An Agenda for Change
Statement and Commitments from the South Asia Conference on Technologies for Poverty Reduction: Working towards a Regional Strategy
In order to tackle prevailing poverty and increasing disparity, what science and technology agendas should the region be pursuing? How can technology be made to work for poor people? What are the strategies that governments, private sectors and civil society need to adopt to ensure that technology development is done in a way that benefits poor people, recognizing both their capacities and needs?
The challenge is to help poor women and men choose and use technology; to adapt, develop and improve it; and to manage it sustainably over time. It means subjecting the choice of technology to the test of the three As. Is it:
Affordable: to the 1.2 billion people surviving on U$1 a day.
Accessible: does it require extensive infrastructure such as power and telecommunications - absent in many poor communities - or presuppose a level of education, skill and training absent in the rural poor?
Appropriate: for the needs of poor communities.
Currently science and technology agendas focus almost exclusively on the use of new technologies for modernization of South Asia. New technologies have huge potential to benefit large numbers of poor. However, benefits are not automatic and we need to be aware of the potential negative economic, social and environmental impacts these new technologies can bring especially on poor sections of society.
Existing technology knowledge and practices of communities across the region do have an important, valid and necessary role to play in poverty reduction. Currently this is neither formally recognized nor supported in the dominant science and technology agendas.
A technology democracy is needed - in which technology benefits the majority, not just the minority who already benefit. At the same time, there also needs to be technology pluralism, in which people have a choice of technologies and where new and existing technologies co-exist to meet different situations and challenges.
There is a need for strong political will to adopt appropriate strategies to ensure that new technologies are made to work for poor:
- The role of government in relation to use of technology should be that of a facilitator and partner.
- Appropriate technology as an instrument of social change should be included in party manifestos.
- National appropriate technology agendas should lead to a regional (SAARC) agenda and declaration.
- Politicians should introduce private members’ bill in their respective parliaments on technology and poverty issues.
- A technology dialogue should be initiated between political parties and civil society.
- Governance structures should encourage multi-stakeholder participation for technology for poverty reduction. Stakeholders include government, state organisations, research and academic institutions, the private sector, NGOs, small producers, the informal sector, etc.
Programme of Action
A South Asia Convention on Appropriate Technology for Poverty Reduction is needed to promote the use of existing and new technology to tackle poverty in the region.
Towards this Convention, a South Asia Regional Forum will be set up with representation from national and state levels. Functions of the forum will include:
- Documentation and sharing of best practices and experiences in the use of technologies for poverty reduction
- Establishment of fair trade and protection mechanisms for poor and informal sector producers and enterprises in South Asia
- Promoting participatory methods to raise the representation of poor and informal sectors in economic and development activities
- Improving access to knowledge and skills for poor and informal sectors
Taking the commitments forward
Conference participants agreed a need to identify an apex body in each country to take the lead in forming
- a national forum with multi-stakeholder participation;
- a cross country committee to develop a regional forum and raise funds.
Functions of the regional forum:
- Network and consult at regional and national levels on technology and poverty reduction
- Develop a research agenda to document research and technologies and make available through web-based database/media
- Publish a national/regional manifesto in 2005
- Launch a second regional conference in 2005
- Formulate a Convention on Appropriate Technology for Poverty Reduction to be presented to the United Nations, SAARC and governments of South Asia.
- Members of parliament who participated in the conference will report the outcomes of the conference to their respective parliaments as a private bill.
- Media who participated in the conference will organise debates and awareness creation campaigns.