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MOST Newsletter No. 1
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MOST Newsletter
No. 1 - December 1994
also available in
French and in Spanish

Message from the Director-General for the MOST Newsletter

I am very pleased to introduce this first issue of the MOST Newsletter. The "Management of Social Transformations" Programme is a major new initiative that UNESCO is undertaking in the field of the social sciences.

The world is currently experiencing transformations of unparalleled scope and rapidity. These include a number of very positive developments, such as the progress towards democracy in South Africa and Central and Eastern Europe, the peace process in the Middle East, declining illiteracy rates world-wide and improved access to health care in many countries. At the same time, growing inequalities within and between nations, ethnic tensions and conflicts of all kinds, unemployment, migratory movements, urban insecurity and squalor, and loss of cultural identity are phenomena that give grounds for deep disquiet. Innovative monitoring, problem-solving and policy formulation are essential if we are to shape our futures rather than allowing them to become the mere extrapolation of a deeply fractured present.

To be successful, policy-formulation and problem-solving strategies cannot be devised on an ad hoc basis or within narrow, short-term frames of reference. What is needed above all in today's complex and troubled world, which cannot sustain many more poor policy choices, is a realisation that the achievement of sustainable development is critically dependent on addressing social problems that have so far resisted national and international efforts to deal with them. This calls for the adoption of new ideas and approaches to problem-solving.

The MOST Programme is UNESCO's response to this challenge facing both policy-makers and researchers. Through the promotion of policy-relevant interdisciplinary research, it seeks to generate high-quality data and analysis required to address problems of growing instability linked to unequal access to wealth, employment and natural resources. It is similarly concerned to improve endogenous expertise and skills in social research and policy-making in countries at all stages of development. It is thus intended to serve as a bridge between social science researchers and policy-makers.

MOST has already, in its first year of existence, received wide support from Member States of the Organisation and the international scientific community, and this will clearly be the key to its continuing development and success.

    Federico Mayor
    Director-General of UNESCO

Social Science Research and Policy-making: A new approach to a perennial debate

The social sciences are key to deepening our understanding of a wide variety of socio-economic problems. Over the past thirty years, social scientists increasingly have been encouraged by Faculties, Development Agencies and Governments to participate in the planning, content and evaluation of social policy, the essential idea being that increased use of social science knowledge leads to improved social policy formulation.

Over these years, this movement roused debate on many issues inherent in bridging the gap between research and policy-formulation, such as the " two-communities " theory developed by Nathan Caplan, the state and evolution of the social scientific art, the procedures of social policies and programs, the methodology of policy formulation, the neutrality, values and allegiances of social scientists, and the philosophy of independent knowledge production as opposed to research contracted or commissioned by users. Many of these very valid concerns were voiced and published by producers and users of social science research and have formed a deep pool of information on the creation and utilisation of social knowledge.

The extent to which social science research is used varies in countries around the world, although social scientists everywhere, perhaps with the exception of economists, may share a certain despondency over the persistent underutilization of their work. While a number of countries have progressively incorporated results of socio-economic and behavioural research into the planning and implementation of policy, the use of social science research in a majority of countries around the world remains too often marginalized from the decision-making process, and weakened by a considerable lack of financial, institutional and scientific resources.

At the national level, many social science research councils have developed programmes targeted specifically at supporting policy-relevant research. The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, for example, has a Programme for Strategic Subventions, which finances policy-oriented research in specified areas. The Indian Council for Social Science Research supports the Centre for Policy Research, the Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research as well as a Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. Many other Research Councils or Development Institutes in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Arab States support such policy-research centres or have similar programmes. At the International level, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development has designed programmes focusing on social, economic and political issues. Analytical, rapid assessments of on-going situations are conducted and the ensuing information fed to decision-makers. Such a rapid, case-study approach meets with approval because results are quickly available, thereby satisfying the basic sense of urgency felt by policy-makers caught in crisis situations. After studying the needs of policy-planning and the capacity of social science research to feed the planning process, UNESCO designed the MOST Programme to complement short term research. MOST focuses on longer term research, because rapid social science research, although appreciated for reasons of quick delivery, often does not address fundamental issues and skims over the heterogeneous and complex nature of many social structures that require longer term study. Although more costly in terms of financial support and time, the outcomes of MOST projects are expected to make significant contributions, in part because their duration will allow a deeper, more significant analysis of changing situations. Each accepted MOST project will have short, medium and long-term output that is relevant to the policy-planning process. The MOST Programme will thus foster over a time span of 6 to 8 years a sustained exchange of knowledge and views between the scientific community and the decision-making levels, in the hope that government administrations, in various Member States will open their structures to the flow of scientific knowledge emerging from MOST projects. Member States are encouraged to be creative in undertaking debates and specialised workshops within the framework of MOST that will stimulate dialogue between the scientific communities and the decision-makers responsible for approving policies that ultimately affect daily lives.

