14 June 1993

Doc. 6866



on North-South technology transfer

(Rapporteur: Mr ROSETA,

Portugal, Liberal Democratic and Reformers Group)


      Technology transfer is an important part of official development assistance. The situations of the developing countries are unequal and varied. There is a tendency for international co-operation to be focused on the countries of central and eastern Europe, possibly to the detriment of north-south relations, while Africa's development lag and the dangers arising from poverty in that continent would seem to demand that it be given urgent and priority attention.

      Concerted multilateral action is needed to guarantee the effectiveness and proper use of transfers, and the member states are called upon to adopt a number of measures: application of the principles advocated in the field of north-south relations, a diversified approach, enhancement of local human resources, access to data banks, designation of priority areas, protection and development of local small businesses and agriculture, controlled export of sensitive technologies, drawing up of an international code of conduct.

I. Draft resolution

1.       Technology transfer, which takes many forms, now accounts for a major proportion of trade between industrialised and developing countries. In the interests of the parties involved, it must therefore be subject to some degree of international regulation.

2.       The link between technological capacities and economic and social development means that technology transfer is a key element of official development aid. A diversified approach is essential, given the inequalities in national situations and the wide range of nations covered by the concept of "developing countries".

3.       The new international context, increasing global economic interdependence and the end of ideological conflicts are focusing attention on the role of international organisations as regards technology transfers, this being an area where they can and should do more.

Focusing international co-operation on central and east European countries should not negatively interfere with north-south relations.

4.       Concerted, multilateral action is the only effective way of guaranteeing the suitability and proper use of transfers, helping to overcome development lag and rescuing countries from bankruptcy, while preventing efforts being wasted or spread around inefficiently; efforts should be directed at the population as a whole and should contribute to social development, and in particular meet the needs of women.

5.       The least developed countries desperately need to acquire, apply and master technologies: Africa's development lag, the dangers arising from the poverty in that continent, and its proximity to Europe demand that we give it our urgent attention and take appropriate action by defining the areas with the most critical needs and establishing priority objectives.

6.       The Assembly therefore calls on member states:

i.       to adopt, as regards their own actions, rules of conduct which are in keeping with the principles and values advocated by the Assembly in the field of north-south relations;

ii.       to adopt a diversified approach suited to the situation in developing countries and to focus their efforts on the least developed countries, taking account of the differences between rural and urban areas;

iii.       to promote the transfer of knowledge and know-how and to help rehabilitate or enhance local human resources so as to secure or increase the scientific and technological capacities of the developing countries;

iv.       to promote north-south exchanges of information and particularly access to data banks indispensable for mastering new technologies and their adaptation to national situations;

v.       to transfer and disseminate technologies that are beneficial to populations and protect the environment, and always to weigh up the need for transfers in the light of the genuine social and economic interests of the beneficiary country;

vi.       to encourage, on particularly favourable terms, technology transfers in priority areas such as the food, health and energy sectors, so that the countries concerned can achieve self-sufficiency and autonomy in these fields and thus cope with the basic needs of their population;

vii.       to promote transfers tailored to the local capacities and needs of small businesses and agriculture so as to protect them and contribute to their development;

viii.       to co-operate in working out an overall strategy for the controlled export of sensitive technologies and in setting up multilateral co-ordination machinery in order to record and assess transfers towards developing countries;

ix.       to participate actively in the preparation, with a view to subsequent adoption, of an international instrument that lays down common standards and criteria applicable to technology transfers and their supervision, such as the code of conduct envisaged by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on which work is currently at a standstill;

x.       to declare Africa a priority action zone and to make full use of the instrument provided by the Council of Europe's North/South Centre in Lisbon, by devoting a quadripartite meeting to science and technology in Africa and, in particular, to the question of technology transfer and development.

II. Explanatory memorandum


1.       North-south technology transfer featured prominently in the publications of the early 1980s, after which interest lapsed. Although a hostile current of opinion perceives it as dependence and objects to the copying of western technology without further adjustments, technology transfer, to most people's minds, remains an essential means of assisting developing countries, and one whose absence or shortcomings induce development lag and poverty.

