UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL,
SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION
“Engineering for a Better World:
Inte rnational Cooperation and the Challenges for Engineering Education”
Tony Marjoram, PhD, FIEAust, AMIMechE, CPEng
Basic and Engineering Sciences, Science Sector, UNESCO
Presentation in the International Qualifications track, 4:00 - 5:30 pm, Saturday, June 21
Joint 6th WFEO World Congress on Engineering Education
2nd ASEE International Colloquium on Engineering Education
“Global Challenges in Engineering Education”
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
20-22 June, 2003
Tony Marjoram is a Programme Specialist and responsible for the Engineering Sciences
Programme at the Basic and Engineering Science Division of the Science Sector of UNESCO.
Prior to moving to UNESCO Paris he was responsible for engineering, technology and
information technology programmes at the UNESCO Office, Jakarta - the regional office for
science and technology in the Asia-Pacific region. Dr Marjoram has worked for UNESCO since
1993, before that he was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, and has also
worked at the universities of the South Pacific and Manchester. He has a BSc in mechanical
engineering, an MSc in science and technology policy a nd PhD focusing on technology for
The application of knowledge in engineering and technology reduces poverty, underpins and
drives sustainable economic and social development. The exchange of knowledge in engineering
and technology transfer is essential to address basic needs and reduce poverty in the developing
countries and to bridge the “knowledge divide” and promote intercultural dialogue and
At the same time, however, declining numbers of young people are going into engineering
education in countries around the world. This will have serious consequences on future capacity
in engineering, particularly in the developing countries - who face increasing challenges in the
application of knowledge – and will have the effect of limiting economic and social development
and reinforcing intercultural tensions.
To address this situation, a new international program, “Engineering for a Better World”, has
been proposed. The focus of this program is to promote engineering to young people and
strengthen human and institutional capacity in developed and developing countries, and the
application of engineering to poverty eradication, sustainable economic and social development,
through the transfer and exchange of knowledge and inno vation in developing countries in
international cooperation and partnership.
This presentation will discuss the challenge facing engineering, the need for international
cooperation in addressing this challenge, and the way in which such a program will facilitate the
involvement of the international engineering community to work with and strengthening the
capacity of UNESCO in assisting member states in the application of engineering to poverty
eradication and sustainable development. The international and US engineering community
strongly supports such a program and can play a central role in promoting and creating the
conditions for sustainable development, security and peace.
“It is important for us to remember the vital contribution of engineering and technology to
development in general. We need to encourage international commitments to promote the kind of
engineering and technology that contributes to lasting development around the world”.
Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, First World Engineer’s Convention, 2000
“Let me challenge all of you to help mobilize global science and technology to tackle the
interlocking crises of hunger, disease, environmental degradation and conflict that are holding
back the developing world.”
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Davos, 2002
Engineering is the bridge between Science and Society, turning scientific breakthroughs into
practical tools for the welfare of mankind.
Jose Medem Sanjuan, President of WFEO, WFEO General Assembly, Moscow, 2001
“The United States is looking forward to the Summit as an opportunity to promote further G-8
cooperation on some key global priorities, including spurring global economic growth and
progress on development issues, including poverty alleviation.”
President Bush, G8 Summit, Evian, June 2003
“Clearly, for the developing world, achieving sustainable development and participation in the
global economy will depend on significant capacity building in science, technology and
engineering. The US is prepared to put its expertise to work with UNESCO to strengthen science
and engineering programs, especially education programs, which benefit developing countries.”
US Observer mission to UNESCO statement to the UNESCO Executive Board, April 2003
The International Challenge for Engineering
We live in globalising knowledge societies where the development and application of knowledge
in engineering and technology is the driving force of sustainable social and economic
development and a key factor in poverty eradication. The “divide” between the developed and
developing countries relates to knowledge, and particularly to engineering and technology.
Engineering and technology are particularly important in addressing basic needs and poverty
eradication. Engineering and technology are also a vital but often overlooked part of our
knowledge, infrastructure, culture and heritage, and are vital assets that require development,
management and maintenance.