    Francine Fournier,
    Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences

Presenting MOST: Objectives, Structures and Activities


Broadly speaking, this programme´s major objective is to sustain international, interdisciplinary, comparative and policy-relevant research on contemporary social transformations. Information derived from MOST projects is presented in ways that make research findings digestible and usable by decision-makers as well as other scientists. Such an ambition of providing a bridge between relatively long-term, high quality independent research and policy-making is the distinctive feature of the programme. The MOST programme was established formally by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 27th session, in November 1993, and became operational in January 1994. It is steered by an Intergovernmental Council (IGC), comprising 33 Member States and a Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) composed of nine highly qualified social scientists. The IGC convenes every two years, to provide the policy guidance, thematic priorities, the linkage of the programme to Governments, and review budgetary needs. The SSC, meeting twice a year, is responsible for the scientific and professional quality of MOST activities and has independent decision-making power in such matters. The MOST Secretariat initiates and co-ordinates all activities.

MOST is closely linked to national and regional social science communities through co-operation with the National MOST Liaison Committees, universities, research centres; regional social science organisations such as AASSREC in Asia, CODESRIA in Africa, CLACSO and FLACSO in Latin America; international bodies such as the ISSC, ISA, IPSA, IEA, IUAES, IGU, etc. The programme also has ties to Development Agencies, the European Community, the European Science Foundation, the United Nations University, other UN bodies and Bretton Woods Institutions.

MOST concentrates its policy-research scope and capacity building activities on three important aspects of contemporary social transformations: Multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies, Cities and Global-local linkages.

Multi-cultural and Multi-ethnic Societies

Consolidating social integration with respect to ethnic and cultural diversity is a major public policy challenge facing governments in an age when increasing patterns of regionalisation/globalisation have shifted solidarities and contested boundaries. The eruption of " ethnic "conflicts since the end of the cold war has provoked a renewed debate amongst social scientists and policy makers on the relevance of ethnicity in contemporary society, and in particular the need to pay attention to ethnicity and multi-culturalism in the planning and implementation of social and economic policy. It is now widely recognised that modernisation theory, which implied that increased transnational communication and integrated political and economic structures would erase peoples' feelings of ethnic identity, is incorrect. Despite technological progress, ethnic and cultural identities remain an inherent part of an individual's constitution. The major challenge facing policy-makers in the fields of education, health, social welfare, and justice is to formulate policies in such a way as to promote and sustain peaceful multi-ethnic and multi-cultural co-operation and to rebuild such co-operation in societies undergoing post-war political, social and economic reconstruction.

Cities as arenas of accelerated social transformations

Widely known are the many complex issues linked to urban-rural planning and management. Access to land and housing, to services and infrastructure, personal safety, community development, pollution, marginalisation and exclusion are only initial issues in the struggle to humanise growing metropolises. Figures quoted by demographers around the world on exploding population growth destined to swell already unmanageable urban settings paint dire scenarios for the year 2000. In the developing as in the developed world, the problem of urban management is directly linked to rural and community development. The rural-urban articulation is a necessary theoretical framework for research and policy planning if sustainable and humanitarian solutions to desertification, urban migration and accompanying socio-economic problems are to be identified.

Coping locally and regionally with economic, technological and environmental transformations:

The transformations which have occurred in the international community in the last few years have contributed to an acceleration in the globalisation of the economy which is reflected by a number of important trends: the growth in the share of trade in world production; the integration of financial markets; the combined influence of entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly the introduction of new management techniques; the energetic application of science and technology and the action of social partners (Governments, industry and workers' organisations); and the increasing importance of international communications as an intrinsic part of these processes. The scope, direction and impact of these transformations on different regions and groups of countries in both the short and long-terms need to be better understood and incorporated into an informed social policy if, indeed, development is to improve the quality of life of the majority of the people.

