CDIO Institute For Africa Initiates Discussions For A World Programme: An International Engineering Education Programme Through UNESCO

On 15 March 2007 at 22h23, the CDIO Institute For Africa sent through South Africa and UNESCO Director General Dr Koichiro Matsuura the DRAFT RESOLUTION BY SOUTH AFRICA TO UNESCO TO STRENGTHEN ENGINEERING SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY AND A PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL ENGINEERING PROGRAMME for discussion by UNESCO Member States at the UNESCO Executive Board and UNESCO General Conference Meetings. In keeping with the Institute’s slogan of Bridging the North-South Engineering and Technology Education Divide, we are the only group in the engineering and technology education field that such an ultimate goal was expected from.

It is, therefore, our pleasure to announce to the world that we have done it despite many challenges we had to face. We are facing challenges from some European and North American bodies that have always thought that it is their divine right to tell the developing nations what to do while also some individuals and bodies within the developing nations had acceded to this thinking a long time ago at the expense of the poor engineering and technology infrastructures we have long suffered that led and continue to ensure gross poverty and underdevelopment of the developing world. The ball is now in Dr Koichiro Matsuura’s court and his people.

March 2007
Original: English



Major Programme  II   Natural Sciences
Programme  II.2.1Capacity Building in the Basic and Engineering Sciences

The Executive Board,

  1. Considering the importance of the engineering sciences and technology, engineering and capacity building in driving sustainable economic and social development, poverty reduction, sustainable development and the other UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as emphasized by many member states at recent sessions of the UNESCO Executive Board and General Conference, World Engineers’ Conventions in 2000-2004, World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 and 2005, World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, World Conference in Science in 1999, in recent reports of the UN, G8 and other international bodies and in particular relation to the UN MDGs, bridging the knowledge divide and promoting intercultural dialogue and cooperation,
  2. Recognizing the strides South Africa has made in producing a single education system since democracy , the focus of the policies on the improvement of the access to education for the historically marginalized and the promotion of  modern technology, 
  3. Recognizing the cross-roads South Africa as a country finds herself in with respect to her adoption of ‘world class engineering and technology’ policy that has had an immediate upward effect on the country’s current growing economy, while the countries that endorse ‘appropriate technology’ policies continue to suffer underdevelopment and poverty,
  4. Recognising the UNESCO (1998) statement that the second half of the last century would go down in the history of higher education as the period which saw the widening of the gap between the developing countries and the developed countries, with respect to access and resources in higher learning and research. This was immediately followed by the World Bank advice (1998) to the  developing countries that they should institute developmental policies that would narrow the development gap between themselves and the developed nations,
  5. Recognising increasing international concern regarding the declining interest and enrolment of young people in engineering and the impact of this on human and institutional capacity in engineering, particularly in developing countries, and the consequent negative effects on social and economic development,
  6. Noting that science, engineering and technology are part of a close continuum of activity, and the need for emphasis on applications of the engineering sciences and technology, especially in developing countries,
  7. Also noting the role and importance of engineering in related activities in the Science and other programme sectors of UNESCO – in water supply and sanitation, public health, engineering ethics as a component of the ethics of science and technology, the link of engineering education to technical and vocational education, the role of engineering in the knowledge and information societies, and the fact that much of our material cultural heritage was built and is maintained by engineers,
  8. Underlining the need for human, institutional and infrastructure capacity building in the engineering sciences and technology, particularly in developing countries,
  9. Noting with concern the decline in human and financial resources and capacity in core areas of the engineering sciences and technology at UNESCO and the consequent ability of UNESCO to assist member states, particularly developing countries, in the application of the engineering sciences and technology to development and addressing the MDGs,
  10. Referring to the 160 EX/11 and EX/52 decisions regarding the reorientation of UNESCO’s programmes in the sciences to take account of the conclusions of the World Conference on Science, the 162 EX/9 and EX/54 decisions regarding progress achieved in the follow-up to the World Conference on Science, the 165 EX/9 decision referring to capacity building in the basic and engineering sciences, the 171 EX/54 decision regarding the development of cross-sectoral activities in technical capacity building at UNESCO and related proposal (30 C/DR.94, 1999) regarding a world network of technological universities,
  11. Responding specifically to recommendations 37 and 40 of the Science Agenda – Framework for Action of the World Conference on Science regarding engineering education and capacity building, and the importance of engineering and technology in addressing pressing developmental problems,
  12. Noting the recommendations of the World Engineers’ Conventions in Hanover, 2000 (“Humanity, Nature and Technology”), and Shanghai, 2004 (“Engineers Shape the Sustainable World”), regarding the importance of engineering in social and economic development and the need for capacity building, and noting that the third World Engineers’ Convention will be held in Brasilia in 2008 (“Engineering: Innovation with Social Responsibility”),
  13. Recognizing that the UNESCO scientific programmes are the main International and Intergovernmental Programmes which are valid for the developed and the developing world alike which would ultimately lead to a more uniform engineering and technology infrastructures in the various regions thus bridging the developmental divide between the developed and developing countries,
  14. Invites Member States to:
    1. increase participation and support for an enhanced programme of activity in the engineering sciences and technology regarding engineering education, capacity building and the application of engineering and technology for secure and sustainable social and economic development, poverty reduction, emergency and post-conflict relief and reconstruction in response to national needs;
    2. inform the Director-General of programme activities in the engineering sciences and technology that they would be prepared to support through extra-budgetary funds and to cooperate at an international level in training;
  15. Invites the Director General to:
    1. establish an “International Engineering Programme” as a priority for UNESCO in the Natural Sciences, focusing  on  engineering education, capacity  building  and     the application  of  the engineering  sciences   and   technology   for   social   and economic development, poverty eradication,  sustainable development  and  the  other MDGs,
    2. reinforce human and financial resources in the engineering sciences and technology to support the establishment, organization and activity of an “International Engineering Programme”, that will complement the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP)
    3. call upon South Africa for financial and human resource support in the realization of this programme

