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OAS Committee on Science and Technology Begins its Eighth Regular Meeting with a Call on Member States to Increase Investment in Research and Development

  November 14, 2013

The Eighth Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee on Science and Technology (COMCYT) of the Organization of American States (OAS) began today at the headquarters of the hemispheric institution in Washington, DC, with a call to member states to increase their investments in the areas of research and development.

In his inaugural speech, the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, highlighted the urgent need for Latin America and the Caribbean to improve their innovation capacity. World Bank figures, cited by the senior official of the multilateral organization, indicated that while Japan and Sweden invested 3.4 percent of GDP on research and development, and Germany invests 2.8 percent, Latin America and the Caribbean as a region invests just 0.78 percent.

“This problem, while very real, can be rendered more manageable in the medium to long term if governments and the private sector make greater investment in education programs related to mathematics, science, technology, engineering and innovation,” he said. “It can also be addressed through greater hemispheric collaboration between the public, the private and research-oriented academic sector, to promote mutual learning and collaboration,” he added.

The OAS official recalled that during the Third Meeting of Ministers and High Authorities on Science and Technology held in Panama two years ago, a Plan of Action was adopted which expresses the commitment of the OAS member states to work together to drive four strategic areas: Innovation; Human Resources Education and Training; National Quality Infrastructure; and Technological Development.

The Assistant Secretary General indicated that during the Eighth COMCYT meeting, being held until tomorrow, participants will discuss the progress made towards the targets set for the year 2025 in these four critical areas, which, he said, "are central to the Hemisphere’s objectives in integral development and economic productivity.”

Ambassador Ramdin recalled that more than 65 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, some 350 million people, is less than 35 years old, and called for the creation of an educational system that is better adapted to the needs of the XXI Century students. “More importantly, the region must seize the scientific and technological strengths of this new work force and channel it to create a more productive and competitive regional economy,” said the OAS Assistant Secretary General.

For his part, the Chair of COMCYT and National Secretary for Science, Technology and Innovation of Panama, Rubén Berrocal, presented his report to the Committee on the progress made during the first two years of implementation of the Panama Action Plan 2012-2016, which was adopted at the 2011 ministerial meeting.

Berrocal explained that in order to follow up on concrete advances and broad impact made in the four strategic areas mentioned, two separate working groups were created involving member states, and also strategic partners from non-governmental sectors. “The partnership of governmental and non-governmental institutions, in this informal manner, has been, without doubt, one of the most innovative aspects of the follow-up actions generated from the Panama Action Plan. Now, that we have to evaluate progress made to date, we also hope to identify new opportunities for collaboration to present a number of concrete results at the next Meeting of Ministers and High Authorities on Science and Technology, to be held in 2014," he said. The specific date and place of the meeting will be decided tomorrow at the COMCYT meeting.

Secretary Berrocal summarized of the progress made by the four Working Groups. Group 1, on Innovation, chaired by Mexico, produced a preliminary list of 12 indicators, with the aim of agreeing on regional common parameters to measure progress in innovation and establishing a comparative basis. Group 2, concerning Human Resources, held a seminar in Argentina attended by member countries and strategic partners to define issues and develop projects jointly; from this group there emerged an initiative to be submitted by Argentina during the current meeting on mobility/training of engineers in the Americas. Group 3, on Quality Infrastructure, was coordinated by Canada and Panama, and agreed to establish an Inter-American Council on Quality Infrastructure. Group 4, focused on Technological Development, whose activities will be presented at the ministerial meeting in 2014, aims to generate exchanges of information, coordination and cooperation between authorities, public and private research centers, universities, and the private sector, to share best practices on issues of technology transfer, incubation and entrepreneurship. During the meeting that is taking place, this group will present some experiences and best practices in these areas.

The Eighth Regular Meeting of COMCYT includes the participation of representatives of member states, the private sector and civil society. The event will conclude its sessions tomorrow, Friday, with the election of new officers for the next meeting, and the adoption of the recommendations and conclusions of the meeting.

The primary function of COMCYT is to contribute to the definition and implementation of policies of cooperation for scientific and technological development and innovation in the Hemisphere. More information on the Eighth Regular Meeting is available here.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-437/13