A major task confronting all countries in this decade, and in the 21st Century, is therefore that of building up more effective capacities for human development so that they can respond effectively to new challenges. The role of social science research, therefore, is to provide fresh perspectives to emerging concerns. How, for example, can different societies foster a dynamic process providing and sustaining opportunities for women and men, in accordance with their aspirations and talents, to acquire knowledge, skills, attitudes and know-how that are necessary to accelerate social and economic development? What does globalisation of the economy portend for future employment prospects? In which ways might globalisation further transform work-styles or re-define the social division of labour between and within countries, among individuals or along gender lines? What are the social and economic consequences for countries that are leaping forward in science and technology (the key ingredients of the process of globalisation) and the implications for those that lag behind? What are the particular challenges indeed, the plight faced by the less industrial countries and the so-called "economies in transition"? What are human resource implications for different skills requirements? How can countries strengthen and consolidate the role of universities and other research institutions as centres of innovation?

Some examples of current activities:

Several project proposals on ethnic, urban and local-global issues are currently being examined by the SSC and/or revised according to the latter's recommendations. Others, on issues of sustainable development paradigms, the Rwandan conflict, the social transformations in the Arctic regions, social and political issues related to new migrations growing ethnic diversity in the Asia-Pacific Region, and the impact of global processes in Central America and the Caribbean are in preparation. Upcoming editions of this Newsletter will regularly feature information on research projects.

A series of regional and sub-regional conferences are currently being organised to identify the research and policy priorities and gaps in these regions, or to discuss large-scale research projects. Four such meetings are underway or have already taken place: in Ottawa, Canada (December 1993), Vienna, Austria (February 1994), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (October 1994) and Bangkok, Thailand (November 1994). Others are planned in the first half of 1995, in Tromsö, Norway (January 1995), Berlin, Germany (March 1995), Copenhagen, Denmark, on social development issues and in conjunction with the World Summit for Social Development (March 1995), Buenos Aires, Argentina (June 1995), Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Arab States region and in Central America.

As regards capacity-building, a project initiated by Italy towards the establishment of a MOST Summer School is currently under consideration. Another project on strengthening capacities in data collecting, storing and analysis in developing countries in MOST fields is being elaborated in collaboration with the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). Capacity-building activities gradually will be extended to cover " on-the-job " training of young scholars and scientific institutional reinforcement.

Currently in preparation within the "MOST Discussion Paper Series" are policy-research assessments of Socially Sustainable Development, Cities, the Rwanda conflict and Multi-cultural public policies.

    Ali Kazancigil
    MOST Executive Secretary

MOST at the National Level:

In April 1994, all Member States of UNESCO were requested to establish national MOST Liaison Committees so that development of the programme and direct contact with social scientists and policy-makers in National Institutions was facilitated. Addresses of these focal points of the MOST Programme may be obtained from the UNESCO National Commission in the country. Those countries still in the process of establishing a national MOST committee may take interest in the procedure adopted by Norway and described below.

MOST in Norway: a prime example:

In collaboration with the Norwegian Research Council, the Norwegian National Commission held a MOST-seminar on 14 June with wide participation from Norwegian universities, colleges and research institutes. Representatives of the Finnish and Swedish MOST-Committees were also present. Presented at this meeting was a Norwegian report on MOST-related research activities in Norway - an excellent initiative which showed a broad and vivid activity on MOST-related research themes. Other National Commissions may wish to follow this example. The seminar discussed several ways of focusing the themes of MOST and making the broad Norwegian research competence relevant for the MOST Programme. One such theme where co-ordinated Norwegian initiatives may be taken is " comparative studies of conditions for peace-creation and reconstruction in conflict-ridden multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies. " The Scientific Steering Committee of MOST considered this topic as mainstream under MOST theme 1 " Management of Multi-cultural and Multi-ethnic societies ". Norway has also undertaken an initiative to host a sub-regional expert seminar at the University of Tromso in February 1995, the aim of which will be to elaborate the theoretical and conceptual basis for the third MOST theme of " Coping locally and regionally with economic, technological and environmental transformations ". Participants for this seminar will be drawn mainly from Nordic countries, Canada and Russia.

