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Learning Collaborative on Science Diplomacy at AMASA 15, Ghana

TWAS-SAREP hosted its first Learning Collaborative on Science Diplomacy in Accra, Ghana on 13 November 2019 in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), and the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC).

The Learning Collaborative preceded the Annual Meeting of African Science Academies (AMASA) that took place from 13-16 November 2019. The opening ceremony was led by the President of the Republic of Ghana, his Excellency Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who gave a talk aligned to the celebrations of the 60 years’ existence of GAAS. The theme of the meeting was Science, Technology and Innovation for Food Security and Poverty Alleviation in Africa: The Role of Academies.

“As its attainment is vital for future success of our respective nations and culture. I say confidently when I state that all aspects of our lives are now ruled by Science, Technology and Innovation. It is also of outmost necessity that we embrace them fully in our attempt to construct progressive and prosperous agents and to realise the commitment as enshrined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and leaving no one behind “, President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo said during his opening remarks of AMASA 15.

The workshop deliberations concluded that effective science diplomacy is driven by both science and policy to improve collaboration between countries and promote development in Africa. Science, Technology and Innovation are emerging over the past 10 years as key drivers to social and economic development in Africa. Academies of science by form, scope and nature are designed to provide scientific advice to government to ultimately influence policy formulation and implementation. There is a need for capacity building for academy representatives on issues of science diplomacy and establishment of contact points with policy makers.

The session was led by a presentation from Dr Peter McGrath from TWAS, who set the scene for the panel discussion that included Mrs Jackie Kado (NASAC), Dr Doyin Odubanjo (Nigerian Academy of Science and INGSA Africa Chairperson) and Prof Himla Soodyall (ASSAf Executive Officer). The deliberations were followed by a simulation game on Solar Radiation Management (Jigsaw exercise).

Prof Himla Soodyall noted that “We have lots of success in the science sector and how can we bring that in. We have a few other types of science contexts, but they do not gain momentum compared to sport and music in the continent. What is it that we are missing in terms of gaining momentum, gaining gravitas to put science on the agenda for our national governments (focusing on national development plans), how do we engage collectively to build momentum so that as countries we are much more effective in using science (evidence-based science) to address local problems from unemployment, poverty and climate change. The earlier display at the opening ceremony is another example of science diplomacy. Ghana had the presence of the President of the Republic and minister to honour AMASA 15 in giving support to GAAS. This is a classic example of the way in which the sciences are integrated into the fiber of society from the political goodwill “.

Dr Doyin Odubanjo said that “In-country nowadays more than ever, scientists need to develop certain capacities like science advice skills, which is the ability to influence policy. Science diplomacy is an art more than science in that the translation of scientific outputs to policy briefs that highlight the vitality of the scientific outputs that can be communicated to policy makers and government within 3-5 minutes without the scientific jargon is very artistic. This begins with science advice capacities in-country and there is a big need to interact with foreign ministries within for a wider reach and elevated discussions “.

“We need to develop a strategy that defines what science diplomacy means for us (science academies) in context. We need to articulate what relevant activities would be termed as science diplomacy because academies do not operate in isolation; they interact with sister academies, regional and international multilateral organisations. They have to be able to speak to government beyond providing scientific advice in-country and be able to articulate scientific issues that are global in nature “, Mrs Jackie Kado’s remarks during the panel discussion.

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