|The Impact of Technology on Human Rights: Global Case-studies (UNU, 1993, 322 pages)|
|4. Human rights and technological development: Eastern Europe and Poland|
The interrelationships between human rights and technological development can, from the theoretical point of view, be presented as in figure 1. According to this scheme the fundamental element is the political system. The content of human needs, human rights, and technological development is heavily dependent on the political system, and even as it varies those elements vary, leading to different levels of economic development. Thus, as shown earlier in this study, the hierarchy of human needs shaped by an authoritarian system differs from that shaped by a democratic one. In the first case, uniform fundamental needs are placed in the forefront, whereas in the second it is diversified higher needs that take precedence. Consequently, the human rights which are respected, or sometimes preferred, in authoritarian systems differ from those which are respected and preferred in democratic systems. In the first case it is collective citizens' rights, especially social rights, that receive emphasis and in the other it is the liberal rights of an individual.
In this context the political changes that are taking place at the moment in Eastern Europe are reflected in a preference for the liberal-democratic system. In some countries, for example Poland, this preference assumes an extreme form, i. e. lack of state control over private and social institutions, priority to private ownership over public ownership in the economy, etc. From this point of view the political changes being introduced in Poland could be compared with the programme of the British Conservative government.
The choice of a political system thus produces an impact on technological development, its pace and directions. Whenever an authoritarian political system is accompanied by an authoritarian economic system, technological development is an external phenomenon from the standpoint of the human being as an individual. In the case of democratic systems, technological development is, first of all, an activity determined by human beings as individuals.
In view of this, the impact exerted by technological development on the economy differs in each case. In the first case it is subordinated to the interests of the collectivity, the state, and fundamental human needs. In the second case technological development is determined by the rights of individuals and diversified human needs.
In the countries of Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, there has been a process of departure from a model of technological progress designed for the satisfaction of the fundamental needs of the majority of society, in favour of a model oriented more towards profit and imitation of the consumption patterns of a privileged minority in industrialized countries. This remains at variance with the still dominating egalitarian tendencies present in the societies of East European countries.
In the chain of interrelationships which determines technological progress, certain connections can be found between the economy and the political system. In the underdeveloped economies, especially in those introducing radical structural transformations aimed at speeding up development, there is a greater tendency towards adopting solutions close to those chosen by the East European countries after the Second World War, i. e. solutions oriented at satisfaction of basic needs, preference for collective citizens' rights, and treatment of technological development as an imposed phenomenon rather than one which is democratically adopted.16 On the other hand, a reverse process is taking place in the developed economies, where there are tendencies towards preference for diversified higher needs, involving liberalization of human rights and technological development as a result of the activity of individuals.
Taking a more dynamic approach to the interrelationships between human rights and technological development, following the principles outlined above, the results can be presented as in figure 2.17
According to this scheme, systemic principles, irrespective of whether they are introduced democratically in compliance with the will of society or are imposed autocratically by internal or external forces, initially determine human needs and, later, human rights. In turn, human rights determine technological development and, consequently, the directions of economic development.18
In the case where those relationships are linear, the shift of the economic system to a higher level exerts an impact on the economic system that cases the restraints on the diversity of human needs and the liberalization of human rights. Consequently, the restraints are eased on the initiation of a particular line of technological progress as an outcome of the activity of an individual.
To understand the nature of the above interdependencies it is necessary to distinguish between technological development in the form of a rising level of material technical devices, and technological development in the form of the growth of the technical abilities of people. In the first case, progress can have its source in the transfer or importation of technology from abroad. In the second, people's interest in technological development is an indispensable condition for development.
Technological development as a phenomenon arising from the rank and file of the population must be induced, stimulated, and appropriately guided. It is determined by the amount of knowledge - general, technical, organizational, and economic - at the people's disposal, by practical, technical, organizational, and economic abilities, by the human propensity to innovate, and by the technical means used by people.19
Guiding technological development is of particular importance, since otherwise it proceeds spontaneously and often turns against people. There is firm evidence of such antagonism nowadays, especially when rapid technological development takes place in the sphere of armaments, when it is in collision with ecology, etc.
Discussions on the issue of freedom of scientific research and the need for control in order to protect humanity from the adverse effects of technological development have continued for many years.20
In 1966 the right to freedom of scientific research assumed the form of a treaty norm in the provisions of Article 15, item 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of 16 December 1966, which makes panties to that Covenant obliged to "respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity."