For 1994, the Norwegian UNESCO Commission in close co-operation with the National Research Council will continue its work to establish a Norwegian arm for MOST. From 1995, the National Research Council will gradually assume more responsibility, and support the preparation of project proposals and the establishment of Norwegian and international networks.

Germany: Exploring New Paradigms for Sustainable Development

A large scale international MOST project on global sustainability and its implications for development models is being prepared. The first stage will be an international workshop, in March 1995, in Germany, where conceptual, methodological and policy issues will be discussed and a project design elaborated. The project is developed with the support of the Federal German Ministry for Research and Technology.

Italy: The MOST Summer School Project

The Italian MOST Liaison Committee, in co-operation with the University of Florence and the MOST Secretariat, is working towards the establishment of a MOST Summer School, to provide advanced training in social science methodology, research techniques and project development in MOST fields for young researchers and policy-makers from developing countries. Each annual session of the Summer School, scheduled to start in 1996, will take place in a developing country, identified by MOST. The host country could provide local facilities.

The funding is expected to be provided under the Development Co-operation programmes of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Countries with MOST Liaison committees:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Benin, Burundi, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Malawi, Malta, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Belarus, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Vietnam, Zaire

How to participate in MOST?

Research networks interested in participating in the MOST Programme should contact their National Commission for UNESCO for detailed information on project submission procedures. Institutions and individuals may also request their National Commissions to place them on the MOST mailing list for receipt of this Newsletter and other information about the programme. Those institutions in non-Member States of UNESCO, notably the United States and Great Britain may contact directly the MOST Secretariat in Paris for further information on participation procedures.

Current meetings:

Central Asian sub-regional meeting

Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, 25-27 October 1994

This consultative meeting focused on the dominant policy issues relating to social transformations in the Central Asian region. Although with individual differences, each of the five new countries in the region, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are experiencing a period of rapid social and economic change. These transformations constitute a unique opportunity for examining how research and policy can assist these governments in coping with the current transitions. The meeting was attended by researchers, senior government officials from the Central Asian Republics and by international development agencies. One outcome was a draft project encompassing priority policy issues and defining strategies for operational policy formulation in the region. Special attention was devoted to capacity-building in research methodology and public policy planning.

Management of Social Transformations in Asia: the Regional MOST Conference

(Bangkok, 21-25 November 1994)

This high-profile regional Asian meeting is part of the MOST regional conference series. It will bring together policy-makers and specialists from universities, international organisations and national policy research institutes to focus on knowledge/research gaps in MOST areas with emphasis on Asian experiences. Five panel discussions are organised as follows: Multi-culturalism and multi-ethnicity in Asia, with particular attention to ethnic co-operation and conflict and formulation of public policy coping with ethnic diversity; Poverty, including a proposed policy-research project submitted by the Independent Commission for Poverty Alleviation in South-east Asia; Urbanisation, urban squalor, and social and economic policy implications of the rural urban relationship in Asian countries: This panel also will include a discussion of the UNDP/World Bank Med-Urbs Project in Asia, with identification of project follow-up for MOST ; Asian regional and sub-regional effects of transnational environmental, economic and technological flows; and the social and economic implications of HIV/AIDS in Asia, with policy/research needs.

Highlights of meeting discussions will be available in the next issue of the MOST Newsletter.

Summary of past meetings:

First meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of MOST

The Intergovernmental Council of MOST met for the first time from 7-10 March 1994, marking the official start of the MOST programme at UNESCO. The meeting was attended by representatives of the 33 Member States of the Council and by a large number of observers from International Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations, Universities, Research Councils and Social Scientific Associations. Member States acknowledged the importance of social science research in redressing many development problems and affirmed government support to the programme's objectives and structure.

Some of the Council's recommendations follow:

  • the fundamental problems of religion, poverty, exclusion, gender inequality, youth and underdevelopment should be considered in the framework of the MOST themes;
  • the strengthening of scientific and institutional capacities for research is to be an essential activity of MOST;
  • MOST should work through existing national and regional networks, wherever possible;
  • MOST is to implement both new research as well as research that is based on the analysis and evaluation of existing scientific knowledge.
A keynote address on Social Transformations was presented to the Council by Prof. Alain Touraine, Research Director at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. The full report of this first meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of MOST, including the lecture by Prof. Touraine is available upon request from the MOST Secretariat in Paris.

