Select Committee on Science and Technology Thirteenth Report

2 Background

Key concepts and definitions

International development and the UK

6. The International Development Act 2002 sets out the ways in which the UK can spend money on international development. The Act establishes poverty reduction as the over-arching purpose of British development assistance, either by furthering sustainable development or promoting the welfare of people. The Act states that "The Secretary of State may provide any person or body with development assistance if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty". The Act also defines development assistance as "assistance provided for the purpose of furthering sustainable development […] or improving the welfare of the population".[5]

Developing countries

7. There is no single, universally-accepted definition of a developing country. DFID, like many others, uses the definition provided by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its "List of Aid Recipients", formerly known as the "List of Developing Countries and Territories". The List is reviewed every three years and countries may be removed from, or added to, the list on the basis of changes in their per capita income or their development and resource status. The List is in two parts, with Part I showing developing countries and territories eligible to receive official development assistance, and Part II showing countries and territories eligible to receive official aid. The OECD notes on the List explain that "only aid to 'traditional' developing countries on Part I of the List counts as 'official development assistance', for which there is a long-standing United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of donors' gross national product", whilst "aid to the 'more advanced' [transitional] eastern European and developing countries on Part II of the List is recorded separately as 'official aid'". [6] The list is designed for statistical purposes only, not as a guide for aid distribution.

8. According to these definitions, the term "developing country" could refer to a diverse selection of countries, for example: Afghanistan, Armenia, Somalia, Malawi, Indonesia, India, China, Oman and South Africa. Thus, although the term "developing country" is used generically in this report, the situation and needs of individual countries vary dramatically. DFID's work is focused predominantly on low income developing countries, but it also works with some middle income economies in order to promote continued economic and social development. In this Report, the terms "North" and "South" are also used as short-hand to refer to developed and developing countries, respectively.

Millennium Development GoalsFigure 1
The Millennium Development Goals

Goal 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target 1. Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.

Target 2. Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Goal 2. Achieve universal primary education

Target 3. Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women

Target 4. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and to all levels of education no later than 2015.

Goal 4. Reduce child mortality

Target 5. Reduce by two-thirds, by 2015, the under-five mortality rate.

Goal 5. Improve maternal health

Target 6. Reduce by three-quarters, by 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.

Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Target 7. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Target 8. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

Goal 7. Ensure environmental sustainability

Target 9. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.

Target 10. Halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

Target 11. By 2020 to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

Goal 8. Develop a global partnership for development

Target 12. Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system. (Includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction - both nationally and internationally.)

Target 13. Address the special needs of the least developed countries. (Includes: tariff and quota free access for least developed countries' exports; enhanced programme of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries and cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction.)

Target 14. Address the special needs of landlocked countries and small island developing States (through the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the outcome of the 22nd special session of the General Assembly).

Target 15. Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.

Target 16. In co-operation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth.

Target 17. In co-operation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.

Target 18. In co-operation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.

9. The aim of DFID is "to contribute to the elimination of poverty in poorer countries, in particular through the achievement by 2015 of the Millennium Development Goals".[7] The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emerged from the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2000 and provide concrete targets, supported by 189 countries, for advancing development and alleviating poverty by 2015.[8] The MDGs are listed in figure 1, together with the targets for achievement.

Additional notes on terminology

10. Natural science is defined in this report as the sciences involved in the study of the physical world and its phenomena. This includes biological, physical, chemical and environmental science, but excludes social science.

11. Development sciences is used throughout this report as short-hand to refer to the full spectrum of social and natural sciences, engineering and technology undertaken with the purpose of informing, supporting or promoting international development. It should not be confused with the term "development studies", which usually refers to a branch of social science concerned with international development.

12. Capacity building refers to activities that build or enhance the ability of developing countries to meet their own needs. In this report, capacity building primarily refers to the building of capacities in developing countries for undertaking and utilising science, technology, research and innovation. However, the building of capacities in the UK to assist developing countries is also considered.

13. Innovation in this context refers to the use of new ideas, technologies or ways of doing things in a place, or by people, where they have not been used before. Research is one element of a wider process of innovation. The effectiveness of research is now seen to be dependent on the capacities and resources of a range of actors, in both the public and private sectors, and the links that enable them to communicate effectively with each other, both within a country and with the outside world.

14. Untying of aid describes the ending of the practice by some donors of insisting that aid funding be spent by the recipient on goods and services from the donor country. Untied aid is freely available to buy goods and services from any country.