Cooperation between specialized organizations of the United Nations and extra-governmental scientific organizations resulted in the working out of "Recommendations Concerning Status of Scientific Workers," adopted by the Twenty-eighth General Conference of UNESCO in Resolution No. 40 of 20 November 1974. In this document, in the form of a recommendation to governments, it is stated, inter alia, that "national scientific policy should support creative activity of scientific workers, in strict observance of the autonomy and freedom of research indispensable for scientific progress." In item 14 of the resolution, under the caption citizens, and Ethical Aspects of Research," the contents and the scope of the right to freedom of scientific research have been concretized. According to that item it is the right and obligation of scientific workers to:
- work in the spirit of intellectual freedom in explainig and protecting scientific truth in the form they perceive it;
- contribute to specifying the objectives and tasks of the programmes they participate in and to specifying the methods to be adopted which should be humanistic and compatible with the requirements of social and ecological responsibility:
- express themselves freely about human, social and ecological values of projects and in extreme cases withdraw from them if such conduct is necessitated by their beliefs;
- contribute in a positive and constructive manner to the development of science, culture and education in their own countries as well as to the accomplishment of national goals, improved well-being of their fellow citizens and support of international ideals and the goals of the United Nations. Besides, member countries employing scientific workers should be precise in the most rigorous and concrete manner possible in cases in which they regard compliance with the above recommendations necessary.
In 1968, in the "Proclamation of Teheran" adopted at the International Human Rights Conference, it was stated that although the newest scientific discoveries and technological achievements opened up broad prospects for economic, social, and cultural progress, that progress could jeopardize human rights and individual freedoms. Following that, as a result of strenuous efforts made in the forum of the United Nations, the right to freedom of research has been given a new significance, as reflected in the compilation of a list of threats to human rights and freedoms posed by arbitrary and uncontrolled exercise of the right to freedom of scientific research. That list is being constantly supplemented.
The right to control the directions of scientific and technological advancement is a subject of discussion in the countries of Eastern Europe as well. On the one hand, they centre on control from the point of view of morality and security and, on the other, they constitute an attempt to find solutions that will reconcile the particular interests of scientific workers with the socio-economic development of society as well as with broadly perceived human rights and freedoms.
Freedom of scientific research is closely connected with methods of guiding technological development. The basic methods of such guidance can be broadly distinguished as administrative and market-oriented.
The administrative method of guiding technological development attempts to foster development as if "from above," making the development of chosen fields or the country as a whole dependent on its results. In this situation, state organs select and finance development projects. By its nature, technological development fostered in conditions of administrative guidance concentrates on chosen technologies. However, its adoption cannot be widespread, as such guidance is very expensive and one of its important techniques is the transplantation of technological development from outside.
Guidance through incentives and market-oriented methods provides a direct connection between individuals and collective bodies consuming the product and the enterprise producing it, and provides advantages to both groups. This kind of guidance is also able to diversify incentives by stimulating development in chosen fields preferred by the state for various reasons. However, the basic objective of market-oriented guidance is to make all participants in technological development interested in its fostering. This approach brings apparent results in societies which are advanced from the point of view of scientific progress. In such societies advanced scientific development and research enjoy access to modern technical means, and interest in innovations suggested by the rank and file becomes a common phenomenon.
Factors Influencing the International Position of Polish Technology
When evaluating Poland's international scientific-technological position it is necessary to distinguish between the level of science and the level of technology in the strict sense. In each of these two fields Poland's position is different.
In the field of pure science Poland is a country to be reckoned with.21 This refers especially to the basic sciences, like mathematics, physics, astronomy, and mechanics. In this field Polish scientists are at or very close to the forefront among world scientists.
As far as applied sciences such as electronics, computer science, automation, chemistry, etc., are concerned, the position of Polish scientists is far less satisfactory, since in this field what determines a country's position in worldwide terms is not only basic knowledge, but also the availability of suitable technical equipment that is indispensable for carrying out experiments stimulating development.
