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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession II: Technology generation and transfer - Transformation alternatives
close this folderThe collective self-reliance of developing countries in the fields of science and technology
close this folderSlobodan Ristic
View the documentI. General considerations
View the documentII. Co-operation among developing countries in developing national potentials
View the documentIll. The strengthening of the negotiating position of developing countries in science and technology
View the documentIV. Instead of a conclusion
View the documentNotes

I. General considerations

1. A growing interdependence and complex and dynamic changes are the major features of modern economic, scientific and technological progress within a country and within the world community. However, century-long colonization and economic and political domination and dependence have created great disparities between various countries with respect to economic development, industrialization and urbanization, and assurance of social justice and prosperity for men. Consequently, an interdependence has been established among "developed'' countries on one hand, and between "developed" and "underdeveloped" ones on the other. Channels of communication, of goods and services, and of knowledge, cultural values, information, and so forth have been set up. Owing to these disparities in the concentration of power, capacities, knowledge, experience and information, and to the established system of communication, developing countries, in their efforts to overcome the gap and to achieve more equity in the relations between the North and the South, had to develop exchange with developed countries.

Science and technology have been recognized not only as the instruments and catalysts of growth, but also as the vital factors of progress, power, and prestige of every country. However, the fact that approximately 95 per cent of the world's scientific and technological capacities, or 97 per cent of the resources earmarked for research and development, are still concentrated in developed countries has led to the scientific and technological potential of developing countries heavily depending on those of developed nations. This situation merely confirms the well-known fact that interdependence both in science and technology is a part of the relations between the North and the South. In addition, current literature on technological development elaborates the conceptual, substantial, and methodological aspects of the exchange of knowledge between developed and developing countries - technology transfer, choice of technology, appropriate technology, intermediate technology, adaptive technology, and so forth. All these are related to the utilization and adaptation of the achievements offered by the developed world without any alternatives.

2. Since knowledge and technology are not neutral in social terms, the high dependence of developing countries on developed nations in scientific and technological advancement has serious implications for their social and economic, and even technological, development. The following excerpts from documents prepared for the UN Conference on Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries vividly illustrate this dependence.

The Report of the Panel of Consultants on Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries reads as follows:

"Traditional TC, because it was a part of a wrongly conceived 'development thinking,' has contributed to the transfer of, in most part, inappropriate knowledge from 'developed' to TW countries, without even a minimum effort at adaptation to the specific situation of the recipient society. In this type of one-way transfer of knowledge, technology in particular was considered to be 'neutral' in social terms and 'beneficial' in economic development terms. Negative effects of this critical transfer on employment, structure of production, pattern of consumption, income distribution, culture, balance of payment and foreign indebtedness, dependency and so forth were not taken sufficiently into account by traditional TC. Many cases illustrating this point are now available in the literature on the subject."

One of the studies prepared for the same Conference states:

"Fundamentally, traditional TC was conceived as one channel among others for the transmission of some specific types of knowledge from 'developed' to 'underdeveloped' countries. This complemented the transmission of other types of knowledge and information in the same direction through various other channels: e.g., the transmission of information, ideologies, values, images, etc. through the mass media; technology, administrative techniques, marketing knowledge, etc., through transnational corporations (TC), information, paradigms, theories, achievement motivation, etc., through education systems, including foreign textbooks and training."

Thanks to a wide range of social services and efficient bilateral and multilateral machinery, transfer of technology, knowledge, and experience through technical co-operation in the fields of technology, management, public services, planning, urban development, culture, education, and so on is definitely strongly influencing the social, economic, and cultural development of developing countries. Knowledge and technology are transmitted through established channels of "economic and technical assistance" for specific programmed and projects, and so are the conceptions of "modern" and "consumption" societies. This transfer of patterns from "developed" societies also causes a high degree of social injustice, domination, squandering, and alienation of available national natural resources and the introduction of "imitations," which most often are not suited to the specific socio-economic conditions and strategies of individual developing countries. The introduction of foreign concepts, models, and methods in the process of management and decision-making in different spheres of social life, including technological development, is a highly delicate matter in both social and economic terms. Resources management and assurance of a corresponding efficiency and rationality in the decision-making process are an essential prerequisite for social and economic prosperity in every country. However, management is a social process and not a method or technique. This leads us to the conclusion that a non-critical acceptance of management concepts and practices may have serious consequences on the development of developing countries.

3. The social, economic, and cultural development of a country can not be based on imitations. It has to be conducted in line with social values and strategies, needs, and available resources. Because of their grave economic position in international relations, developing countries are emphasizing the importance of self-reliance, not only as essential to the successful utilization and development of national resources and of liberation from domination and dependence, but also as the basis for a substantial transformation of the present-day world. It is only a natural counterbalance to the theories, concepts and solutions imposed by developed countries in international relations, which place developing countries in the positron of passive observers and dependents on financial resources, knowledge, and information of their more developed partners. This concept is more and more apparent at both the national and international levels. Mr. V. Nayedama defines it thus:

"Self-reliance is the cornerstone of development. Self-reliance is not self-sufficiency or autarchy. Fundamental to self-reliance is the indigenous capacity for autonomous decision-making. Galtung dealt at length with what self-reliance is not, what could be achieved through self reliance and the negative aspects of self-reliance. Self-reliance is an open-ended concept, a strategy, a process that takes different forms in different fields, e.g. food, finance, energy, technology, etc., involving people at all levels to decide on choices and action to be taken, minimizing dependence, maximizing independence and optimizing interdependence."

Nayedama defines self-reliance in science and technology as follows:

"Self-reliant development requires self-reliance in S/T. SR implies an in built preference for developing indigenous technology, competence to generate and use knowledge; [a] mechanism to identify, [and] choose from among a set of options and acquire technology, indigenous or foreign, at best possible terms and blending it with indigenous competence to adapt, assimilate and improve [it] for a continuous increase in productivity."

It is difficult to find a national plan or more significant political or economic document in any country today that does not define self-reliance as a lasting national strategy. More and more UN documents include collective as well as national self-reliance as a factor in the establishment of new relations and a New International Economic Order. The documents and programmes of action adopted at the conferences of the Heads of State and Governments of the Non-Aligned Countries in Colombo in 1976 and in Havana in 1979 decisively illustrate the political determination of developing countries to develop indigenous capacities and resources and promote closer mutual co-operation in all spheres of activity.

A number of institutions and scientists in developing countries and progressive academic circles in developed countries define self-reliance as the essential for a substantial transformation of the present-day world. Within this context, science, as a generator of new knowledge and information's, and technology, as knowledge organized to achieve practical objectives, are actually the decisive factors for progress.

4. In view of the fact that collective self-reliance is a general strategy, in theoretical and social terms, which has been conceptually defined through international research, the UN system, and the joint actions of the non-aligned and other developing countries, there is no need to say any more about general considerations. I shall concern myself instead with a pragmatic analysis of certain factors which ensure practical results for developing countries in attaining collective self-reliance in science and technology. The concept and strategy of collective self-reliance cannot be realized without corresponding efforts by developing countries to attain national self-reliance. This explains the emphasis in this paper on the close interdependence of collective and national self-reliance.

The idea of collective self-reliance does not imply the self-sufficiency of the know-how network system of developing countries with respect to the scientific and technological achievements of developed countries. However, in order to establish more equitable relations it is necessary to strengthen the negotiating position of developing countries. The collective self-reliance of developing countries in resolving major problems of transferring science and technology in the world will therefore also be treated pragmatically in further consideration of this issue.