During Germany's EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2007, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Egyptian Ministry for Higher Education and Scientific Research jointly organized the first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Higher Education and Scientific Research, which took place in Cairo. On this occasion, a joint declaration (the Cairo Declaration) was signed, entitled 'Towards the Creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area'. In this document, the Euromed ministers reiterated their commitment to implementing the relevant goals of the five-year work programme that was agreed at the Barcelona Summit and the Association Agreement as well as the action plans of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Higher education, research and innovation are identified as priority areas of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.
One of the ways in which the agreement is being implemented is the INCO-Net MIRA (Mediterranean Innovation and Research Coordination Action), an EU-financed project that has been approved for a period of four years. With the help of the International Bureau, the BMBF has participated in this project since 2008, thus contributing to the intensification of regional cooperation within the context of the seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7) in the areas of energy, environment, health research, agriculture, and information and communication technologies. In a further phase of the project, aspects of technology transfer as well as innovative activities will be strengthened. The political framework was formed in part through the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). Within this context, the steering committee is the "Monitoring Committee for Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation in RED" (MoCo), which was founded in 1995 and plays a central role in the observation and stimulation of cooperative work with the southern Mediterranean region in the area of research. Since then, MoCo has the task to prepare the research part of EuroMed Ministerial Conference for higher education and research, and also serves as a forum for the political dialogue in the research of the UfM.
African countries are making great efforts to use their universities, scientific organizations and technology institutions as instruments for forward-looking economic and social development. To this end, the African Union has developed the Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA) as part of the NEPAD Initiative (New Partnership for Africa's Development), in order to strengthen science and research in Africa. The aims of this initiative include, for example, the establishment of centres of excellence, developing trans-national regional networks in the areas of science and research, and integrating the African scientific community in international scientific relations.
In order to support this ambitious African Union initiative, the BMBF, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations University, and the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology jointly organized a G8/AMCOST expert meeting during Germany's G8 Presidency, which took place in Berlin on 18 and 19 October 2007. One of the aims of the meeting was to take stock of the current situation of science and research in Africa as well as of North-South cooperation. The conference also had the purpose of identifying priority fields of cooperation in the realization of the African Consolidated Plan of Action. Another goal was to improve the collaboration between G8 Members in this area and to develop innovative cooperation models for the science and research communities as well as for cooperation with private initiatives and companies.
Of central importance at the political level is the adoption of a joint "EU Africa Strategy" (Lissabon December 2007), which will be implemented through three year action plans. The strategy opens up new cooperative possibilities for the EU as well its member states: the giver-taker relationship is to shift in the direction of an equitable partnership. The first action plan (2008-2010) covers eight such partnerships, including the prominently placed Eighth Partnership for Science, Information Society, and Space. Here, a key role is attributed to the stronger use of science and technology for the reduction of poverty, growth, and socio-economic development. The BMBF, as partner in the Implementation Team, actively participates in the realization of the Eighth Partnership and has taken over responsibilities including the initiation of a joint European-African research policy dialog. The International Bureau supports the BMBF in the planning and implementation of its activities within this forum.
Improving research policy cooperation between European and Sub-Saharan African countries is one of the main objectives of the INCO-Net CAAST-Net, which was founded within the context of the seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7). It promotes a regular research policy dialogue, with the aim of raising cooperation in this area to a new level and developing and implementing the joint EU-Africa strategy, particularly in science and technology. Under the leadership of the International Bureau and the Kenyan Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology, a European-African Stakeholder Conference took place in Mombasa/Kenya in November 2009. Their recommendations to strengthen scientific and technological cooperation were addressed in various research policy dialogues. In addition, the project aims to improve the requirements for cooperation in science and technology between European and Sub-Saharan African countries and to increase the participation of African countries in FP7 by, for example, defining joint research priorities for FP7 calls for proposals. The CAAST-Net project, which includes the participation of the International Bureau (on behalf of the BMBF) as well as 17 other European and African partners, will run for 4 years and will receive approximately €3 million in funding under FP7.
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