SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH
C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E.
Masdar Institute of Science and Technology
D. Clinton, Jr., P.E.
WFEO Committee on
the pursuit of a more secure, stable and sustainable world, developing
countries seek to enhance their human, institutional and infrastructure
capacity. To do so they need a
solid base of technologically prepared people to effectively improve their
economies and quality of life. Such a base will facilitate the infusion of
foreign capital through attraction of multinational companies to invest in the
developing country, assist in making the most of foreign aid funds, and
provide a basis for business development by local entrepreneurs. In a
coordinated approach, UNESCO and WFEO are mounting major efforts at technical
capacity building in developing countries.
building; sustainable economic development; engineering education
An old Chinese proverb says:
a person a fish: you have fed the person for today.
Teach a person to fish: you have fed the person for a lifetime.”
today’s global economy, one more level needs to be added for developing
teach the person how to process and package fish for export and market it, and
you have stimulated economic development.
development for developing countries can be effectively stimulated by building
the technical capacity of their workforce, through quality engineering education
programs. A competent technical workforce base can then provide several paths to
economic development: attraction of technically oriented multi-national
companies, who can invest effectively in the developing country once there is a
cadre of qualified local employees available; effective utilization of foreign
aid funds, and providing a legacy of appropriate infrastructure projects and
technically competent people to operate and maintain them; and small business
startups by technically competent entrepreneurs.
building can be defined as follows:
building of human, institutional, and infrastructure capacity to help societies
develop secure, stable, and sustainable economies, governments, and other
institutions through mentoring, training, education, physical projects, the
infusion of financial and other resources, and, most importantly, the motivation
and inspiration of people to improve their lives.”
simpler statement is that capacity building is the process of assisting people
to develop the technical skills to address their own needs for improving the
living standards and prosperity of their own people, and building an
environmentally sustainable society.
to build capacity are most successful as a partnership - when they are driven by
the host nation working together with the supplier of assistance.
Identification of key stakeholders of the host nation who have vision and
drive, but also connections to key decision makers in central and local
government are essential. Those
stakeholders can assist in defining and prioritizing the greatest needs, and
means to achieve them. The resources
of the supplier can then be used most effectively.
to the needs of the developing world requires a “paradigm shift” not only in
governments, engineering associations, and charitable foundations, but also in
the academic and business worlds.
the global economy of the 21st Century, engineers play a key role in
overall economic development for countries and regions. In the well developed
countries, the role of the engineer is well understood and utilized. In much of
the developing world, however, the available pool of engineering talent is
typically below critical mass – and economic development and even important
basic societal needs that rely on engineering – such as clean water supply and
sanitation – lack the technical talent to address them.
capacity building efforts aim at developing a sufficient pool of well educated
and certified engineering graduates in developing countries to effect three
Technical capability is needed for
developing countries to engage effectively in the global economy; direct foreign
investment, international trade, mobility of engineers, and the flow of work to
countries with cost-effective talent will result.
Indigenous science and technology
capacity is needed to insure that international aid funds are utilized
effectively and efficiently – for initial project implementation, for
long-term operation and maintenance, and for the development of capacity to do
future projects. And a sufficient pool of engineers can enable a developing
country to address the UN’s Millennium Development Goals effectively,
including poverty reduction, safe water and sanitation, etc.
order to stimulate job formation in developing countries, a technical workforce
pool is needed, made up of people who are specifically educated and prepared to
engage in entrepreneurial startup efforts that meet local needs Capacity
building should be driven by the needs of the beneficiary; there are a number of
approaches that yield effective results. These
include helping the key institutions - private sector, the universities and
professional societies -- to evolve. For
externally funded infrastructure projects, having a capacity building component
explicitly included to train operators, maintenance staff, and involve local
engineers in the design and construction phases is highly desirable.
The intent should be to leave the local engineering community capable of
executing similar projects entirely on their own.
The goal is to create the local capability, including consulting
engineering practices and design-build companies, which attract capable people
to grow and develop the human, institutional and infrastructure capacity within
The World Federation of Engineering Organizations,
through its Committee on
RESULTS OF PREVIOUS
a detailed study of the results of foreign aid to developing countries over the
past several decades, William Easterly concludes, in his book “The Elusive
Quest for Growth” (MIT Press, 2002):
Previous efforts have tried to
use foreign aid, investment in machines, fostering education at the primary and
secondary levels, controlling population growth, and giving loans and debt
relief conditional on reforms to stimulate the economic growth that would allow
these countries to move toward self sufficiency
all of these efforts over the
past few decades have failed to lead to the desired economic growth
these massive and expensive
efforts have failed because they did not hit the fundamental human behavioral
chord that “people respond to incentives”
concluded that past efforts at stimulating economic growth in developing
countries have failed, Easterly outlines what he thinks would work. He argues
that there are two areas that can likely lead to the desired economic growth in
developing countries, and can lead them toward economic self sufficiency:
of advanced technologies, and
that leads to high skills in technological areas
emphasis on health and basic relief needs must continue, there is also a
critical need to break the cycles of poverty through development of strong and
competitive economies that can relate to world markets. The building of
indigenous pools of people with quality educations in science, technology, and
engineering can help lead to economic growth and healthy economies.
need only look at examples from
the case of
China, already a major economic power, the proportion of first science and
engineering degrees to all bachelors-equivalent degrees was 59%, as compared to
about 33% in the US in 2001 (Source: Science
and Engineering Indicators 2004, National Science Foundation, National
Science Board). The report opens with the statement:
in (science and engineering) higher education helps a country to be
technologically innovative and economically competitive.”
