Collaborations: Atta Ur Rehman’s brainchild to be endorsed by UNESCO

The International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences joins 40 other institutes.


Express August 19, 2011

KARACHI: Unesco has decided to take the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) under its wing and give it the status of a category II Unesco centre.

Dr Kozue Kay Nagata, director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), was impressed with the institution’s progress in scientific research when he visited the University of Karachi with two other Unesco members. He met ICCBS Director Prof. Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary and Pakistan’s representative for Unesco also agreed to become a partner in virtual education project of Pakistan.

“The collaboration with Unesco is going to be a ‘mutually beneficial’ relationship,” said Choudhary. “We have the same interests such as capacity building and scientific development.”

There are two components for an institute to become a category II centre. First, the idea is endorsed by the country representative, and then it is passed in the General Assembly and assigned there. Choudhary explained that category II institutes and centres are not a part of Unesco but are operating under its auspices.

“Unesco is an internationally recognised body and its endorsement is going to be highly beneficial for us,” he said happily. He hopes that the move will help ICCBS get mobility funds and international funding for its projects. As Unesco encourages collaborations between category II centres, the ICCBS will be open to correlation and further advancement.

Unesco’s website lists 40 category II institutes at the moment. These centres are provided and funded by member states and are committed to supporting Unesco’s strategic programme objectives. It is up to them to provide technical assistance through capacity-building, training, research, networking, knowledge-sharing and sharing of information.

Pakistan’s version of the virtual education programme, The Higher Education Network (then), is called the Virtual Education Program Pakistan (Vepp). Dr Choudhary told The Express Tribune that it links 150 universities across the country with a group of outstanding local and foreign scientists through video conferencing.

“We have reached the stage at which Pakistan has the most well connected network of higher education in the world,” he boasted. The project was introduced by Dr Atta ur Rahman and is still working under his leadership. It allows Pakistan to connect with a very broad internet pipe. “Almost everyday we exchange over 2,000 lectures with teachers from the European Union, Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil and others,” he said. “Pakistani students will benefit from the teachers of other Unesco category II centres.”

ICCBS is the premier scientific centre of the country and produces the greatest number of PhDs in Pakistan. The centre has made breakthroughs in tissue culture and pesticide research and support for the pharmaceutical industry. It was also the institute that successfully mapped human genomes.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.

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