University of Pretoria to host UN Week of Science and Peace Conference on 12 November

Posted on November 11, 2019

The University of Pretoria is set to host a UN Week of Science and Peace Conference on 12 November in Pretoria, with the title African Innovative Solutions to Sustainable African Peace and Development.

This inaugural conference is organised by the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security in conjunction with UP’s Faculty of Humanities, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and will look at the critical role that science can play in promoting peace.

According to Professor Lise Korsten, Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence in Food Security and Professor of Plant Pathology at UP, the event “is intended to initiate networking and pathways for strategic partnerships where industry, academia and government can leverage each other’s strengths to use science, innovation and technology to benefit respective societal needs”.

The conference will be attended by delegates from across the private, public, civil society and academic sectors and is premised on the view that peace requires economic drivers, and economic drivers require a multi-sectoral approach to leverage strengths and resources. “We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and Africa cannot be left behind,” Prof Korsten said. “Africa must use its plethora of human capital and natural resources to develop scientific and technologically advanced socioeconomic solutions and success is dependent on African countries working together to eliminate barriers and promote opportunities continent-wide.”

The United Nations (UN) identified the critical role that science can play in promoting peace, and in 1986 a Year of Peace was first observed internationally. Based on a  series of events held by mainly non-governmental organisations, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 43/61 in December 1988, thereby declaring that annually the week that falls on 11 November will be the Week of Science and Peace, because that is the date of the armistice signing in 1918, ending World War I.

The conference has four sub-themes:

African technology driving food security, climate change solutions and industries creating jobs and sustained social development. Climate change, drought, natural disasters and migration of especially youth from rural to urban areas is placing a food security burden on Africa. Youth with empty stomachs cannot be properly educated. Without quality education, localised and homegrown development cannot take place, and without socioeconomic change on the ground, African instability will continue. Evidence-based, tested and local-specific innovative solutions are required in not just how we farm, but how we use land, how we cannot continue to export without self-manufacturing; how other industries can use the semi and arid regions productively to create business in Africa.

Science in understanding African migration and developing horizontal governance mechanisms to positively approach immigration and emigration on the continent. To develop policy that promotes the ideals of Pan-Africanism, we need scientific data that is generated in an agreed-upon manner and set as a standard for baseline activities. Using these statistics, scientific analysis can generate data on trends that create the bigger picture for understanding migration and immigration. Once we have this information, the establishment of horizontal governance is required with an agreed-upon steering member to monitor and track progress, to co-produce knowledge to be used to develop technological interventions that can balance human rights with security approaches, while opening trade and investment barriers.

Progress in developing African decolonial theories to reduce gender and child-based violence in war while promoting peaceful negotiations. Decolonial practices cannot occur haphazardly or without sound theory and objectives. Decolonisation cannot be political rhetoric while the toxic institutional cultures that continue to incubate sexism, patriarchy, tribalism, concepts that Africans cannot be subject matter experts, that Western systems are well developed and can simply be cut and pasted. Resources need to supplement the words to develop the researchers and academics who can produce relevant theoretical and practical approaches to what decolonisation is and how to overcome it systematically as it in turn was systemised consciously and sub-consciously in generations of Africans. Furthermore, we need reliable statistics on child and gender-based violence for global transformation, and to secure peace and stability.

How African governments can support small, medium and large-scale business to create and promote innovation to achieve the SDGs 2030 & AU Agenda 2063. There needs to be a common and shared understanding across sectors and countries of what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is, what the Sustainable Development Goals are in African terms, and how the high-level African Union Agenda 2063 translates on the ground. Technology can move access to and create new markets across Africa, but its success will lie in whether it benefits many or only a few. Creating progress in science and technology is expensive to develop and take ownership of, but governments need to invest in this, as did Global South countries in the 1980s and 1990s to become flourishing economies.

This event which will culminate in a conference in August 2020.

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