Bismillahir Rahman Ar Raheem
Minister Shakhrat Nuryshev
ASG Askar Mussinov
Dear Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I begin, I wish to convey to you the cordial wishes from his Excellency, Dr. Arif Alvi, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and Chairman of COMSTECH. Dr. Alvi is a strong supporter of science, technology and innovation, and has used his personal prestige and the prestige of his office to advance this agenda.
COMSTECH is the OIC’s Standing Ministerial Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation of OIC. As the Coordinator General and head of the Secretariat of COMSTECH, I report to the President of Pakistan in his capacity as its Chair.
I am also the Chairman of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, with the rank and status of a Federal Minister. This provides additional opportunities for synergy and cooperation.
Ladies and gentleman, I am most grateful to the Government of Kazakhstan and the OIC General Secretariat for inviting me to this meeting. I would also like to express my appreciation for the consistent leadership provided by Kazakhstan for the agenda of advancing science and education in the Islamic world. Kazakhstan hosted the 1st ever OIC Summit on Science and Technology in Astana in 2017, which led to the landmark agreement on OIC STI Agenda 2026. Not only has this provided the platform and framework for developing future cooperation, it is also forms the basis for the work program of COMSTECH.
Kazakhstan’s latest proposal of establishing the OIC-15 Platform to support science and technology cooperation builds upon its history of leadership in this domain, and could lead to the mobilization of heightened political and financial support for the agenda of science and technology cooperation, and the work program of COMSTECH. On behalf of COMSTECH, I would like to place on record our support for this initiative, by serving as the secretariat of the initiative, and helping to translate the political, intellectual, and financial resources mobilized by the OIC-15 platform into operational programs and high-impact cooperative activities.
Ladies and gentleman, COMSTECH was established in 1981 by the 3rd Islamic Summit Conference with the aim of addressing and overcoming the technological backwardness of the Muslim Ummah. Islamic countries, as a group, lag behind every other group in terms of virtually every indicator of scientific or technological progress, including both “outcome indicators” e.g., educational achievement, per capita number of scientists, per capita achievement of excellence (e.g., number of Nobel Laureates), per capita research output (publications as well as patents), or the production or expert of knowledge products as well as “input indicators”, e.g., the proportion of the budget allocated for higher education or research.
The 21st century is the century of Knowledge. Societies that fail to invest in education, science, and technology will be left behind others in terms of all major societal goals, economic progress, human development, poverty eradication, environmental conservation, national security, and protection and advancement of national and cultural sovereignty. For our countries this is an urgent challenge, and all of us need to put our collective shoulder to the wheel. The OIC was prescient in identifying this challenge nearly four decades ago. The time has come to convert the lofty goals into practical results. The OIC STI Agenda 2026 was a major step in this direction. However, the rate of progress needs to be accelerated, and this can happen only if additional financial, political, and intellectual resources are mobilized.
Let me say a few words about the current state of STI Cooperation in the Islamic world. I will give a detailed presentation on COMSTECH in the Technical Session that will follow. In the meantime, here are the highlights. COMSTECH has been supported generously by the Government of Pakistan through the donation of a state of the art campus in the heart of Islamabad, plus an annual grant of US$ 1 million plus PKRs. 25 million. In addition to this, smaller grants have been provided on a voluntary basis by a small number of member states. However, the total amount is far, far below what would be needed to fulfill the ambitious goals of the Agenda 2026. In the meantime, we have tried to put these limited resources to maximum use, both by keeping the Secretariat size as small as possible (with only 8 handpicked technical staff), and allocating the bulk of the resources to high-priority and high-impact cooperative activities. These include research grants to promising Islamic scientists, travel grants to attend scientific events, conferences or training workshop on high priority and emerging issues, scientific and technological competitions, and awards and recognitions for outstanding scientific achievements. We have also tried to ensure that disbursement of resources is equitable and balanced, and that it supports researchers and scientists from less privileged countries. Finally, COMSTECH has formulated detailed work plans in collaboration with other OIC organs, and established institutional structures that will help shepherd the implementation process.
Nevertheless, the fulfillment of the Astana vision will require a significant increase in the volume of resources. It will also require stronger political will so that the STI agenda is fully recognized at the highest levels of governments. Finally, it will require a commitment by the leading Muslim intellectuals and scientists to engage in cooperative activities. The OIC-15 platform can help mobilize all three kinds of support.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are at the start of a long process. The next step coming up is the envisaged 2nd STI Summit, which should serve as an opportunity to go from the broad vision to concrete and detailed targets, including sovereign commitments by countries for actions within their own borders (e.g., enhancement of the funding for science, technology, and education), reciprocal commitments (namely to reciprocate conditional cooperative commitments by other states, in such areas as scholarships for foreign students, faculty and student exchanges, and collaborative research programs), and supporting commitments, i.e. contribution of funds or support for multi-national or technical assistance programs, or for the required institutional support and M&E arrangements. Once again, the OIC-15 Platform could help enrich the deliberations at the 2nd STI Summit by engaging with the highest levels of leadership in our countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, in a recent book (Destiny Disrupted), the historian Tamim Ansari shows how the Islamic world was united at one point in time, not in a political sense, because there were many states and principalities, but in an intellectual sense, as scholars traversed across the vast terrain from one teacher to another, and from one center of learning to another in search of knowledge and enlightenment, to Marrakesh or Baghdad or Samarkand or Multan or elsewhere. The challenge for our generation is to recreate such a unified intellectual civilization, to promote the exchange and flourishing of knowledge, to build bridges between and among our intellectuals and scholars, and thus to bring about a second renaissance of Islam.