Draft Concept Paper for a proposed priority programme at UNESCO

International Engineering Programme

Engineering education, capacity building and applications for poverty eradication, sustainable social and economic development

This draft concept paper outlines and proposes an “International Engineering Programme” as a priority programme of UNESCO. The main goals of the Programme are to promote engineering education, capacity building and applications for poverty eradication and sustainable development and the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

 The development and application of knowledge in engineering and technology underpins and drives sustainable social and economic development. Engineering and technology are vital in addressing basic human needs, poverty reduction and sustainable development, to bridge the “knowledge divide”, promote intercultural dialogue and cooperation. At the same time, however, engineering and technology are often overlooked in the development context, and there is increasing concern around the world regarding the number of young people, especially young women, going into engineering. This will have a serious impact on capacity in engineering, and on poverty reduction, sustainable development and the other MDGs in developing countries.

 The overall focus, vision and mission of the proposed International Engineering Programme is to promote, support and strengthen (1) the development of core competencies in engineering education as part of the process of human and institutional capacity in engineering, and (2) the application of engineering and technology to poverty reduction, secure and sustainable development and other MDGs, with particular reference to such issues as climate change. The Programme will work in close interdisciplinary cooperation with other programme sectors and field offices of UNESCO, in partnership with the public and private sectors, professional bodies and NGOs – particularly the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) and its national members. The Programme will complement the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP), also based at UNESCO. The Programme will strengthen regular programme activities as an integral programme of UNESCO, using regular programme funds and extra-budgetary support.

 This proposal is a response to the call from Member States at UNESCO Executive Board meetings and General Conferences in recent years regarding the need to strengthen engineering around the world, and at UNESCO to assist Member States. The International Engineering Programme would complement and reinforce efforts to develop ‘cross-sectoral activities in technical capacity building’ at UNESCO (Executive Board Decision 171 EX/54) and a previous related proposal (30 C/DR.94, 1999) regarding a world network of technological universities.

UNESCO and the international challenge for engineering

The vital importance of engineering and technology in sustainable economic and social development, addressing basic needs and the reduction of poverty, sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals has been emphasised at meetings and reports of the UN, G8, the African Union and NEPAD, the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, at the WFEO World Engineers’ Conventions in 2000 (held in Hanover on the theme: “Humanity – Nature – Technology”), 2004 (Shanghai, theme: “Engineers Shape the Sustainable World”), and the forthcoming WEC in 2008, (Brasilia, theme: “Engineering: Innovation with Social Responsibility”) and the World Conference on Science in 1999.

A key educational challenge is why young people around the world are turning away from engineering and how this may be understood and addressed, and how best to promote the public understanding of engineering. Related to this is the need for reform in engineering education to encompass wider social and ethical concerns, gender sensitivity and activity-based learning. The main applications challenge relates to how engineering and technology may most effectively be applied and innovated to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. It is apparent that these two challenges are linked to a possible solution – many young people and student engineers are keen to address international issues, especially poverty reduction and sustainable development. This is reflected by the interest in such activities as the UNESCO-DaimlerChrysler Mondialogo Engineering Award. To promote engineering and attract young people we need to emphasise these issues in teaching curricula and practice. 