As knowledge-based development is emphasised, however, engineering and technology is facing
increasing challenges in human resources, with the prospect of shortages of engineers around the
world. There is increasing international concern regarding the capacity of countries, particularly
developing countries, to apply engineering and technology to meet their developmental needs
and reduce poverty. This is due both to declining numbers of young people going into
engineering, and also to brain drain from the developing countries.
Human and institutional capacity building, policy and planning issues in engineering and
technology are increasingly important priorities for the development and application of
knowledge in developing countries and transitional economies. Without such priorities there is
every chance that the knowledge divide between developed and developing countries, and the
wider intercultural divide, will increase rather than decrease as globalisation continues.
International cooperation and the transfer and exchange of knowledge in engineering and
technology is essential for sustainable social and economic development, poverty eradication,
narrowing the knowledge divide and facilitating the wider promotion of intercultural dialogue.
The overall international challenge for engineering should be, therefore, to address issues
relating to human and institutional capacity building and the application of technology for
sustainable economic and social development, poverty reduction, narrowing the knowledge
divide and facilitating wider intercultural dialogue. At the same time there is an associated
challenge to promote the public understanding of engineering and technology to understand and
address these issues. Addressing these challenges were underlined at the World Conference on
Science in 1999 and the World Engineers’ Convention in 2000, and will require strong
partnerships between with national and international organisations in engineering.
Engineering for a Better World
The international engineering community, in conjunction with UNESCO, is developing a
proposal for a programme on “Engineering for a Better World: Engineering and Technology for
International Development”. The overall objectives of the proposal are strengthen human and
institutional capacity in developing and developed countries, to promote engineering to young
people and to promote the application of engineering to sustainable economic and social
development and poverty eradication through the transfer and exchange of knowledge and
innovation in developing countries in international cooperation and partnership.
The overall strategy of the “Engineering For a Better World” proposal is to promote human and
institutional capacity building, particularly in the developing countries and transitional
economies, to reflect UN Millennium Development Goals and UNESCO priorities and Medium
Term Strategy. These include sustainable development and poverty eradication, the New
Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) priorities, Least Developed Countries (LDC s),
small island states, young people, women and gender issues in engineering.
A strategic focus is required on capacity building and the strengthening of human and
institutional resources, networking, partnership, intercultural dialogue and promotion of the role
and application of the engineering sciences and technology to poverty reduction and sustainable
development. Key strategic challenge the Program will face is why young people around the
world are turning away from engineering and how this may be understood and addressed, how
best to promote the public understanding of engineering and how engineering may most
effectively be applied to poverty eradication and sustainable development.
The overall objective of the “Engineering For a Better World” proposal is to provide an
interactive and catalytic role to promote the integration and application of engineering and
technological resources to address fundamental social problems. There will be specific reference
to the Millennium Development Goals of erad icating extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring
environmental sustainability, promoting gender equity and empowering women and developing
global partnership for development. The Program will facilitate the involvement of the
international engineering community to work with and strengthening the capacity of UNESCO to
assist member states in capacity building in engineering and technology and the application of
engineering and technology to sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Capacity Building in Engineering and Technology
To address the increasing human resource challenges facing engineering around the world,
continued human and institutional capacity building is essential for sustainable social and
economic development in the developing and least developed countries. The program strategy to
promote human and institutional capacity building in engineering will focus on the need for:
strengthening engineering education, training and continued professional development;
standards, quality assurance and accreditation;
development of curricula, learning and teaching materials and methods;
distance and interactive learning (including virtual universities and libraries);
development of engineering ethics and codes of practice;
advocacy and public understanding of engineering and technology;
development of indicators, information and communication systems for engineering;
addressing women and gender issues in engineering and technology;
inter- university and institutional cooperation, including fellowships;
development of engineering and technology policy and planning to promote the above.
The Program will have a particular emphasis on information, communication, advocacy and the
promotion and public understanding of engineering and technology, especially to young people,
gender issues (equity, entry, participation and professional development) and the application of
research and knowledge management for development. There is a continuing need for a focus on
the development of learning and teaching materials, education and training, continued
professional development, standards, accreditation, quality assurance and asset management.
