G77’s COSTIS – a long time coming and where is it going?

Shanghai: venue for COSTIS' first meeting (Flickr/Keith Marshall)

More than a decade after it was initiated, and six years since its launch in 2006,the Group of 77 (G77) countries’ COSTIS (Consortium for Science, Technology and Innovation for the South) will finally hold its first general meeting in Shangai, China in 2012.

A COSTIS-organised meeting on South-South cooperation in science and technology for development was one of a few side events at the 5th World Science Forum, held in Budapest, Hungary last week (17-19 November).

Gretchen Kalonji, assistant director general for Natural Science at UNESCO and Katalin Bogyay, president of the General Conference of UNESCO, both expressed their support for COSTIS and expressed willingness to work together, as some of the aims of the two organisations are closely aligned.

Kalonji urged COSTIS to form a steering committee to ease UNESCO’s collaboration with it.

But neither of the UNESCO representatives stayed for the rest of the brainstorming meeting.

The meeting itself seemed weak in several respects. Although it is a consortium of 77 countries, there were no more than a dozen countries represented by some 20-30 attendees. Some of them did not even know what COSTIS, or indeed the G77 were, or how COSTIS is meant to work.

Others questioned how it differed from TWAS (the Academy of Science for the Developing World). And some, like a delegate from Madagascar, urged the participants to start informal collaborations there and then – by exchanging contact details and possible areas or research collaboration – instead of waiting for high level groups such as G77 to help them do so.

The brainstorming was equally weak, with many of the delegates simply presenting their institutions, or praising their successful science (like the Iranian delegation) in one-way lectures, rather than trying to creatively engage with others and highlight new possibilities for collaboration.

At the end of the meeting, a brief declaration was passed around. A couple of delegates made short comments and attempted to raise some issues with it, but they were advised to e-mail any comments, as the meeting was about to close.

Mićo Tatalović, deputy news editor, SciDev.Net

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