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Science Forum in Tunis promotes development of Arab scientific advancements within the global context

Tunis, Tunisia, December 23, 2013: The first "Arab Forum for Scientific Research and Sustainable Development," hosted by the Arab League Educational, Cultural & Scientific Organization (ALECSO), in cooperation with ISC, promoted interdisciplinary networks and partnerships to support existing Arab development initiatives to integrate into the global market.

The forum, held in Tunis, Tunisia, from 20-22 December 2013 engaged representatives of the Presidency of the Republic of Tunisia, the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States, the various Arab ministries, over 100 Arab research and higher education institutes, top executives of international companies specialising in science and technological innovations and representatives of development policy and regional industry. Prof. Abulgasem H. El-Badri, Director of Science and Scientific Research Department, ALECSO, spoke on the success of the forum, “The first major success of this forum is that so many Arab and non-Arab scientists, decision-makers, and entrepreneurs, have come together, including Arabs from diaspora. The majority of these stakeholders have made significant contributions to science and scientific research. Secondly, we have come to a mutual understanding among participants to work together from now on as a team by participating in next year’s forum.” Presenter of the forum, Dr Mohamad Mrayati, S&T Expert, Ministry of Economy and Planning said, “The event demonstrated how Arab countries look forward to solving serious issues such as youth unemployment, the rate of which is one of the highest in the world.” Mrayati also spoke on the low and unstable economic growth and the need for improving education. The forum provided recommendations for Arab governments to change their R&D policies. “A forum like this,” Mrayati said, “dealing with R&D in connection with societal problems is important because if we want to help the Arab society become a knowledge society, the needed steps are to support research and development, and science and technology. This forum shed light on the weight of these aspects, relatively neglected by the Arab countries, where the gross expenditure on R&D, GRD, varies between 0-0,2% and 1% in the best cases.” The promotion of the Arabic language to stimulate science and education was also examined at the forum. “The language of teaching science has to have its own policy similar to monetary policy. In the majority of Arab countries, science is taught in either French or English which makes that transfer of science and technology to the workforce minimal, as the educated elite "speaks science" in a language different than 97-98% of the population. And this is the major handicap for the development of the knowledge based society.” Mrayati said. Another important recommendation of the forum is to create and improve communication and the development of collaboration among R&D bodies and individuals. According to Mrayati, this will help to optimize the efforts in R&D in the Arab world as well as create links with Europe and the international community, which is also necessary for better transfer of S&T and knowledge towards and inside the Arab society. Prof. Dr. Fouad Kasim Mohammad, Ministry Deputy for Scientific Research Affairs, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Iraq, highlighted the opportunity the forum presented for all professionals who work in the field of scientific research and collaboration. Dr Mohammad said, “The forum provided a platform to exchange ideas on how universities and institutes can collaborate for mutual benefit mutual. I hope this forum can be held in the future in other Arab countries, as well as in European countries, as it will certainly allow for a greater forum for collaboration among experts from different places around the globe and different cultures." Dr. Sultan T. Abu-Orabi, Secretary General of Association of Arab Universities, Jordan, presented the history of education in Arab countries and said, “Today we have a large number of universities in the Arab world, close to 600, with 11 million students, as well as 250 thousand faculty members. With this increase of universities and students, there are a lot of challenges facing the Arab world. One of these challenges is the quality of teaching and the quality of outputs, therefore our Association (AARU) has established the Arab Council of Quality Assurance and Accreditation with HQ in Amman, where we are trying to organise conferences, workshops, and seminars, to disseminate the culture of quality assurance at our universities.” He also spoke of the hope for the forum to encourage other organisations and associations to form networks to enhance scientific research in Arab countries and encouraged leaders of Arab countries to put more money and support in their universities because, “the best investment is the investment in human capital.” A focus of the forum was also European-Arab collaboration. On this, Dr. Sultan T. Abu-Orabi said, “I think that a second forum like this will only increase the network between Arabs and Europeans for further collaboration on scientific research and quality assurance aspects, and student mobility from both sides. I am looking forward to it.” Conclusions of the forum include: ISC, Brussels to draft a Memorandum of Understanding between ALECSO and the EU; Using the EU`s Horizon 2020 and other funding mechanisms to provide support to the existing scientific leadership in the Arab League Member States; Supporting the development of the Arab League’s scientific advancement within the global context through extending its framework for cooperation, specifically with reference towards global challenges; Establishing the Steering Committee comprising ALECSO (Head of the SC), ISC as a Member, Distinguished Members of the European and arab Parliaments, Association of Arab Universities, Federation of Arab Research Councils, Zewail City for Science, and Arab Science and Technology Foundation; ALECSO, King Abdulaziz University from Saudi Arabia, and Zewail City for Science, are to launch an initiative for promoting Arab Women in Science; Annual financial support to be provided by Jinyang Industrial from South Korea; Jinyang Industrial offered Honorary Membership in the Steering Committee; and Forums will be held every year in successive Arab Countries Prof. El-Badri explained that the preparations of the next forum will begin as soon as January 2014 and that, “We will establish a Steering Committee which will also contain private companies from outside the Arab world, because we believe that science is a global issue. Our message is science means peace and prosperity for humanity.” Dr Abdulla Alnajjar, Head of Arab Science and Technology Foundation, offered to host the next forum in the United Arab Emirates in 2014. Media Enquiries Declan Kirrane ISC Intelligence in Science Email: Tel: +32 2 8888 100 Or Jessica Hadjis ISC Intelligence in Science Email: Tel: +32 2 8888 100 Editor’s Note The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) is a Tunis-based institution of the Arab League, established in accordance with article 3 of the Arab Cultural Unity Charter by an announcement made in Cairo, Egypt, on 25 July 1970. ALECSO works to coordinate cultural and educational activities in the Arab world. Among its various activities, subsidiary ALECSO institutions have been established across the Arab world: • Arab Centre for Arabization, Translation, Authorship and Publication • Arabization Coordination Bureau • Institute of Arab Manuscripts • Institute of Arab Research and Studies • International Institute for the Arabic Language Further information: ISC Intelligence in Science ISC is a Brussels-based advisory firm specializing in science, technology and R&D research and policy. ISC provides intelligence on science and innovation policy and programs and has over a decade of experience in innovation policy and science communication at European and international level. The development of science and innovation policy in Europe today takes place in a complex institutional setting. The web of actors that contribute to innovation policy ranges from EU and international level to national level to private entities and the media. With such a diverse structure of opportunity, it is vital for all of those in the science and technology community – from policymakers to researchers - to equip themselves with an effective communications strategy. ISC serves science and technology communities to build an understanding of their research and innovation activities amongst citizens, industry, media and decision-makers. ISC expertise is utilized by policymakers, scientific and contract research organizations, industry, intellectual property professionals, academic institutions, technology transfer experts and many others involved in R&D and innovation processes. Further information: Horizon 2020 Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. 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