Developing needs include the development of ethics and codes of professional practice.
The Program will also recognise the increasing need to develop capacity and apply engineering
in emergency and disaster response, relief, prevention and management. Engineering plays a
crucial but often under-recognised role in dealing with emergencies, man- made and natural
disasters and post-conflict situations. In the short term, engineering-related needs include the
immediate provision of food and water, sanitation, shelter, security and emergency health
services. These needs are followed in the medium term by reconstruction, broad public hea lth
management and putting people back to work. Longer-term needs include broader social and
economic development issues and poverty reduction.
To facilitate activity in this area the Program will develop linkages with international agencies
active in these fields and form partnerships with NGOs such as Engineers Without
Borders/Ingenieurs Sans Frontieres (EWB/ISF) and Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief
(REDR). In this context, examples of Program activities include the proposed “International
Forum on Engineering in Emergencies and Disasters” being discussed with potential partners.
This is a particular example of the facilitation of participation of the US engineering community
in partnership with UNESCO, other international agencies and NGOs.
Engineering and Technology for Poverty Eradication
Poverty is often considered economically, but relates primarily to the limited access of poor
people to the knowledge and resources with which to address their basic human needs and
promote sustainable livelihoods and development. Areas of basic need include water supply and
sanitation, food production and processing, housing, energy, transportation, communication,
income generation and employment creation.
Addressing basic needs in these areas consists essentially of the application of engineering and
technology appropriate to the context of poor people – in terms of the social, economic,
educational and knowledge situations of the poor. Engineering and technology can then
empower the poor by enabling them to address their basic needs, alleviate their own poverty and
promote sustainable livelihood development.
Program strategy in this area is to develop a program of action promoting the role, contribution
and awareness of the importance of engineering and technology to poverty eradication. The
strategic challenge then is to put poor people more closely in touch with technology they can use
to help reduce their own poverty, and to put technology more closely in touch with poor people.
People living in poverty need to be involved as stakeholders in the identification, development,
adaptation, transfer and application of technology to their needs, and the technology has to be
affordable and understandable, preferably building upon local knowledge, skills and ma terials.
This requires an understanding or community-based assessment of the needs, socio-economic
and knowledge systems of poor people relating to technology and the promotion of women and
gender issues in engineering and technology. Poor people are often more exposed to
emergencies, natural and man- made disasters, and there is an important role for engineering and
technology in emergency and disaster preparedness, mitigation and response.
Program activities will include advocacy and lobbying to promote technology for poverty
eradication, improving innovation systems for technology and poverty eradication through
applied research; development of information and information-sharing, human and institutional
capacity building; pilot project activity in technology and poverty eradication in selected
countries. Information needs to be designed to serve an advocacy function for policy- makers,
planners and the public, the promotion of specific technologies, and as learning and teaching
material in the development of formal and informal education and training curricula, innovative
teaching methods, information sharing and technology transfer to the poor. To initiate activity in
this area, an “International Focus on Engineering, Technology and Poverty Eradication” is being
planned to be held in later 2003, possibly in the US.
Engineering and Technology for Sustainable Development
The engineering knowledge and technology currently exists to make significant progress towards
meeting basic human needs and advancing mo re quickly towards sustainable development as
outlined in the WSSD and the UN Millennium Development Goals. It is imperative to apply it
now where it is needed the most and can make the most difference.
Accordingly, the proposed program would address the need for (in addition to the strategy
elements listed in paragraph 3, Capacity Building in Engineering and Technology):
strengthening of engineering education, training and CPD for sustainable development
development of curricula and teaching methods and standards,
production of learning and teaching materials,
distance and interactive learning;
engineering ethics and codes of practice for sustainable development;
directly supporting the United Nations WEHAB (Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture
and Biodiversity) objectives articulated at WSSD including:
water supply and sanitation;
cleaner production and recycling;
energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy and clean coal technology;
emergencies and disaster preparedness and response, including urban security;
post shock and conflict restoration, rehabilitation and reconstruction;
development of engineering and technology policy and planning to promote the above.
