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The UNESCO-proposed Network for Expansion of Converging Technologies in the Arab Region (NECTAR) was launched on 20 June at a regional congress in Cairo. The meeting was organized by UNESCO's Regional Bureau for Science in the Arab States, under the patronage of the Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who is also President of the Egyptian Higher Council for Science and Technology.
Converging technologies is a generic term for technologies which interact with one another in the development of new products and services. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and cognitive science are all converging technologies.
UNESCO will select one or more recognized science or engineering institution from each of Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordon, Morocco, Sudan and Syria to act as the network's national focal points. These will each be responsible for developing a quality programme at their institution for education, research, innovation and the commercialization of new products involving converging technologies and the basic sciences associated with these technologies. Each institution will create an Innovation Centre in Converging Technologies within its walls and develop partnerships between universities, public research institutes and industry. It will also be expected to design exhibitions on clean technologies to raise public awareness.
Every year, the Innovation Centres in Converging Technologies will be expected to publish at least one refereed scientific publication on its research. There will also be an annual international conference to promote North-South and South-South cooperation and knowledge-sharing. An exchange programme for scientists will also be put in place to attract Arab expatriate sciences back home and a prize for innovation may be instituted.
Now that NECTAR has been launched, the next step will be to establish a seed fund with regional donors like the BAHGAT Group in Egypt to cover the initial phase of the project. A governance structure is also being put in place for the network, with a secretariat in Cairo within the newly established Egyptian Network for Technological Advancement.
Nanotechnology research in the region has received a boost recently in the Arab world with the founding of the North African Nanotechnology Research Centre in 2009 at the Smart Village near Cairo by the Egyptian government and the US-based International Business Machines (IBM), as well as the establishment of the Nanotechnology Centre of Excellence at King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia in 2008, again with IBM. A third nanotechnology center is currently being established with the company INTEL at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, also in Saudi Arabia.
UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. It is through this dialogue that the world can achieve global visions of sustainable development encompassing observance of human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty, all of which are at the heart of UNESCO’S mission and activities.
The broad goals and concrete objectives of the international community – as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – underpin all UNESCO’s strategies and activities. Thus UNESCO’s unique competencies in education, the sciences, culture and communication and information contribute towards the realization of those goals.
UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. The Organization focuses, in particular, on two global priorities:
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