The Governing Board of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) held its 55th meeting in Moscow The meeting was chaired by Mr. Ronald Lehman.
Representatives of various ISTC Parties attended the meeting, namely Canada, the European Union, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United States of America, Republic of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and the Republic of Armenia which participated in the meeting as the rotating CIS Board member.
The Members of the ISTC Governing Board gathered in Moscow to discuss developments with respect to the ISTC and set the direction and priorities for future action.
The Governing Board continued a discussion on the consequences of the diplomatic note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation of 13 July 2011 announcing the withdrawal of Russia from the ISTC in 2015. Until that time, the diplomatic note states, all the provisions of the ISTC Agreement will remain fully in force. All approved projects in the Russian Federation are to be completed within the remaining timeframe.
The Board stressed the importance of more progress in solving of the various outstanding issues that had been discussed during the technical consultations between the ISTC funding parties and the Russian Federation. These cover a broad range of issues related to Russia’s withdrawal. The following points were made with respect to other individual items:
- The Funding Parties once more urged the Russian party to find an umbrella solution with respect to the tax-free and customs duty-free continued use and/or transfer of all ISTC equipment already delivered to Russian institutes and companies. Such an approach would facilitate a smooth outcome for the transfers, thus avoiding a detailed and time-consuming procedure. It was stressed that the transfer of ownership of this equipment should not result in any tax/customs liability, either for the funding parties or for the host-country research institutes, laboratories and other entities involved.
- The Governing Board reconfirmed its position that, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the ISTC Agreement, ISTC or party or partner funds are not to be used to payany tariffs, dues, customs duties, import taxes, and other similar taxes or charges imposed by the Russian Federation and the other ISTC countries of the CIS and Georgia.
- The Governing Board noted the willingness of the State Archives of the Russian Federation on Science and Technology to become the final repository of ISTC documents related to its work in the Russian Federation and asked the ED to continue the necessary preparatory work in connection to access rights to these records by third parties after Russia’s withdrawal from ISTC;
- The Funding Parties urged that Rosatom move forward on the issue of reimbursement for the renovation/ maintenance costs at ISTC Headquarters in Moscow as referred to in the Memoranda of 26 October 2011 and of 23 November 2011. These costs were paid from ISTC AOB budgets in response to urgent needs and in the expectation on the part of the ISTC funding parties that these expenses would be reimbursed, consistent with the obligations undertaken by the host country in the Agreement;
Representatives of the ISTC CIS countries and Georgia reiterated their position that ISTC should continue its activities in their countries - now and beyond 2015 - on the basis of the ISTC Agreement of 1992. They asked the Funding Parties to continue project funding, as well as various supplemental programs, for the benefit of scientists and engineers in their countries. The countries expressed their readiness to co-finance programs and projects on a systematic basis, taking their respective economic situations into account.
The Funding Parties, along with Armenia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan discussed the changes in the ISTC Agreement and other ISTC statutory documents required in order to adequately deal with the consequences of the announced withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the work of the Center and the prospective transfer of its Headquarters to Kazakhstan. Work on these matters is to continue, with the assistance of the ISTC Secretariat, with a view to preparing to amend the ISTC agreement.
The Funding Parties thanked the representative of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan for his report on steps being taken to facilitate the move of the ISTC from Moscow to Almaty. In this connection, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan is proceeding with inter-governmental discussions to this end.
The Board expressed their appreciation for the preparatory work done and decided that the ongoing process of building up a main office in Kazakhstan as soon as possible should continue to move forward in close cooperation with the representatives of the Government of Kazakhstan. Steps should include hiring and training of 3 relevant staff. The member states envision that the main office will be sized efficiently to address the workload of the Center once the Headquarters is moved from Moscow. A progress report is to be presented at the next ISTC Governing Board meeting.
The Governing Board noted the funding parties’ openness to resuming discussions regarding the possible establishment of a new multilateral framework for scientific and technological cooperation if Russia is interested. Such discussions could be based on the objectives and principles identified in the report of the working party adopted by the Governing Board on 14 July 2010. However, current outstanding issues related to Russia’s intended withdrawal should be solved with the Russian Federation as a first priority.
There was widespread agreement among the Parties that the inclusion of Russia in post-2015 multilateral scientific engagement would be a welcome development.
The Governing Board decided on a new staffing table including significant staff reductions as approved in the restricted Record of Decisions.
The Governing Board expressed its gratitude for the work carried out to review projects in the sectors nuclear safeguards, radiation sensors and their applications, and oil and gas and adopted the three reports prepared, including their conclusions and recommendations. The reviews carried out in the three sectors showed that ISTC-funded work:
- was executed on a cost-effective basis. There was value for money;
- served as a trigger for further scientific and technological development. The funding, albeit limited in volume, had the function of a “building block” promoting scientific discoveries;
- was a factor preserving science in the CIS countries and Georgia. In various cases scientific know-how was developed and expanded;
- provided a reason to start networking with colleagues both inside and outside the CIS and Georgia. In most cases the role of foreign collaborators in project execution was positive.
The Governing Board decided to examine the possibility to start a review process of ISTC funded project results in other new areas namely: (i) new materials, (ii) environmental health and safety, and (iii) uranium tailings.
The Board noted the substantial work done in relation to Fukushima situation. The Board noted the launch of a joint ISTC-STCU call for proposals for projects related to land decontamination and monitoring in view of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident, as well as the continuation of further detailed technical discussions in Japan between scientists.
The Governing Board approved the final Project Funding Worksheet (FS55). The ISTC approved 2 new projects with a total value of 422,170 USD in new funding for activities in Georgia and Kazakhstan. It thanked the SAC cordially for the evaluation of the project proposals. It set 25 September 2012 as a deadline for the submission of project proposals for consideration at the next funding session, FS56.
The total sum for partner projects that received funding after GBM54 is 1,595,440 USD and 155,714 Euro (equivalent USD 210,041) for 4 new projects.
Currently there are 269 projects under implementation at ISTC. This total is divided into 111 regular projects, 145 partner projects and 13 innovation and communication support projects.
The Governing Board noted with satisfaction the approval by written procedure of the appointment, for a two year term, of Mr. Takuya Okamoto as Deputy ED in charge of the Industrial Technologies Department at the ISTC Secretariat. It thanked Mr. Yasumasa Watanabe for his valuable contribution to the work of ISTC and in particular with respect to his personal dedication to make possible the transfer of scientific results to contribute to a solution of the situation in and around Fukushima.
The Governing Board decided to convene the next Governing Board meeting on 4 December 2012 in Moscow.