rights, gender equality, climate change and sustainable development. These, as he said, were at the “heart of the AU-led Agenda 2063 plan” as well. Under the Trilateral cooperation various UN bodies, the European Union and the Commonwealth have allocated substantial resources for fortifying development activities. With its abundant resources both human and material the continent enjoys an important position in the realization of the 2030 Global Development Agenda in particular the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim of eradicating inequality, poverty, hunger and of “leaving no one behind” is quintessentially relevant for a large continent like Africa.
In order to explore possibilities of wider interaction and engagement with African countries and the AU, COMSATS utilized the opportunity afforded by the 2020 AU Summit to hold a High Level meeting with the leaders of its member countries under the chairmanship of the President of Ghana. The President of Nigeria H.E Mohammad Buhari, Vice President of Gambia H.E Isaton Touray, Ministers and high officials from Nigeria, Ghana and other member states participated in the High Level Breakfast meeting. The delegation of COMSATS was led by the Executive Director, Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi. It included Prof. Ashraf Shaalan (Egypt), Chairperson COMSATS Coordinating Council and Prof. Dr. Orkun Hasekioglu, Advisor to President, Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), The President of Ghana in his capacity as the Chairman of the Commission apprised the participating leaders and officials about the previous and ongoing as well as future activities of the Organization.
The meeting of the Commission is expected to be held in Accra in April 2020 coinciding with which Accra Forum has been scheduled. The Forum will focus on science and technology’s role in promoting the SDGs. Climate change is a cross cutting area which impacts sustainability in all the other areas impairing the people’s resilience and the country’s progress and prosperity. Moreover, the intergenerational impact has far reaching consequences for the survival of humanity given the extinction challenges calling for urgent actions. The Addis Ababa High Level deliberated on some of these issues in the light of COMSATS programmes and activities that importantly include research and development in the important areas of climate change and environment, agriculture and food security, information and communication technologies and other areas.
The 2020 AU Summit provided an important opportunity to draw attention to the damaging impact of climate change as manifested in the locust attacks experienced by the coastal African states. The harmful effects of locust swarms have also been experienced in Pakistan. This is one area where the countries affected can collective develop capacities in fighting the menace.
Fauzia Nasreen is from Foreign Service and remained posted as ambassador of Pakistan in many countries. Presently, she is working as Advisor COMSATS on SDGs