Modalities of Activity
Program implementation will be through various types of delivery mechanism or “modalities” of
activity. These include:
high- level fora, roundtables, conferences, symposia;
workshops, expert meetings, seminars, training (especially training-of-trainers);
publications, toolkits, curricula, videos, CD-ROMs;
indicators, statistics, surveys, studies and research, advisory services;
metrics for monitoring and evaluation;
international cooperation – twinning/fellowships;
partnership with professional bodies, NGOs and the public and private sectors.
The use of ICTs will also facilitate and enhance activities in such areas as:
distance and open learning;
virtual meetings and conferences;
multi- media information and training materials;
electronic networking, reinforced linkages with UNESCO field offices a nd outside
partners and wider cooperation with civil society.
The Program will be results-based and output-oriented, using suitable indicators and procedures
for monitoring and evaluation to measure performance and progress. This will require the
development of human and financial resources in the engineering sciences and technology for
development within UNESCO, and strong partnership with national and international
organizations in the engineering community.
Program partnerships will strengthen the capacity of developing countries in the engineering
sciences and technology to address poverty eradication and promote sustainable development,
and to strengthen the capacity of UNESCO to assist in this process, through financial and human
resources support in such areas as secondment and consultancy services. Program partnerships
will be sought with governmental agencies, universities and education institutions, international
organizations, and non-government organizations around the world to enhance capacity building
and the application of the engineering sciences and technology to poverty eradication and
Program partners will include UNESCO Field Offices, National Commissions for UNESCO,
governmental agencies, ministries and departments of science and technology, universities and
education institutions, academies of engineering, national engineering and technology bodies,
industry and the private sector. Partners in international organizations and financial institutions
will include UN organizations, international and regional financial institutions, NEPAD and the
Strategic Partnership with Africa and other regional groups with an interest in engineering and
technology. Non- governmental partner organizations will include professional engineering,
science and technology organizations and NGOs in the field of engineering and technology for
Partnerships with engineering educational institutions will include a focus on fellowships for
applied research and training. These may be similar to the UNESCO Fellowships, Chairs and
UNITWIN Programs, and to the proposed Daimler Chrysler IDEA Program to promote
Intercultural Dialogue through Engineering Applications. Fellowship visits would take place
both in developing and developed country partners – to facilitate understanding of the local
situation and needs in both partner contexts.
Inter-university and Institutional ‘Cooperation Program’
One proposed activity of the “Engineering for a Better World” Program will be the development,
promotion and support of institutional cooperation and partnerships for cooperation. The
Cooperation Program will focus particularly on capacity building in the engineering sciences and
technology, and the application of the engineering sciences and technology for poverty
eradication and sustainable development, as outlined above.
The Cooperation Program will focus on university and institutional twinning and the provision of
fellowships (for study, research, teaching and training). Universities and institutions relating to
engineering and technology in developing and developed countries (in this case of US support -
with particular reference to the US) will be encouraged to develop cooperation partnerships and
programs. These will include university and institutional twinning and fellowships.
These Cooperation Program partnerships will primarily include students and staff of institutes of
further and higher education - including universities, polytechnics, technical colleges and their
equivalent, and also professional organizations and NGOs. Cooperation Program proposals
should identify, formulate and present cooperative projects based on the overall objectives of:
capacity building in engineering and technology in developing countries through
cooperation between universities and other higher education institutions in developing
countries to facilitate economic and social development, enhance intercultural dialogue
and bridge intercultural divides;
promoting the application of engineering and technology for poverty eradication and
sustainable development in the developing countries reflecting international priorities in
the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Institutional twinning with universities, industry and other partners could include a variety of
activities, including fellowships - for study, research, teaching and training. Fellowship visits
would take place in both developing and developed country partners – to facilitate understanding
of the situation and needs in both partner co ntexts. Most specialists in this field recognise that
international cooperative programs should be directed toward strengthening hands-on, person-to-
person engineering programs for professional development in developing countries, based on in-
country training as the preferred option in terms of cost and effectiveness. Short-term fellowships
in donor countries can be used to facilitate this process, and need to be well organized and
coordinated within the overall Cooperation Program.