Former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan said there is no room for complacency when it comes to addressing the issues of life and livelihood.
It was India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who declared over half a century ago that this country was too poor not to invest in scientific research. India’s goal of becoming a global education superpower–and its continued strong economic growth–cannot be achieved without significant investment and effort.
Annan said in a country which is set to have the world’s youngest population by the year 2020, the jobs created by such investment will be crucial.
Today, 40 per cent of all researchers in the world are located in Asia and the Pacific. This is a huge opportunity to overcome the traditional dominance in science of the mature economies.
By building a regional network of research institutions, resources can be pooled and knowledge shared to address common challenges in Asia and the global South.
“So I urge you to spearhead greater exchanges and collaboration amongst academic institutions, particularly those in Africa, which have much to learn from your experiences. Most importantly, they must develop fair intellectual property regimes which enable and encourage, rather than stifle, innovation.”
As countries struggle with the aftermath of the financial crisis, the involvement of the corporate sector can help unlock new resources, Annan pointed out. It can unleash the energy, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit critical to transforming promising research into practical solutions.
Academia can make a valuable contribution by aligning research with real-world concerns, particularly those of the poorest and most vulnerable. In other fields there are similar examples where partnerships are capitalising on innovative research to make a real difference to people’s lives.
Efforts to find an effective cure for HIV/Aids are being accelerated through a partnership of governments, academics, pharmaceutical companies and charitable foundations.
By harnessing the unique strengths of each, the International Aids Vaccine Initiative is furthering progress towards the cherished prize of a vaccine to prevent the transmission of the deadly disease.
N R Narayana Murthy who introduced Kofi Annan said: “Kofi and I have been good friends. He and I serve on the same board of the UN Foundation. Kofi and the UN were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
The Kofi Annan Foundation is doing a lot for fair governance. I thank Kofi and Dr Amartya Sen for being here – it is rare to have two members of the Elders Community at once place. Kofi, it is indeed a great pleasure for us to have received the award from you.”