WHAT IS NEEDED
and foremost, a large enough pool of high quality, accredited engineering
graduates is needed in developing countries so that the good results listed
above can be realized. It must be recognized that there will be some leakage of
these graduates to jobs in developed countries, but many will choose to stay
where family ties and native country culture provide a comfortable environment.
the basic need is the creation of good jobs in the home country. This is a
chicken-and-egg issue. Increased demand for engineers will result only when
there is a sufficient pool of well qualified graduates to attract direct foreign
investment, multinational corporation operations, offshore outsourcing from
developed countries, and entrepreneurial startups. Developing country planners
and government officials must pursue effective economic development and job
generation strategies in parallel with making the needed investments to enhance
the quality and quantity of engineering graduates.
education in developing countries should include significant coverage of
entrepreneurship – how to start, operate, and grow a small business. Note that
US companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Yahoo all were started in
garages by enterprising young people with a technical bent. Engineering
graduates should be equipped to take a path of creating jobs rather than seeking
one if they wish to do so.
technology based economies grow in developing countries, one important source of
top talent – in addition to new engineering graduates – is the return of
previous emigrants from the diaspora. Several countries that are developing well
have benefited from the return of former citizens who see new opportunities in
their home countries, and bring back foreign experience and network contacts to
the benefit of their home countries.
addition to increasing the number and quality of engineering graduates, and
pursuing strategies to have good local jobs available, developing countries need
mechanisms to apply research and development results from local universities and
companies for economic gain. Such mechanisms as incubators and small business
development financing are needed in the mix.
A SPECIAL CASE – OIL
countries that currently are very rich due to significant oil production present
a special case in building capacity for long term economic development. Many
such countries have focused their engineering education resources primarily on
current needs for petroleum engineers and related fields.
countries need to develop strategic plans for the eventuality that their oil
reserves will be depleted, when they will have to rely on other technical
products and services to continue to flourish in the global competitive economy.
Some of the current largess of funds should be invested in developing technical
expertise in areas of long term potential, such as biotechnology,
cybertechnology, nanotechnology, etc. Strategic investments should be made in
the education of engineers and other technical graduates to develop such areas,
and stake out future economic strength areas.
strategic planning will require the collaboration of governments, universities,
and commercial interests in the oil rich countries.
UNESCO AND THE WORLD
FEDERATION OF ENGINEERING ORGANIZATIONS
the strong relation between creation of a critical mass of educated and skilled
engineering and science graduates and economic and social development, efforts
should be made to build these capacities in developing countries. This is one of
the conclusions reached by both UNESCO and the World Federation of Engineers (WFEO).
The World Federation of Engineering Organizations was founded in 1968 under the
auspices of the UNESCO in
keeping with its mission, WFEO created its Standing Committee on
Initiatives: Many of the societal, human and economic needs identified in the
Millennium Development Goals and other similar descriptions of the situation in
developing countries are present in sub-Saharan
Initiatives: The Committee on
issues: a sub-committee of the CCB was instrumental in organizing the highly
successful WFEO conference on Women in Engineering and Technology, held in
interactions: The CCB has collaborated in promoting South-south interactions,
including technology transfer among developing countries. For example, CCB has
collaborated with the South African Institution of Civil Engineers to promote
meetings of the African Engineering Forum, involving a dozen countries in
Without Borders: Working with Engineers Without Borders International, CCB
organized a workshop in
As in many developing
nations, the infrastructure in
At a recent meeting
sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineer (ASCE), Society of Afghan
Engineers (SAE) and
Over the last several
years, ASCE has been working with the Society of Afghan Engineers (SAE), an
organization of engineers in North America and Europe committed to the
reconstruction of Afghanistan, to develop infrastructure projects than can
promote economic growth in that nation. The
ASCE, SAE and
capacity building in developing countries as a lever for economic and social
development is currently recognized as an important priority in the global
engineering community. The WFEO Committee on
C. Jones is founding President of the
Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a graduate education and research
institution focused on alternative energy and sustainability, in
D. CLINTON, JR., is Chair of the Capacity Building Committee of the World
Federation of Engineering Organizations. He has had a distinguished career as a
consulting engineer, primarily in his home state of