U.N.C.S.T.D. and Australia's National paper

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Glasgow]On: 10 October 2014, At: 19:01Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Asian Studies Association of Australia. ReviewPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/casr19

    U.N.C.S.T.D. and Australia's National paperR.J. Henry aa Griffith University ,Published online: 27 Feb 2007.

    To cite this article: R.J. Henry (1979) U.N.C.S.T.D. and Australia's National paper, Asian Studies Association of Australia.Review, 3:1, 6-8, DOI: 10.1080/03147537908712067

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03147537908712067

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  • U.N.C.S.T.D. AND AUSTRALIA'S NATIONAL PAPER*

    Those attending the 'Science, Scientists and Technology in Asia'Panel of the 1978 Second National Conference of ASAA had their attentiondrawn to the forthcoming U.N.C.S.T.D. Conference (United NationsConference on Science and Technology for Development). This conference,to be held in Vienna in August 1979, is a response by members of theUnited Nations to the increasing gap in living standards between thedeveloped and underdeveloped countries, despite the past two develop-mental decades. Concern regarding this growing gap is now focusedparticularly on the role of modern science and technology in economicdevelopment. The 1979 U.N.C.S.T.D. Conference is an attempt by membernations of the United Nations to find ways and means by which theinternational community could reduce this accelerating gap, such asestablishing a new international economic order to monitor science andtechnology for development and to regulate the transfer of technologyto the underdeveloped countries.

    These issues are being raised at the forthcoming U.N.C.S.T.D.Conference by each member nation reviewing and analysing its ownexperiences in the application of science and technology to developmentand publishing a National Paper. This was undertaken in Australia bya steering committee consisting of the Department of Foreign Affairs,Department of Science, C.S.I.R.O., Australian Development AssistanceBureau, and the Australian Science and Technology Council. Thesteering committee produced an Australian National Paper which waspublished in June 1978, and circulated for discussion and commentamong those interested in either science and technology in Australia,or the issues for the U.N.C.S.T.D. Conference with regard to under-developed nations.

    To Asian Studies specialists, familiar with the social, politicaland economic consequences of rapid development in countries of Asiaand the Pacific, the Australian National Paper offers two particularsurprises. The first is the extent to which the conceptual frameworkof the Australian National Paper is intellectually and emotionallydivorced from the contemporary issues of development in the under-developed world. The second surprise is the extent to whichAustralia's own experience with science and technology reflects someof the more stark problems believed to exist only within the under-developed countries.

    With regard to the issues of underdevelopment it is clear that,because the steering committee did not delineate clearly the issues ofthe U.N.C.S.T.D. Conference and attempt to probe Australia's experiencein relation to those issues, the resulting National Paper is a hotpotch

    * Australian National Paper for the United Nations Conference onScience and Technology for Development3 1979, Canberra,Australian Government Publishing Service, 1978.

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  • of Australian experience which is at odds with the historicalexperience of most underdeveloped nations and evolves from a social,economic and political context quite alien to that existing in under-developed countries. The sad consequence of the approach adopted bythe steering committee is that very little of Australia's experiencewith science and technology appears physically or culturally relevantbeyond Australian shores. The Australian experience with technologyfor development seems unique - as for example with our good fortune inhaving ample land on which to grow high-value foodstuffs for theEuropean market without the social constraints of a peasant subsistenceeconomy. Similarly our manufacturing sector has benefited fromgeographical isolation and the political expedience of protectivetariffs. Clearly these factors place Australia in a quite differentcircumstance from the overpopulated, capital deficient, sociallyfragmented and agriculturally subsistent societies existing in the nowunderdeveloped countries.

    The concerns which motivated the United Nations Committee onScience and Technology for Development to initiate the U.N.C.S.T.D.Conference are unlikely to be met head-on as a result of theAustralian National Paper itself. While the paper might provide usefulmaterial for those already interested in such problems, neverthelessits failure to directly address such issues is likely to ensure thatthe paper itself adds little to the debate that will occur in Viennain August.

    Nevertheless, while it is unlikely that the Australian NationalPaper will play much of a role in clarifying the issues of theU.N.C.S.T.D. Conference with regard to underdeveloped countries, it ishighly likely that the paper will contribute much to a review of somefacets of Australia's past, and future, experience with science andtechnology. A reading of Australia's own experiences with science andtechnology as outlined in the paper shows quite clearly that, despitethe fact that it is free of massive problems of over-population,under-employment, misdirected manpower planning and shortage of capital, andis relatively culturally attuned to the demands of the industrial modeof production, nevertheless Australia is still suffering gravely inways that do reflect the experiences of developing countries withscience and technology as well as the issues of U.N.C.S.T.D. Forinstance, these problems are seen quite clearly in relation toAustralia's experience while attempting to establish a strongmanufacturing sector after World War Two. The vulnerability of thissector to transnational control and manipulation is clear. There is asad history of small Australian firms adopting new technology and thenbeing eliminated when overseas producers decided to expand theirmarketing operations into Australia. The economic harshness of thisin terms of competition among manufacturers themselves becomes morepoignant when the social and economic effects of this on the Australianindustrial work force is imagined. Similarly, the massive modernisa-tion of rural industries since World War One and the decline in theagricultural workforce reflects, in microcosm, some of the socialdifficulties being experienced in developing countries. In addition,extractive industries in Australia have become heavily dependent on

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  • foreign capital and technology and have begun to experience politicalproblems in their dealings with transnational companies that arefamiliar items of debate in the less developed countries of the world.To scholars familiar with problems of underdeveloped countries thesefacets of Australia's experience may be surprising.

    There is also a useful outline of the multilateral and bilateralinvolvements of Australia with regard to development generally, andscience and technology in particular. The structure of these inter-national arrangements is often difficult to discover quickly and thisinformation provides a useful starting point. The Paper also makesclear the extent and nature of Australia's commitment to technologicalassistance for underdeveloped countries other than Papua New Guinea(10O million dollars in 1976-77).

    In general, this National Paper fails to provide any immediatelyrelevant insights into the problems of the undeveloped countriesbecause it fails, initially, to embrace the problem that besets themall, namely, the problem of harmonising developmental growth withsocial stability and political harmony. Science and technology is ahighly disruptive influence which may exact great social and politicalcosts at the same time as it confers benefits. It is this dilemmawhich characterises all decisions with regard to development andtechnology in underdeveloped nations.

    R.J. HenryGriffith University

    CCMING EVENTS

    15-22 August 1979

    International Conference on Indian Ocean Studies, Perth, WesternAustralia, sponsored by the State Government of Western Australia andUNESCO. For further information contact I.C.I.O.S. 1979, Centre forSouth and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Western Australia,Nedlands, W.A. 6009, Australia.

    20-31 August 1979

    United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development,Vienna. (See report on Australia's National Paper on preceding pages)

    29-31 August 1979

    Second colloquium of the Malaysia Society of ASAA, at James CookUniversity, Townsville. For further information contact ProfessorP.J. Drake, Department of Economics, University of New England,Armidale, N.S.W. 2351.

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