The new context

2.       The context of north-south relations is different today, particularly where transfer is concerned, as the new political context has focused European and international co-operation on east-west relations since 1989. Global economic interdependence has grown now that world economic dominance is shared by just three powers, the United States, EEC Europe and Japan; the collapse of the eastern bloc has caused a notable decrease in attention to former Third World countries; the Gulf war has placed the issue in a dramatic light; the war being waged in the former Yugoslavia under the banner of ethnic cleansing must give cause for reflection if nothing else. At all events, the end of ideological conflict should boost the role played in north-south relations by intergovernmental international organisations, especially regional ones.

3.       Factors such as concern for the environment and its repercussions on industrial activities, the astounding progress of science and technology, their increasing complexity and their resultant higher cost are also of considerable relevance in this new context, so that the perspective in which the issue is addressed and evaluated needs to be reconsidered.

Diversity of situations

4.       The inequalities between industrialised countries and developing countries are flagrant, but situations within the latter group vary greatly and disparities between its countries have widened; the convenient distinction "north = development/south = underdevelopment or unsatisfactory development" is no longer applicable, as the development of the "dragons of Asia" testifies; the situation of the recently industrialised countries (Brazil, India, Mexico, etc.) — some of which have even become technology exporters - bears no comparison with that of the less advanced countries such as Haiti or the African countries.1

5.       For these countries, persistent backwardness and dependence are plainly apparent and will steadily worsen in proportion with the growth of basic requirements (health, food, housing, education, town planning, etc.) for a rising population: from its level of 5,5 thousand million in 1992, the world population is expected to reach 10 thousand million by the year 2050. The diversity of national situations therefore necessitates an approach tailored to each country's state of development.

6.       Africa requires close attention because of its geographical proximity and special relationship with Europe. Growing poverty throughout this continent will inevitably encourage fanaticism, anarchy and mass migration. Europe will not be immune to the dangers, and technology transfer must also be aimed at their reduction. It should operate on preferential terms for the recipient countries in key sectors such as assured food supply, health, energy, education, ecology etc. in order to achieve self-sufficiency and autonomy.

Technology transfer today

7.       Technology transfer now accounts for a major proportion of exchanges between the industrialised countries and the developing countries. It takes many different originating from either the public or the private sector and operating at national or international level: examples are joint research and development ventures between companies which are often of a transnational kind, liaison between research centres, universities, etc. governmental co-operation agreements and action by the various international organisations. There is frequent state intervention to aid national transfer agencies through the provision of funds and guarantees against any default by the recipient countries.

Large resources and qualified staff

8.       If the fantastic advances made in science and technology are to be controlled and adapted to national conditions, enormous investments and qualified staff will be required because of their high knowledge and skill content and non-reliance on raw materials, energy or unskilled manpower, all readily available in the developing countries. Here again, situations are nevertheless diversified and difficult to compare.

9.       Africa is experiencing a rapid deterioration in education systems, and whatever qualified staff it has may be discovered working in the industrialised countries; the collapse of structures in eastern Europe also closes a number of technical and academic training avenues. In those countries some African students find themselves without scholarship and ressources and above all, without having completed their education. Thus international technological co-operation cannot function without the promotion of human resources; it must counter the deterioration of education systems and use suitable resources to help train an indigenous scientific and technological manpower reserve of adequate size and quality.

10.       However simple an operation "transplantation" of industries may be, "transfer of technology" presupposes an infrastructure for its reception, which requires resources and may be the work of several decades. It is necessary to devise concepts and techniques to match the social fabric and the realities of the countries concerned. Underestimation of these requirements has often resulted in straightforward transposition of technology designed for advanced countries to developing countries, with results that can hardly be termed successful. This state of affairs has given rise to schools of thought opposing technology transfer and favouring the development of local technologies compatible with the local environment and more suited to the needs of labour-intensive economies.

11.       The total "cost" of the technological dependence of the less advanced countries, taking into account unsuitable technology transfers, the price of consultants and experts, management staff training and in particular the possible long-term implications of adopting technologies which cause failure to develop endogenous capabilities, can be estimated at about 50 thousand million United States dollars per annum (according to UNIDO).

Strengthening of protectionism

12.       The world of science was formerly and traditionally an open world where research findings were widely published, discussed and taken up and pursued by other scientists. Yet the industrialisation of research and the growing impact of science on commercial flows have generated a tendency to restrict the movement of information in order to safeguard competitive positions. It is true that today the demarcation line between fundamental research/applied research/technological development is so hazy that many discoveries are no longer regarded as part of the corpus of industrial knowledge but as industrial secrets.

