Minister Joseph acknowledged that, although CARICOM leaders had long recognized the critical need to strengthen STI capacity for the region to keep pace with global advances, there had been an inordinate lag in creating and implementing relevant policies. This delay has resulted in a costly setback to the region’s development in terms of promoting innovation, economic competitiveness and social development, as well as in building the physical infrastructure and human resources required to sustain future development. Minister Joseph and his ministerial colleagues at the COTED/COHSOD meeting agreed with the policy document framers on the urgent need for clear policy direction, backed by more substantial commitment of resources, to drive the process. Against this backdrop, the meeting unanimously endorsed the Regional Policy Framework for STI, as the first step towards final ratification by CARICOM Heads of State.
The policy framework for STI attempts to reflect the changing needs of the region as it strives to meet the demands of the new knowledge-driven era, as well as to be in line with the ‘single development vision’ being articulated through the mechanism of the CSME. A single vision for STI will, in the same vein, foster greater collaboration and networking to optimize relatively scarce resources and help in the advancement of common STI goals that would be difficult to achieve individually by member states.
The policy elaborates nine areas for government intervention; infrastructure, policy and planning, development finance, innovation and entrepreneurship, standardization, human resource development, science and technology education, research and development and regulatory framework and intellectual property rights. Twelve policy priority areas have also been identified for Caribbean development:
- Agriculture and the food sector
- Biotechnology and biosafety
- Environmental Management
- Coastal and Marine Resources Management
- Waste Management
- Integrated Water Resources Management
- Alternative energy and Energy Management
- Disaster Preparedness
- Sustainable Tourism
- Development of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises
- Information and Communication Technology
The Caribbean Council for Science and Technology (CCST) spearheaded the development of the policy framework for CARICOM. In July 2000, CARICOM Heads designated CCST as the agency responsible for coordinating and implementing CARICOM’s policies and programmes in Science and Technology. The CCST is an inter-governmental organisation, with a mandate to promote regional cooperation in Science and Technology. It was established 25 years ago, and is currently undertaking projects in the region to promote Science and Technology foresighting, science popularisation and environmental awareness and education. It is also developing student capacity in creativity and innovation. It took CCST nearly four years to prepare the policy framework, to stage national consultations throughout the region, and to get the final document onto CARICOM’s agenda for discussion and endorsement. The Technical Centre for Agriculture & Rural Cooperation (CTA), a specialised agency of the ACP- EU Group, funded by the European Commission provided critical technical and logistical support for staging regional and national consultations.
As global developments race ahead in the industrialized and newly-industrialized nations, it is even more urgent for the Caribbean to build capacity in STI in these priority areas to gain a competitive advantage. CCST will work with CARICOM and the member states to ensure that the regional framework is translated into national policies, programmes and action plans for immediate implementation, to accelerate economic growth of all member states and ensure the sustainable development of the region.
Press release - 4 February 2008