Importance of science and technology for development

15. There is a wealth of evidence describing the relationship between scientific and technological innovation and economic growth.[9] Science and technology can make an invaluable contribution to development by, for example, reducing disease burdens and food insecurity; facilitating communication; enabling monitoring of global and national environments to minimise conflicts and give warning of natural disasters; and developing new ways of using water, energy and other natural resources. In addition, science and research can engender a culture of inquiry, openness and respect for evidence that can have positive spill-over effects on the wider community. Indeed, a scientific, or evidence-based, approach to policy making is an integral component of good governance.Figure 2
Examples of the contribution made by science and technology to development

Biogas Digesters: The Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management in Rwanda has been at the forefront of developing and propagating biogas technology. Between 2000 and 2003, the Rwandan Government, in collaboration with the Dutch Government, commissioned the Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management to install two major human waste management and biogas generation systems in Cyangugu prison (which houses 6,500 inmates). The biogas produced as a by-product of the digester is now used in the prison kitchen. In addition, as a result of the project, firewood consumption from the dwindling forests surrounding the prison has been cut by 75% and KIST has earned $130,000.[10]

Pest control: The larger grain borer beetle is a major pest of staple food commodities in Africa. The Natural Resources Institute led an R&D programme, funded by DFID, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH, the EU, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Southern Africa Development Community. The programme led to the identification of a novel insecticide mixture which, when used in conjunction with changes to the traditional maize storage system, was able to control the invading pest as well as other long-established pest species. The approach was successfully introduced into several African countries through multilateral and bilateral donor-funded programmes and reinforced by a broader pest management system including biological control. The impact of the research in Tanzania alone resulted in a reduction of £21.5M($38.5M) in the cost of maize losses over a 15-year period.[11]

Pro-poor tuberculosis research: The Equi-TB programme in Malawi is a collaboration between the National Tuberculosis Programme of Malawi and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, with core-funding from DFID. The aim of the programme is to promote the implementation of pro-poor strategies to enhance care and support for tuberculosis. The research undertaken by the programme has helped to ensure a focus on equitable access to healthcare in both the Malawi National Tuberculosis Plan 2002—06 and Ministry of Health Sector Wide Approach to health system development. In addition, the capacity building element of the programme has enabled six Malawians to gain Masters degrees from the University of Malawi, and one researcher has completed a Masters in Community Health from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine which combined a taught course in Liverpool with field work in Malawi. The Department of Sociology and Ministry of Health Community Health Sciences Unit in Malawi have also benefited from inputs such as computers, printers, desks etc.[12]

Mobile telephony: In 1997 the Grameen Bank, which provides microcredit to poor people, established a programme called "Village Phone" to enable women entrepreneurs to start a business providing wireless payphone services in rural areas of Bangladesh. The programme has helped to reduce poverty and raise the status of the women entrepreneurs. It has also improved the livelihoods of farmers and others by granting them access to critical market information and a means of communicating with relatives etc. There are now more than 55,000 phones in operation in 28,000 villages in Bangladesh, with an estimated 80 million people benefiting from the programme.[13]

16. The Intermediate Technology Development Group commented that although not every country needs to be at the cutting edge of science, "every country does need domestic capacity to identify technology's potential benefits and to adapt new technology to its needs and constraints. Governments increasingly need R&D capability to enable them to regulate the acquisition and absorption of technology and in order to improve their own activities. Similarly capacity to engage in international policy making on science and technology issues, including trade issues, is needed".[14] Furthermore, a recent World Bank policy research paper observed that "the ability of countries to access, comprehend, select, adapt, and use scientific and technological knowledge will increasingly be the determinant of material well-being and quality of life".[15] In order to develop, every country requires access to, and the ability to utilise, scientific and technical knowledge.

17. Awareness of the contribution that science and technology can make to international development has been increasing. A recent report by the Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation for the United Nations Millennium Project noted that "meeting the MDGs will require a substantial reorientation of development policies to focus on key sources of economic growth, especially those associated with the use of new scientific and technological knowledge".[16] Science and technology also feature prominently in the priority areas adopted by the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), and in the deliberations of the Commission for Africa recently launched by the Prime Minister. In addition, the InterAcademy Council (IAC), a body established by scientific academies around the world to provide expert advice on scientific issues to the United Nations and other international organisations, published two reports in 2004 on, respectively, science and technology capacity building in developing countries, and realising the potential of African agriculture.[17],[18] In response to the former report, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated that the application of science and technology to agriculture was now his top priority.[19]

18. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, Sir David King, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA), spoke emphatically about the importance of science and technology for poverty alleviation and the need for capacity building in developing countries. During the course of this inquiry, Sir David King also commissioned a scoping study to explore how scientific capacity building in developing countries can be taken forward in an integrated and strategic way across Whitehall. More recently, the UK Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014, published in July 2004, identified international development as one of five "Key policy priorities for government R&D".[20] We welcome the fact that the UK Government has now explicitly stated its commitment to the application of science, technology and research to international development.

5   International Development Act 2002, section 1 Back

6 Back

7   Ev 94, para 2 Back

8 Back

9   e.g. HM Treasury, DTI, DfES, Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014, July 2004, Annex A Back

10   Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management, Strengthening Our Core Business, October 2003 Back

11 Back

12   Memorandum from DFID [not printed] Back

13 Back

14   Ev 182, para 17 Back

15   Watson, R. et al, Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, April 2003 Back

16   Interim Report of the Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation United Nations Millennium Project, Science Technology and Innovation, Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing the Millennium Development Goals, 1 February 2004  Back

17   InterAcademy Council, Inventing a better future: A strategy for building worldwide capacities in science and technology, January 2004 Back

18   InterAcademy Council, Realizing the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture, January 2004 Back

19   "Kofi Annan backs call for science push in developing countries", Nature, vol 427, 12 February 2004 Back

20   HM Treasury, DTI, DfES, Science and innovation investment framework 2004-2014, July 2004 Back

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Prepared 26 October 2004