Science, technology and innovation must be used to advance rather than undermine development, and developing nations should not be blocked from acquiring affordable technology or from benefiting from their genetic resources, a major political grouping of developing states has warned.
The heads of state and government of the Group of 77 (G77) and China have issued a declaration following a summit in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, last week (14-15 June) marking the 50th anniversary of the group's creation. The G77's mission includes promoting global social and economic equality, and advancing the interests of the developing world.
The declaration, For a new world order for living well, touches on issues including climate change and the next set of global development goals.
It affirms the importance of science, technology and innovation, and their links to industrialisation and infrastructure "as essential elements for developing countries to attain higher development levels in a sustained way" and "in improving the quality of life of our people and in the sustainable development of our countries".
But it also expresses concern that science and technology can be used to undermine nations' sovereignty, their sustainable development and attempts to eradicate poverty.
Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental organisation of developing countries, said in a press release that the declaration is a "valuable and quite remarkable document which encompasses the political state of thinking of leaders of the South".
Indigenous knowledge and rights
The declaration reaffirms indigenous peoples' "holistic traditional scientific knowledge, innovations and practices, which play a significant role in strengthening the livelihoods of the local populations, ensuring food security and addressing climate change".
It calls for a strengthening of the "interscientific" dialogue between traditional or indigenous knowledge systems and modern sciences through the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, an independent body that assesses knowledge in these areas.
The declaration highlights coca leaf chewing as a traditional cultural activity in the Andes that the international community must respect, and expresses interest in knowing the results of international scientific research on the leaf's properties.
And it welcomes progress on implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity, including actions to promote access to genetic resources and to fairly share the resulting benefits.
"We stress the need to protect the knowledge of developing countries, indigenous peoples and local communities with regard to genetic resources, biodiversity and traditional knowledge, and especially from continuing attempts by persons or companies to patent such resources and knowledge without the approval of the countries, indigenous peoples and communities concerned," the declaration says.
"We call for intensified efforts by our negotiators and policymakers to establish legal mechanisms, internationally or nationally, to prevent biopiracy by requiring disclosure of the country of origin and proof of benefit-sharing arrangements by applicants for such patents. We also call for strong provisions and effective mechanisms for technology transfer, including appropriate treatment of intellectual property, in the international climate change regime in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," it says.
Misuse of ICTs
"We express our concern that science, technology and innovation can be abused as instruments to limit and undermine countries' sovereignty, sustainable development and poverty eradication," the declaration says.
In what appears to be a reference to recent revelations such as the global scale of US spying through the internet, the G77 calls "for an end to the use of information and communication technologies, including social networks, in contravention of international law and in detriment to any state, in particular members of the Group of 77 or their citizens".
It further commits to "intensifying international efforts directed at safeguarding cyberspace and promoting its exclusive use for the achievement of peaceful purposes and as a vehicle to contribute to both economic and social development".
And it says that "international cooperation, in full respect of human rights, is the only viable option for fostering the positive effects of information and communications technologies, preventing their potential negative effects, promoting their peaceful and legitimate use and guaranteeing that both scientific and technological progress is directed at preserving peace and promoting the welfare and development of our societies".
In a section dedicated to technology transfer, the G77 says that "science, knowledge and technology integration and innovation should be instruments for promoting peace and people's sustainable development, wellbeing and happiness and that they should thus be oriented towards the promotion of the empowerment of the poor, the eradication of poverty and hunger, and the promotion of solidarity and complementarity among and within peoples".
It says: "Technology transfer, technology integration and the development and promotion of endogenous technologies are important for developing countries to engender economic growth in an environmentally sustainable manner."
But to achieve this, the G77 says the international community must do more.
"We call on developed countries to implement their commitments to transfer technology to developing countries and provide access to technology on favourable terms, including concessional and preferential terms, to enable the developing countries to shift to a more sustainable development path.
"It is imperative that developed countries recommit themselves to the objective of technology transfer as one of the major components, along with finance, capacity-building and trade, of provision of the means of implementation towards sustainable development for developing countries, and to take actions to bridge the technological gap. We call for the early establishment by the United Nations system of a technology facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies, including cleaner fossil fuel technologies."
The G77 also raises the issue of intellectual property: "We call for regulations and policies on intellectual property to be placed within a development framework, whereby intellectual property rights are oriented towards the promotion of balanced social, economic and environmental development."
As part of this, it calls for UN agency the World Intellectual Property Organization to incorporate the promotion of development and access to knowledge for all in its future initiatives.
It also reiterates that members of the World Trade Organization can exercise options within its TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement to promote health, education and economic and social development.
"We note with great interest and appreciation that some developing countries have successfully made use of some TRIPS flexibilities to promote the use of generic medicines, which are lower in cost and thus greatly increase access to medicines at affordable prices.
"We reject attempts by any developed country or business interest to pressure developing countries not to exercise their right to make use of TRIPS Agreement flexibilities for social and development purposes, and express our solidarity with those developing countries that have come under such pressure."