13.       This growing protectionism in the technological field is not a selective process, nor does it correspond to any real overall strategy in relation to the developing countries.2 Frequently, the micro-economic rationale of a company or industrial sector runs counter to the macro-economic objectives of the state authorities, and may even be at variance with considerations of national interest. For instance, while one branch of national industry may regard the transfer of textile technology to a given country as damaging, for fear of "rebound" effects, technologies with a potential for military exploitation are transferred unimpeded to countries and regimes which pose a threat.

14.       It would be expedient to counter undue protectionist trends, lay down rules and standard proecedures of transfer for the protection of proprietary and user interests alike, establish collaboration criteria and improve information flows, among other measures. Several countries see a need for concomitant revision of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

Need for control

15.       Transfers must be effective and serve an economic or social interest of the recipient country. Their usefulness must be verified and assessed in terms of added value both to the population and to the nation concerned. Effectiveness also presupposes measures against wastage and dispersal of efforts. Furthermore, improper use of modern technologies is not to be ruled out but poses a considerable hazard. As well as misuse of civil technologies for military ends, biotechnologies and genetic mutation possibilities applicable to industry, agriculture and environment plainly illustrate the need to devise principles and procedures for technology transfer and the proper use thereof.

16. This is a major issue, not only for international co-operation but also for world prosperity and security. Changes are necessary both in government policies and in corporate strategies. The "regulatory mechanisms" of the free market certainly do not suffice in themselves to bring about the fundamental changes needed.

The principle of complementarity

17.       Whereas discussion to date has largely centred on the "competitive threat", the question should be reviewed in a perspective of greater world economic stability. In addition to the conventional practice of "aid-related transfer" to the Third World, a new approach with more emphasis on technological complementarity should be adopted, at least in respect of the new industrial economies. These countries possess significant technical capability in certain sectors, and closer technological co-operation would benefit both sides.

18.       Technology transfer comes within the broader context of co-operation for development and north-south relations, and must comply with the guidelines for these relations laid down by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, namely constructive, equitable relations which will help defeat poverty, contribute to sustainable development and foster progress towards the values of pluralist democracy. Over and above technological complementarity, there is a complementarity invoking respect for human rights, social justice and the environment (see Resolution 981 (1992) in particular).

19.       Increasing concern over environmental issues imposes new constraints on developing countries, many of which do not have the resources needed to apply ecological standards. In addition, for want of a sufficiently developed political and legal framework in this respect, these countries are often prone to exploitation by big western companies which take advantage of the situation to set up petrochemical, pharmaceutical and other complexes not in full compliance with their own standards and thereby endangering public health and the environment.

An international code of conduct

20.       A panel on a "programme for planetary survival" convened under the aegis of Mr Perez de Cuellar and including such figures as Prof. Abdus Salam, President of the Academy of Sciences of the Third World, adopted a five-point action plan whose first objective was the inclusion of a right of access to technology in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

21.       In the United Nations framework, UNCTAD in particular, technology transfers have prompted the drafting of a code of conduct originally intended, according to the developing countries, as a treaty coercively regulating exchanges of technology. This "maximalist" conception was gradually discarded in the face of opposition from the industrialised countries, which managed to remodel it into "guiding principles". Work in this connection is nevertheless at a standstill as it depends on the outcome of the GATT negotiations concerning intellectual property in particular.

22.       The introduction of international machinery, a code of conduct or any other co-ordinating and standard-setting instrument is appealing, provided that it strikes a balance between, on the one hand, the northern countries' legitimate concern over the cost of adjusting their economies to the new patterns of international trade and, on the other hand, the southern countries' need for technology, crucial to their social and economic development and their very survival. Clauses stipulating peaceful use of certain technologies, possibly with provision for international supervision arrangements as in the case of nuclear power, are proving more necessary than ever.

23.       The Council of Europe could be the appropriate setting in which to prepare rules of conduct and secure acceptance of common criteria to be observed by the European countries and of requirements to be met by the southern countries. Failing this, the least the Assembly can do is help a regulatory instrument such as the UNCTAD code of conduct to materialise at international level and advocate the introduction of reliable supervision arrangements.

