WASHINGTON, USA — The Organization of American States (OAS), the Mexican National Science and Technology Council (CONACYT) and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) on Wednesday signed at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, an agreement to provide scholarship opportunities to 600 citizens of the Americas for master’s or doctoral studies in science and engineering in Mexico, of which 100 will be earmarked for students from Central America and the Caribbean.
During the event, which was attended by delegates from the member countries and OAS officials, the secretary general of the hemispheric institution, José Miguel Insulza, applauded CONACYT and AMEXID for their interest in “contributing to this important development effort for our people.”
“We often say that in this democratic period our countries face the double challenge of achieving more sustainable development and at the same time, having inclusion and equity, and for that purpose we recognize education and innovation as essential tools,” he said.
In that regard, he added that the educating and training of citizens “allows our countries to be more competitive and enables more people to aspire to a better quality of life. Investing in human capital increases individual productivity and is essential for the development of member states, “he said.
“The OAS, through the Secretariat for Integral Development, has been offering professional development opportunities in the Americas almost since its creation; it is the work of several decades. International cooperation in higher education is an essential to development. Moreover, we want this to be an inclusive initiative, and we will do that through programs that provide generous funding for excellent students such as the one we are presenting today, “said the OAS head.
During 2012, the OAS channeled more than 1,000 scholarships through strategic alliances and professional development, said the secretary general, who announced that in 2013 that number will be nearly doubled.
“The donation of scholarships that we are receiving today is, from the numerical point of view, the highest we’ve ever received from a member state,” he concluded.
The permanent representative of Mexico to the OAS, Emilio Rabasa, recalled his country’s commitment to increase its presence in the OAS and stressed that the signing of the agreement shows Mexico’s willingness to pursue closer ties and to strengthen cooperation with the Americas.
CONACYT, he added, “has been active in various OAS programs, including scholarship programs. It has also worked actively in the Inter-American Commission on Science and Technology and has provided financial support to the projects of the Special Multilateral Fund of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (FEMCIDI).”
In his address, Rabasa said the scholarship program supported by his country “contributes to the hemispheric initiative of Engineering for the Americas, (EFTA) and commented that “engineering and innovation, which only result from properly trained human capital, play a key role in raising productivity and competitiveness, which, in turn, contribute to socio-economic development.”
The Mexican diplomat also lamented the shortage of scientists and engineers in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the lack of cooperation between universities and industry, “something that affects the competitiveness of the region.”
The executive director of AMEXCID, Minister Juan Manuel Valle Pereña said that the goal of the initiative signed by the three institutions is to strengthen regional capacities and to “institutionalize the collaborative work with the OAS.”
“The cooperation is focused on expanding educational opportunities in the Hemisphere and human capital development in member states. With this, Mexico reaffirms its commitment to the vision and principles of the OAS Democratic Charter, while laying new ground for regional development cooperation,” he said.
With regards to the 100 graduate scholarships for Central America and the Caribbean, Valle stressed that “they are a reflection of the importance that Mexico assigns to those regions, whose prosperity and growth are linked to ours.”
The director general of CONACYT, Enrique Cabrero, emphasized the new challenges faced by global economies, an environment in which professionals require more and better training, preparation and specialization.
“Investment in science and technology is a way to achieve a better development,” he recalled, while specifying that it is the policy of the current government of Mexico to double the investment in science and technology and to promote this area in other countries in the region.
Cabrero described the various initiatives promoted by CONACYT, as well as its work in promoting science and technology at the highest level.
“Access to the knowledge economy is possible only if we promote high-level educational training. We are in a globalized world in which the knowledge generated by experts is a public good, requiring creative and innovative solutions that cross borders and disciplines to tackle global problems,” he said.
The scholarship program was formalized on Wednesday with the signing of the first addendum to the CONACYT-OAS Cooperation Agreement and aims primarily to improve the scientific and technological capabilities of graduate students in the region, and increase mobility. The 600 fellowships will be distributed over five years and will include monthly support and health services during the stay in Mexico, the possibility of studying outside of Mexico, moving costs, and the possibility of receiving partial or total tuition discounts at universities associated with the OAS.
The donation of scholarships is given as a contribution of CONACYT for the implementation of the Panama Action Plan 2012-2016 adopted at the Ministerial Meeting on Science and Technology of 2011, and was first announced during the Seventh Session of the Inter-American Committee on Science and Technology (COMCYT) held at the OAS in October 2012.
Prior to the signing ceremony, Rabasa and the AMEXCID and CONACYT authorities met with Insulza and discussed the possibility of including language learning as part of the scholarships, especially for students from the Caribbean, who have expressed strong interest in participating in the programs and who see the language as a barrier to accessing them.