A universal pursuit
In ancient times, the work of individual philosophers could bolster our collective knowledge. Today, with the explosion in our collective knowledge, collaborative research is a must. Since knowledge is a universal realm, the quest for it is becoming increasingly global.
The European Union thus attaches much importance to international scientific co-operation (INCO). INCO has established partnerships with 148 countries around the world from the following regions: Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific (ACP), Asia, Latin America, the Mediterranean, the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Between 1983 and 2003, more than 8 000 research teams, grouping more than 40 000 researchers equally drawn from the EU and developing countries, took part in more than 3 000 joint projects.
A better Europe in a better world
The European Union is all about working together for our collective interest. Likewise, in the scientific realm the path to knowledge is best travelled in company. INCO helps advance mutual interests and promote mutual benefits.
A key aim for the EU is to enhance European competitiveness and improve the quality of life of its citizens. The Union also recognises that we all live in one world. INCO is a powerful dynamo for finding solutions to major global challenges that require region-specific responses, such as research into infectious diseases and climate change.
INCO can also help build capacity in developing countries so that they can respond to these challenges on their own terms. By so doing, it helps to underwrite concerted efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
To be successful, international scientific co-operation needs to be linked to other policy areas, such as external relations, and should take account of them.
The development watershed
Without water we could not survive – nor could we prosper. People need access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. The ambitious EU Water Initiative (EUWI) takes an integrated approach to water resource management, promoting constructive engagement with diverse stakeholders and acting as a catalyst for future action.
The EU funds a lot of collaborative research in the area. In fact, an international review of some 50 INCO integrated water resources projects is under way to see what lessons can be learnt. One such successful endeavour is the Women, Well-being, Work, Waste and sanitation (4Ws) project which is investigating alternative strategies for environmental sanitation and waste management in peri-urban coastal communities in South Asia.