Poland's position in the world from the point of view of "strict sense" technology is also unfavourable. In the literature on the subject this aspect is determined by means of three kinds of indicators: the number of patents granted to domestic inventors and obtained by such inventors overseas; the number of licences purchased and sold worldwide, together with the expenditure and revenue involved; and the so-called weight prices, obtained in exports or paid in imports for 1 kg (or 1 ton) of technical appliances.22
The first indicator - the number of patents granted to Polish inventors - is quite positive for Poland, as she is ranked in this respect well above the world's average. In Poland the number of patents granted annually to domestic inventors is bigger, i.e. 3,532 in 1984, than in Switzerland (2,351), Sweden (1,693) or Canada (1,327). In the group of East European countries, Poland is placed behind the Soviet Union (62,743), the GDR (9,538), and Czechoslovakia (6,266). In the mid-1970s the share of patents granted in the world (1.6 per cent) was similar to Poland's world share of industrial output. At the same time, however, the number of patents obtained by Polish inventors abroad was insignificant (195). The number of patents granted by Poland to foreign applicants was not significantly higher either (653). The last two figures point to the fact that the technological level of Polish inventions had turned out to be relatively low and patents granted to Polish inventors often did not show the innovative dynamism of world leaders.
The balance of exports and imports of technology (the second indicator of a country's technological position in the world) is apparently unfavourable to Poland. Overall, in the years 1950-1985 Poland purchased only 637 licences, out of which as many as 418 were purchased in the 1970s, and only six in the years 1981-1985. At the same time, in the years 1950-1985 Poland sold 187 licences abroad, of which 103 were in the 1970s and 43 in the years 1981-1985. The average price of a licence imported amounted to 1.4 million dollars, and an ex ported licence 0.25 million dollars. Thus, the licence-related terms of trade amounted to some 0.18 and were highly unfavourable to Poland. (Advantages are achieved when the indicator's value exceeds one; with the lapse of time Poland's position suffered further deterioration as the indicator's value fell.)
The third factor characterizing Poland's technological position in the world - the so-called weight prices for industrial equipment containing a specified amount of technology - is not favourable to Poland either. In relation to highly industrialized countries, the weight prices obtained by Poland for exports of industrial equipment are considerably lower than prices paid for imports, and over the years this difference has even increased, to the disadvantage of Poland.
The most important factors determining Poland's international technological position include:
- the relatively low technological level at the starting-point;
- the conception of technological development adapted after the Second World War, which provided for industrialization based on imparted capital machinery and equipment, mainly from the Soviet Union;
- the particular approach to human rights that determined industrialization; and - the administrative methods used to guide technological development, being an outcome of a command economic system and authoritarian political system.
At present, Poland's unfavourable technological position in the world is also due, to some extent, to the lack of appropriate traditions. From the historical point of view Poland was (until the Second World War) a country whose economy was based on agriculture and raw materials, while industry was underdeveloped. The process of large-scale industrialization initiated after the war encountered a number of barriers, including not only the lack of engineers but also the lack of highly skilled workers with an advanced industrial culture and labour discipline. Most industrial workers turned out to be peasants who took to jobs in industry. However, their habits fell short, to a considerable extent, of the requirements of modern industry and were characterized by low discipline and culture of labour, alcohol abuse, difficulties in mastering new techniques, etc. Although over the years these drawbacks have been reduced, they have continued to be a serious disadvantage to Polish industry.
The education of well-qualified engineering and technical staff also faced many difficulties. The shortage of teaching personnel able to ensure an appropriate level of education in the numerous secondary vocational schools and establishments of higher technical education was especially acute. Foreign assistance in this field, especially in the form of the further training and education of teaching personnel in economically advanced countries, was not significant. Over the years the unfavourable difference in the level of training of engineering and technical staff in Poland compared with some other countries has been mitigated, but until now it has not been fully eliminated.
Of considerable importance for Poland's present technological position was also the concept of technological development adapted after the Second World
War. This was based on a preference for heavy and armaments industries, as well as the idea of establishing a centre for technological advancement in Eastern Europe independent of countries with a market economy. This approach was reflected, on the one hand, in tendencies towards autarky, and, on the other, in the limiting of scientific and technological cooperation almost exclusively to Eastern Europe.
In the period directly following the Second World War, the main source of scientific and technological progress in Poland was the Soviet Union, as well as the GDR and Czechoslovakia industrially and technologically the most advanced countries of the region. Poland obtained basic technologies from the Soviet Union. They were relatively obsolete as that country itself lagged behind leading countries in the world as regards levels of technology, especially in consumer goods industries.
