“Science, Technology and Society”
The Commonwealth Day Theme for 2010
In 2010 Commonwealth Day falls as usual on the second Monday, which will be 8th March. Increasingly, there is a move to extend the theme into a series of events taking place throughout the year across London and the UK, and mirrored in all capitals and countries of the 54 countries of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Day theme for 2010 is:
“Science, Technology and Society”
It will be celebrated not only at the traditional Westminster Abbey Observance Ceremony on Commonwealth Day itself, attended by the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty The Queen, but also through public lectures, debates, museum displays, theatrical and musical events, and educational activities taking place during the rest of the week and throughout the year.
The theme points to the importance of science to the quality of life of all Commonwealth citizens and to the future of our societies. The concept can be used to design a wide range of activities, such as debates, lectures and displays, carried forward through events in cultural, academic, political and other venues and institutions. Ideas for debate might include ethical and faith concerns; improving policy responsiveness to innovation; encouraging research and creativity; new technologies for sustainability; development perspectives in science and technology; the challenge of forensic science; and many others! It is hoped that many countries and organisations will mobilize in support.
At the international level there is powerful context for the promotion of science, for example in the policies of UNESCO, the African Union and NEPAD. For some Commonwealth countries the exploration of scientific boundaries, whether in space, atomic particles or the biodiversity of the ocean deep, is an important priority for international partnership. Nationally, Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia and Singapore take pride in having adopted and promoted indigenous science-based development routes, and Rwanda, the Commonwealth’s newest member, plans to do the same. Science and technology is the subject of national celebrations and public events in many countries, for example Jamaica.
The private sector will undoubtedly find resonance in the theme, especially those working in communications, mineral extraction, energy, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, forestry and engineering.
The Commonwealth is rich in professional networks, many of whom it is hoped will respond to the theme and celebrate it or address it in their own way. Of the 80 or 90 such networks in existence, the significance of the theme might be especially noteworthy for those supporting doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, foresters, engineers, surveyors, planners, ecologists, museums, archivists, veterinarians and agriculturalists, amongst many others.
Why Science, Technology and Society is Important
The theme will remind Commonwealth institutions that science underpins economic and social progress, and that access to technology is fundamental to equitability and the implementation of democracy. Science can help to address poor governance through improved accountability and monitoring. It is fundamental to appropriate policy-making in use of natural resources such as forests, fisheries, or in planning waste management, water supply, sanitation and environmental health.
Scientific and technological advances can help address challenges of sustainability, development, poverty and marginalization in all their aspects: social, economic, environmental and cultural. They can help reduce emissions and create low-carbon pathways for sustainable energy, transportation and shelter. At the same time they can strengthen information accessibility, communications and education for those most in need. New ways to address maternal healthcare, child mortality, resistance to drugs, and pandemics such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza and poliomyelitis are essential. Equally important are technologies in agriculture and veterinary sciences to reduce losses and increase food production. Stem cell and DNA research and genetic finger-printing offer the prospect of transformation of health treatments and criminology techniques. These are just a few examples from many that could be cited and discussed.
Why the Commonwealth?
Science was highlighted by the 600 Commonwealth civil society organizations and 1500 people at the Commonwealth People’s Forum held in Kampala in November 2007, who stated:
“…science, technology and innovation are among the most powerful tools for meeting the internationally agreed development goals, and …. such tools can make productive resources – natural resources, human resources, and physical capital – more potent contributors to the transformation of societies….” .
They went on to call for a renewed commitment to science and technology in Commonwealth institutions, and for assistance in building the science base of the least developed Member States. These proposals resonated with related calls on water and sanitation (paras 66-68), health (paras 51-60, marine, coastal and freshwater resource management (paras 44-46), energy for sustainable development (paras 39-43), climate change (paras 21-30) and human settlements (paras 17-20).
Two years later, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the theme for the November 2009 Commonwealth Summit was:
“Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future”
The host government strongly supported reaffirmation of science, technology and innovation as key to addressing the five linked crises that beset the planet: the economy, food, energy, the environment and human demography. The 54 Commonwealth Heads of Government took up the idea with enthusiasm and in the Declaration of Port of Spain they included a section that reads as follows:
“Science, Technology and Innovation
We recognise that many Commonwealth countries already collaborate in innovation, particularly in key areas such as information and communication technologies. We believe that there must now be a far stronger emphasis on science, technology and innovation (STI) as key drivers of the type of economic transformation, employment generation and growth that will be required to emerge from the present economic crisis, attain our development objectives and realise our collective vision of sustainable development.
We therefore commit to promote increased investment in STI, as well as the rapid dissemination of technologies and ideas. In this regard, we request the Commonwealth Secretariat to identify, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Business Council, mechanisms for financing research to advance the development and adoption of new technologies and to assist member states to access the environmental development funds managed by the World Bank and the United Nations.
In addition, we will encourage new public-private sector partnerships, foster the expansion of the small and medium size (SME) sector, and promote new knowledge-based and creative industries.”
This is the first time for some years that science and technology have received such prominence in the Commonwealth narrative. Without doubt the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Business Council, with the support of many other Commonwealth organizations, will pursue this decision enthusiastically.
Endeavour in science, technology and innovation is an area of comparative advantage in the Commonwealth, with many world class educational, academic, research and private sector institutions. Science-based networks within the Commonwealth are numerous and varied, and will benefit from support through this theme.
This year’s Commonwealth Day theme should serve to remind us all how important Commonwealth networks and linkages are for innovation in science and technology. Of course, they are not often branded as Commonwealth initiatives; the Commonwealth is not a scientific or technological institution as such. But this should not prevent us from celebrating those linkages, researching and cataloguing them, and building on them to help resolve the many challenges that the world faces today. With shared language and laws, common systems of education and governance, the Commonwealth of Nations has a natural comparative advantage in sharing scientific knowledge, researching new ways to address world problems and devising the technologies to build a more equitable and sustainable future for the Commonwealth’s 2 billion people.
The Commonwealth’s main purpose is to promote democracy, good governance, equitable and sustainable development, and a more peaceful world. Increasingly it is being recognized that science has a big part to play in public diplomacy towards such ends. New discoveries can help us to communicate more effectively, appreciate each other’s cultures and solve intransigent problems of health, water and food security that otherwise threaten to destabilize international relations. The transfer of technology is critical to international cooperation, and the resolution of major challenges such as climate change.
It is to be hoped that Commonwealth Day 2010 will stimulate new partnerships and networks, new research collaboratives, new ways of thinking, planning and delivering science and technology for people everywhere.
Messages of Support
The Commonwealth is pleased to acknowledge the support given by the following organisations in the development and planning of this year’s Commonwealth Day theme:
- The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)
- The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
- The Royal Society (which is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year)
- The Association of Commonwealth Universities
- The UK Commonwealth Scholarships Commission
- The UK Collaborative on Development Science
- The London International Development Society
- The Royal Society of New Zealand
- The Council of Commonwealth Societies
- The Royal Commonwealth Society
- The Royal Society of Chemistry
- The Commonwealth Engineers Council
- The Institution of Civil Engineers
The Commonwealth Lecture will take place by invitation only at the Royal Institution on 28th April 2010. The speaker, James Martin, author of “The Meaning of the 21st Century” will address the Commonwealth Day theme and present his own special take on the importance of science and technology to the future of society. The lecture will be streamed across the internet to other countries and made available worldwide.
 Commonwealth Foundation (2008). Realising People’s Potential. The Kampala Civil Society Statement to the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Paras 69-70. 39 pp.
 Commonwealth (2009). The Declaration of Port of Spain: Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future. Commonwealth Secretariat, London. 4 pp.