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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

Ill. The strengthening of the negotiating position of developing countries in science and technology

1. Present-day international relations in science and technology, and especially the absolute need to ensure changes and new relationships in the distribution of resources and potentials, demand plenty of patience in negotiations to reach satisfying solutions. Developed countries, which are experienced and equipped with their own international machinery (OECD, EC, COMECON, EFTA), will be reluctant to abandon their monopolistic position in development and the transfer of technology and knowledge.

Developing countries also are gradually building their own machinery for mutual co-operation and for strengthening their negotiating position with developed countries as well. These are the Group of 77, a movement of non-aligned countries and organizations such as various regional economic integration groups. Co-operation among developing countries is not bloc oriented, but presents instead a platform for mutual co-operation and joint efforts to change present relationships. This is why the developing countries have not yet decided to establish their official international organization to provide different expertise so as to enhance mutual co-operation and enable more qualitative negotiations with developed countries. Under present conditions developing countries are strengthening their position by using the UN development system and by organizing meetings of experts. A constantly present question is whether the developing countries should establish their own special international machinery. Since it is not possible to dwell on this highly complex and delicate issue here, I will confine myself to identifying certain areas in which the joint position and activity of developing countries within international communities may contribute to the transformation of present day relations in world science and technology.

2. The UN Conference on Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries, held in Buenos Aires in 1978, whose Programme of Action was adopted both by developed and developing countries, defined the objectives of this movements: to foster the self-reliance of developing countries, to promote and strengthen self-reliance among developing countries, to increase the quantum and enhance the quality of international co-operation, to strengthen existing technological capacities in developing countries, to increase and improve communications among developing countries, to improve the capacity of developing countries for absorption and adoption of technology and skill, to recognize and respond to the problems and requirements of the least developed, land-locked island and most seriously affected countries, and to enable developing countries to attain a greater degree of participation in international economic activities and to expand international co-operation.

This Programme of Action, which is defined as "neither an end in itself nor a substitute for technical co-operation with developed countries," should introduce new relationships in international technical co-operation and grow into a significant component of collective self-reliance of developing countries. It is estimated that the total scope of international technical co-operation today surpasses $3,000 million, the share of developing countries being 4 per cent. Various assistance programmed and projects valued at approximately $800 million are carried out through the UN development system. Even in these programmes, however, the mutual exchange of experts from developing countries accounts for 27 per cent; subcontracting of consulting organizations is only 6.2 per cent, and equipment accounts for a mere 2.5 per cent.11

The so-called new dimension in technical co-operation was adopted in the UN development system several years ago in order to enhance the component of mutual co-operation of developing countries, but its realization is slow, followed by many difficulties and much opposition. In addition to overcoming traditional habits in their environments, developing countries have to win the battle for implementing programmes and procedures within the UN machinery.

3. For several years now extensive activity has been going on in the United Nations to regulate the transfer of technology through international instruments. However, the long-lasting efforts of developing countries to adopt codes of conduct in the transfer of technology and concerning the attitude of transnational companies on the preferential treatment of developing countries in technology transfer, as well as to revise the Paris Convention, have not been successful.

Further efforts are needed at the international level to reach an agreement with developed countries in this area. However, these international instruments should complement the national legislation of developing countries. Only an interaction of these two components can produce practical results. Finally, changes in the international transfer of technology may be regulated more permanently only as a result of changes in world relations.

4. Scarcity of financial resources in developing countries is the key limiting factor to expanding mutual co-operation in different fields, including science and technology. Various agencies and foundations of developed countries, as well as international development and financing corporations, have not developed the practice of financing joint undertakings of developing countries, and their use of the consulting and engineering potential of developing countries is very low.

Development and financing institutions must change their policies if the financial base of joint development undertakings of developing countries is to expand. However, to achieve actual results, developing countries should present detailed programmes and projects. The establishment and functioning of this mechanism and the preparation of projects depends on the organized efforts of the developing countries themselves.

5. It has been stated that there is a lack of sufficiently reliable information on the needs and potential of developing countries and that this deficit is a major obstacle to promoting the common interests and programmes of developing countries in science and technology. In this respect, the activity of individual organizations in the UN system has produced positive results (e.g., UNDP surveys on research, consulting, and education potential of developing countries and UNIDO's efforts to set up an information network on import of industrial property).

One can hardly expect developing countries to establish a special information system outside the activities of the UN development system and the specialized agencies and regional economic commissions. They are a significant prerequisite to the establishment of a system of communications among developing countries and to their greater involvement in the programmes and projects of the UN system and international development and financing institutions. And they provide a significant base for strengthening the negotiating position of developing countries within the wide scope of international relations.