Science diplomacy, at least in academia, is relatively a new umbrella term covering broad categories in the rapidly developing domains of international relations and global policy making.
In science diplomacy, countries work together to solve shared issues and create positive international relationships through scientific collaborations. Reorienting its traditional diplomacy, Nepal must make use of science and technology as one of the vital components of soft diplomacy and the expertise of its academics, both inside and outside the country.
During a conversation with this analyst, former minister for environment, science, and technology Er. Ganesh Shah, said that although science diplomacy is a relatively new idea in this region of the world, it originated during the Cold War. Er. Shah continued by saying that efforts have been made by UNESCO to advance science and technology. The US and the USSR cooperated on space technologies even though they were opposing nations.
In an article entitled “Science Diplomacy: An Overview in the Global and National Context”, authors Sunil Babu Shrestha, Laxmi Kumar Parajuli and Marina Vaidya Shrestha revealed that Nepal has a strong science diplomacy presence, with notable facilities like Pyramid International Laboratory and NepaliSat-1 nanosatellite. Pyramid International, established in 1990, is a collaboration between the Italian government and Nepal Academy of Science and Technology. The NepaliSat-1 nanosatellite, developed by two Nepali students at Kyushu Institute of Technology, is a good example of science diplomacy, although not suitable for advanced research projects. Institutions that are involved in science diplomacy, such as NAST and a few universities and think tanks, are commendable but insufficient.
Ahmed et.al (2021). asserted that until recently, regional leaders of South Asia have not ensured that their respective countries are cooperating and working together enough. Science diplomacy holds great promise for improving international relations since scientists are naturally consensus builders, grounded in evidence, highly respected, and driven to serve humanity no matter what. The South Asian scientific community from all eight of its member states must engage in science diplomacy in order to build relationships between cultures, governments, and communities as well as to bolster the role of science in foreign policy to address local and regional challenges.
Concept of Science Envoys
Prominent American scientists and engineers use their networks and experience to create connections and spot chances for long-term international collaboration through the Science Envoy Program. Science Envoys typically serve one year and concentrate on topics of shared interest in the engineering, science, and technology sectors. They play a crucial role in bolstering bilateral ties in science and technology, engaging with international audiences, and achieving policy goals including strengthening the proportion of women in science and promoting the use of science in decision-making by:
-fostering peer-to-peer relationships between domestic researchers and the scientific community in the United States
-promoting transparent, merit-based, peer-reviewed scientific establishments
-encouraging public participation and science education while emphasizing the importance of science to society
-advising representatives of the government on initiatives and possibilities that could foster cooperative efforts
The Science Envoys are prominent academics, Nobel laureates, renowned writers, and advisors to the government. Their specialties include engineering, chemistry, physics, agronomy, medicine, and evolutionary biology.
Let’s take an instance from the US, 23 Envoys have visited over 60 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South America, and Southeast Asia since 2010 and have met with numerous heads of state and other government leaders. Science envoys engage with scientists from both government and non-government organizations, organize conferences on subjects related to science, technology, and innovation at the nexus of foreign policy and science, including ocean science, emerging technologies, wildlife conservation, and so forth.
There is no such policy allowing science envoys to be kept in the Foreign Ministry in Nepal. Such Science envoys may have important roles to play during the high-level visit. Nepal may collaborate with the United States on renewable energy, and with South Korea and Japan, on technology. Experts in relevant fields, such as science envoys, could provide significant support to political leadership in this effect.
In industrialized nations, science diplomacy is an essential component of soft diplomacy. Nevertheless, neither academic study nor foreign policy has addressed it in Nepal. Nepal must prioritize science and technology, create a special centre, and have influential voices from both present and past diplomats if it wants to advance science diplomacy. Science diplomacy should be given top priority by important institutions such as the Institute of Foreign Affairs, NAST, universities, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Nepal can completely synchronize science with diplomacy with regular events and capacity building for scientists and diplomats.
The Nepalese Foreign Ministry should take a lead in prompting an informed discussion on science diplomacy. Hence, before assigning the Ambassadors to their various missions, a fundamental orientation in science diplomacy should be given to them. Furthermore, Nepal should establish a Science Diplomacy Framework at the national level. The dispersed organizations and think tanks engaged in science diplomacy ought to unite for coordinated efforts aimed at improving Nepal’s diplomatic strategies. Is Nepal prepared for this admirable endeavor? We will keep track of the progress.