Since the end of the 1960s, imports of technology from market economy countries have been growing, particularly from the FRG, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. These were more advanced and mainly concerned industries manufacturing consumer goods. the role of these industries in the Polish economy also gradually increased in importance.
The preference for technology imports from East European countries had an impact on the development of domestic technologies and affected imports of modern technologies from market economy countries and the training of Polish engineers and technicians in leading technological and scientific centres in the United States and other industrially advanced capitalist countries. Until the mid-1970s these centres were totally inaccessible to Poles. Since the mid-1970s the barriers limiting development of scientific-technological cooperation have been gradually diminished, although some of them have not been abolished until now.
A specific feature of Poland's technological position is her higher ranking in technologies which do not have a direct impact on the satisfaction of human needs than in technologies used directly by individuals. This is the result of the approach to human rights prevailing not only in Poland but also in other East European countries, in which concentration was first of all on technologies for heavy industry, engineering etc. These are, at the same time, labour-intensive technologies contributing to full employment, which is not easy to achieve in conditions of vast labour resources.
It was only in the 1970s that gradual changes in this field started to emerge. The policy in force hitherto of satisfying fundamental needs started to give way to efforts to satisfy more diversified needs and this required the application of completely different technologies from those used before. On the one hand, it involved modem technologies counteracting environmental damage, the harmful effects of production processes on human health, accidents at work, etc. On the other, it called for development of the output of consumer goods contributing to the satisfaction of both basic and higher needs This also involved Poland's quest for technologies outside Eastern Europe, i.e. in economically advanced countries. In the 1980s that orientation assumed the form of an official doctrine. In the 1990s that tendency is likely to be strengthened owing to political changes taking place in the liberal-democratic spirit and to the stress on individual human rights. At the same time it has been announced that mass closures of obsolete enterprises with outdated technologies will take place, especially in those sectors of the economy which are not directly involved in satisfying consumer needs.
The above changes have been accompanied by a modified approach to the guiding of technological development.
In the authoritarian system that existed almost until the end of the 1980s, the direction of technological development was set by the central authorities. The scope for enterprises to make decisions on their own technological profile was very limited. From the point of view of criteria that were then binding, a change of that situation was neither possible nor purposeful. It was impossible because the law did not provide for such a possibility; it was only the central authorities that were competent to take binding decisions, and these adhered to criteria other than current market incentives. It was not purposeful, either, because no market existed at that time. Thus, even if enterprises had had the right to act in accordance with market incentives, they would have been unable to do so as the lack of market infrastructure resulted in the unavailability of appropriate parameters to inform enterprises about the right directions for technological expansion.
Other institutions, like professional organizations, consumers' unions, scientific organizations, etc., could not make decisions on technological development either. They could only make applications in terms of their preference for this or that technology. However, the centre rarely yielded to such endeavours.
In the 1980s the process of decentralization of authority to settle directions of technological expansion was initiated in Poland . At the same time , however , no market was created and this presented serious difficulties and sometimes even made it impossible to set directions for technological development. Owing to the worsening economic crisis in Poland, the interests of manufacturing enterprises in technological development apparently diminished. This explains why the number of technologies imported and exported at that time was so small. Scarcity of financial resources had a significant impact on the suspension of work on new technological solutions in scientific organizations.
At the beginning of the 1990s Polish manufacturing and scientific-technological enterprises gained full legal and financial independence. The centre was deprived of its right to interfere with programmes of technological development in enterprises. At the same time efforts to create an appropriate market infrastructure were undertaken.
In other words, at this time there was a complete reversal of the situation existing in the past. The centre lost the right to decide on directions of technological progress, to the benefit of enterprises, whether manufacturing, scientific technological, or other. At the same time consumer, conservationist, and other organizations gained the right to veto decisions on technological development, and in many cases they actually made use of it.
This means that the situation in this field which arose in Poland at the beginning of the 1990s differs both from the previous state of affairs in Poland and from developments in the advanced economies, where the state sets certain directions for technological development , taking in to account the economy as a whole, especially in the long run. Market incentives are not regarded as the only basis of desirable scientific and technological progress.