Programme activities will include the production, provision and sharing of information, advocacy, policy, planning and advisory services, the publication of learning and teaching materials, curricula development and delivery, continuing education, distance and virtual learning. The programme will promote the transfer, exchange and application of knowledge and innovation through international networking, cooperation and partnership. There will be specific reference to the role of engineering in poverty reduction, sustainable development and climate change, promotion of gender equity and empowerment of women and developing global partnerships for development. Key activities will include the UNESCO report on engineering (with WFEO), development of an “Engineer’s Charter” and Code of Ethics for Engineers.

Engineering education, human and institutional capacity building

Living in increasingly globalised, knowledge-based societies, there is an increasing need for capacity in engineering and technology, and for capacity building that is seen as part of a process, rather than an end in itself – including specific activities, broader issues of education and training, organizational and institutional capacity development (DFID). Programme strategy to promote engineering education, human and institutional capacity building will focus on the need to develop and strengthen:

·        engineering education, training, research and professional development;

·        standards, quality assurance and accreditation;

·        curricula, learning and teaching materials and methods;

·        distance and interactive learning (including virtual universities and libraries).

Engineering applications for poverty reduction and sustainable development

Poverty is often considered economically, but relates primarily to the limited access of poor people to the knowledge and resources with which to address their basic human needs – in water supply and sanitation, food production and processing, housing, energy, transportation, communication, income generation and employment creation. Engineering and technology can enable people living in poverty to address their basic needs and promote sustainable livelihood development. Programme activities will focus on promoting access and applications of engineering and technology for poverty eradication and improving innovation systems through applied research, development and sharing of information and associated capacity building. People living in poverty are often more exposed to emergencies and disasters, and there is an important role for engineering and technology in emergency and disaster preparedness, mitigation and response.

Engineering knowledge and technology already exists to make significant progress towards poverty reduction, sustainable development and the other MDGs. What is needed is commitment, application and innovation. As emphasized in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, launched at UNESCO in February 2007, climate change is happening, but is not inevitable, and there is an urgent need to switch to clean and resource efficient technologies to reduce global warming. Engineering should be at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change. The proposed Programme would address the need for activity focusing on the UN WSSD objectives, including:

·                    water supply and sanitation;

·                    cleaner production and recycling;
·                    energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy and clean coal technology;

·                    emergencies and disaster preparedness and response, including urban security;

·                    post disaster and conflict restoration, rehabilitation and reconstruction;

·                    engaging engineers in decision making, policy making and planning.

Related issues for engineering

 Related and broader issues for engineering in which the Programme will be activie include the need to develop:

·        public understanding of engineering and technology;

·        indicators, information and communication systems for engineering;

·        women and gender issues in engineering and technology;

·        engineering ethics and codes of practice;

·        inter-university and institutional networking and cooperation;

·        engineering and technology policy and planning to promote the above.

Programme activity, implementation and organisation

 To facilitate activity in education, training and applications, the Programme will develop linkages and form partnerships with governmental agencies, universities and education institutions, international organizations (UN organizations and international financial institutions), and non-government organizations around the world. Partnerships with NGOs would include WFEO, the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS), Engineers Without Borders/Ingénieurs Sans Frontières (EWB/ISF), Engineers Against Poverty, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) and Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief (REDR). Programme partnerships will include a focus the exchange of knowledge and personnel through fellowships and networks of excellence to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to address poverty eradication and promote sustainable development, as well as the capacity of UNESCO to assist in this process.

The Programme will include various types of delivery mechanism or “modalities” of activity. This includes the development and publication of information and learning materials, videos and CD-ROMs, curricula and teaching methods, in tertiary and continuing education. Surveys, studies and applied research will help generate statistics and indicators for information and advocacy, advisory services, engineering policy, monitoring and evaluation. Conferences and symposia, workshops, seminars, expert meetings and related training activities will facilitate dissemination, discussion and the development and implementation of Programme activity. The use of ICTs will facilitate and enhance networking, distance and open learning, virtual meetings and conferences, multi-media information and training materials.

The interdisciplinary International Engineering Programme would be based in the Natural Sciences Sector of UNESCO, work closely with and complement the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP) and other programme sectors of UNESCO in education, social sciences, culture and communications, and activity in field offices. The Programme will work in close cooperation with government and the private sector, professional bodies and NGOs – especially WFEO and WFEO national members. The Programme would complement and reinforce efforts to develop cross-sectoral activities in technical capacity building at UNESCO (Executive Board Decision 171 EX/54, 2005) regarding the strengthening of engineering and previous related proposal (30 C/DR.94, 1999) regarding a world network of technological universities.