On 24 and 25 April, the EU-LAC Foundation, the Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation (AUCI) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) in Uruguay co-organised the EU-LAC Knowledge Forum at the AECID Training Centre in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The activity provided a working space for more than 100 Latin American, Caribbean and European representatives of networks and civil society organisations, academic experts and international organisations specialised in cooperation in science, technology and innovation, and higher education. The initiative was supported by the Delegation of the European Union in Montevideo and UNESCO.
The inauguration of the Forum was attended by representatives of the co-organising institutions and local authorities. At the opening, Nicolás Albertoni, Vice-Chancellor of the Republic, Uruguay and the Executive Director of the EU-LAC Foundation, Adrián Bonilla, agreed on the relevance of the Forum as a means of creating concrete proposals and relevant information for political leaders in order to prepare the EU-CELAC Summit this year. The National Director of Innovation, Science and Technology of Uruguay, Alberto Majo, pointed out the role of education, science and technology as a response to the challenges we face in the world. Under this premise, María Cristina Russo, Director of Global Approach and International Cooperation in R&I of the European Commission, highlighted the relevance of the initiatives to advance a common education and research space between both regions. Closing the welcoming remarks, the Ambassador of the European Union in Uruguay, Paolo Berizzi, and the Ambassador of Spain in Uruguay, Santiago Jiménez Martín, pointed to the upcoming EU-CELAC summit as an opportunity to demonstrate the progress of the bi-regional partnership and with great opportunities to continue strengthening ties.
Before the dialogue of the working groups, Keynote Speeches were presented on the vulnerabilities of the regions, especially the Caribbean, the different types of asymmetries of all kinds - social, racial, gender, among others, and the capacities needed to meet the current and future challenges in the themes of the forum to stimulate the following discussions. In this sense, Ramón Torrent (President of OBREAL Global), Stacy Richards-Kennedy (Regional Director for the Caribbean of CAF Development Bank and former Vice Chancellor for International Affairs at The University of the West Indies), Rafael Rosell Aiquel (President of the LAC-EU Permanent Academic Forum), Ana Capilla Casco (Director General of Higher Education and Science at the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture) and Fernando Amestoy (Coordinator of the CELAC Research Infrastructures Group) contributed significantly with their expertise to the event.
The Forum was characterised by a hybrid working dynamic. Each working group was made up of experts in the areas of 1) Cooperation in science, technology and innovation; 2) Towards a Common Higher Education Area; and 3) Closing gaps in access, equity, quality and capacities. The three working groups debated and proposed proposals from their areas of expertise in different sessions, focused on taking stock of the situation and good practices and current challenges in both regions. The first day of the Forum concluded with a field visit to the Instituto Polo Tecnológico de Pando.
The second day focused on the preparation of concrete proposals and recommendations from each working group in view of the EU-CELAC summit in July 2023. Thematic introductions were given by Andreas Schleicher (Director of Education and Skills and Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD), Kelly Quispe Flores (Director and Founder of the GCED Peruvian Lab), Félix García Lausín (Director of the Ibero-American Knowledge Space, SEGIB) and Lídia Borrell-Damián (Secretary General Science Europe), who urged to continue strengthening cooperation between the two regions by highlighting the potential of research, science, technology and innovation to promote a better quality of life for those living in both regions.
The participants underlined the urgency to strengthen the bi-regional relationship based on the principle of mutual trust; to expand cooperation on these issues on the basis of what already exists, gradually taking into account the realities of each country. They agreed on the desire to improve innovation ecosystems and the construction of a Common Higher Education Area. They also called for a greater openness of dialogue at all levels (regional, sub-regional, national) and with various actors (civil society, private sector) in order to seek to broaden interdisciplinary and inter-regional dialogue strategies. Finally, the experts sought to improve the political will for cooperation, especially in terms of funding, by approving investment mechanisms that would allow existing or new proposals to be scaled up.
The EU-LAC Knowledge Forum allowed for meaningful discussions and agreements and built bridges between people and institutions. The event is part of a series of civil society initiatives that the EU-LAC Foundation is organising in the run-up to the next EU-CELAC Summit, to be held on 17-18 July 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. The inputs generated from these meetings will feed the political reflections of the leaders of both regions in a year of great relevance for the bi-regional relationship after a long time without a high-level political dialogue between the two regions and in the wake of the shared challenges at the international level.