The European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity

24.       Quite recently the Council of Europe acquired an instrument whose capabilities still remain to be fully exploited: the Lisbon Centre. The Centre, set up in 1989, owes its originality to its four-way composition (parliaments, governments, NGOs and local and regional authorities) and now embraces fifteen Council of Europe and European Community member states. Its purpose is to provide a framework for European co-operation in raising public awareness of global interdependence and fostering policies of solidarity in accordance with the aims of the Council of Europe. In a recent resolution (Resolution 982 (1992)), the Assembly recommends its expansion and the focusing of its action on this primary function.

25.       The Centre's geographical position, composition, function and working methods should enable it to promote dialogue between Europe and its near neighbour Africa. Technology transfer might very suitably form the subject of a major encounter organised by the Centre and attended by its various partners, possibly with a narrower definition of the topic.

Conclusions and proposals

26.       The new global context and dramatic recent events such as the Gulf war lend a new significance to the potential role which intergovernmental international organisations could perform in the matter of transfer; more committed action on their part is indeed feasible now that ideological conflicts are at an end.

      Furthermore, combined multilateral action is becoming a clear imperative not only to assist bankrupt continents and avert duplication, wastage and dispersal, but also to prevent things from getting out of hand.

      One of the main tasks of the international organisations, and the most urgent, would be to agree at long last on the drafting of a code of technological conduct embodying common standards and criteria applicable to technology transfers, together with reliable control procedures negotiated in accordance with the interests of the countries concerned.

27.       The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has a part to play in this area and a duty to appeal to the governments of member states for the adoption of such standards and the furtherance of co-operation, having regard to the values and principles which it upholds and urges member states to honour in their north-south relations.

      These principles and values would represent the control criteria for export and use of technologies, particularly those of a sensitive kind owing to their potential for diversion to military ends or improper use endangering the environment or the population.

28.       As part of scientific and technological co-operation, the governments of member states should be invited to readjust their policy on north-south technology transfer to the goal of greater world stability, to adopt diversified approaches suiting each developing country, and to gauge the expediency of transfer according to the real social or economic benefit to be derived from it by the recipient country.

      Member states should concentrate and co-ordinate their efforts in respect of their near neighbour Africa and encourage technology transfers on preferential terms in priority sectors such as assured food supply, health, environmental protection and education.

29.       The Council of Europe should be urged to make fuller use of an instrument which it has recently acquired and whose capabilities still remain to be fully exploited, namely the Lisbon Centre; its geographical location, composition, function and working methods should enable it to foster dialogue between Europe and its near neighbour Africa, and a major encounter should be organised concerning technology transfer.

      Reporting committee: Committee on Science and Technology.

      Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none.

      Reference: Doc. 6336, Reference No. 1709 of 22 November 1990 and Order No. 457 (1991).

      Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the committee on 1 June 1993.

      Members of the committee: MM. Roseta (Chairman), Mészáros, Mrs Terborg (Vice-Chairpersons), Mr Aarts, Mrs Arnold, MM. Bauer, Berger, Birraux, Borderas, Bosco, Fulvio Caccia, Paolo Caccia, Cunliffe, Deasy, De Decker, Dees, Dimmer (Alternate: Regenswetter), Dincerler, Draus, Dumont (Alternate: Decagny), Galley, Hågard, Mrs Hjelm-Wallen, MM. Kalos, Karakas, Konecny (Alternate: Mrs Hawlicek), Korakas, Lenzer, Lopez Valdivielso, Lotz, Luczak, Moran, Mrs Nybakk, MM. Panov, Pecriaux, Poças Santos, Albert Probst, Mrs Ragnarsdottir, MM. Schädler, Semerdjiev, Sir Donald Thompson, MM. Jack Thompson, Tiuri, Trabacchini (Alternate: Visibelli).

      N.B. The names of those who took part in the vote are printed in italics.

      Secretaries to the committee: Mr Perin and Mrs Meunier.

1 1 1. At the Parliamentary and Scientific Conference in Ottawa in June 1990, Mr Khalid, former Sudanese Minister and President of the Centre for our Common Future, said that support for the development of science and technology in Africa, without which no real economic development could take place, had in most African countries not attained the minimum level set sixteen years before.

2 1 1. Unlike the situation with regard to the countries of eastern Europe, where a co-ordinating organisation, the COCOM, used to operate.