The Intergovernmental Council of MOST:

Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Republic of Guinea, India, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

President: Mohammed M. EL GAWHARY (Egypt)
Vice-Presidents:T. DI TELLA (Argentina), N. GENOV (Bulgaria), P. de SENARCLENS (Switzerland), K. TONGDHAMACHART (Thailand), M.A. HERMASSI (Tunisia), D: CHIMANIKIRE (Zimbabwe);
Rapporteur: M ZIOLKOWSKI (Poland)

Next meeting of the MOST Intergovernmental Council: 3-7 July 1995, UNESCO headquarters, Paris.

First Meeting of the Scientific Steering Committee

29 June - 1 July 1994, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris.

Discussion on research strategies, project submission procedures, evaluation criteria, thematic development and review of preliminary project proposals submitted to the Programme constituted the bulk of the Committee's work. Consensus was achieved concerning the importance of organising Regional MOST Conferences, likely to facilitate the setting of research priorities, the identification of policy needs, and to contribute significantly to project building.

The idea of creating specific MOST Policy papers, serving as points of reference for scientists and as information sources for policy planning met with approval. Parallel to this a discussion paper series will focus on more theoretical problems within the MOST research fields. After thorough examination, the Committee approved the guidelines for MOST project submission, now available from UNESCO National Commissions or from the MOST Secretariat.

Discussion evolved on a number of particularly complex items such as the Committee's degree of pro-activity concerning project building (top-down and bottom-up approach respectively), means of coping with the complexities of conducting independent scientific research that may challenge existing policies or prevailing ideologies, and gender considerations in problem formulation. The next meeting of the SSC will be hosted by Egypt from 4-6 December 1994 in Cairo.

List of members:

Prof. Elvi-Whittaker, Chairperson (Canada)
Prof. Norbert Lechner, Vice-Chairperson (Chile)
Prof. Narifumi M. Tachimoto, Vice-Chairperson (Japan)
Prof. Yoginder K. Alagh (India)
Prof. Maurice Aymard (France)
Prof. Antoni Kuklinski (Poland)
Mr. Davinder Lamba (Kenya)
Prof. Licia Valladares (Brazil)

Member ex-officio of the SSC:
Prof. Mohamed M. El-Gawhary,
President of the MOST Intergovernmental Council

MOST Clearing House

The main functions of the MOST Clearing House will be the sharing of overviews of the current state of affairs in the main MOST research areas, the providing of access to the basic data and recommendations of MOST projects, and the promotion of co-operation in collective MOST research projects.

The establishment and operation of the MOST Clearing House relies strongly on new electronic networks, which are to provide quick and relatively inexpensive access to world-wide information sources. Many developing countries still lack appropriate electronic facilities, but efforts are under way to support them in realising network access for scientific users. The MOST Clearing House will have a decentralised structure in which the collaborating institutes retain management of their own information at the local level, rather then send it to a central organism. For the user the MOST Clearing House will appear as a coherent central information source, where in fact the information is drawn from different sites around the world.

A Model Clearing House for Urban Research

This project, recently initiated with the Centre de Recherches en Sciences Infométriques of the CNRS and the PIR-Villes Research Programme involves five research institutes who will combine their scientific information on priority issues in the management of social change in growing cities, such as the management of multi-ethnic migration flows and their impact on health and social security systems.

The Centre de Recherches en Sciences Infométriques will analyse the information made available by participating institutes, and monitor the setting up of the INTERNET tools at the different sites to keep a uniform pattern of information. By June 1995 the model MOST Clearing House for urban research will be opened for public access. The five collaborating institutes are selected from the existing PIR-Villes network from different world regions, including Africa, Latin America and Asia. Other institutes will be invited to join as the project evolves.

Gearing up to the Social Summit...

The MOST Secretariat and other programme units of the Sector of Social and Human Sciences are organising a number of international meetings and symposia as part of UNESCO's preparatory process for the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995.

These activities are focused on the three themes of the Social Summit: the struggle against poverty; fostering social integration; and increasing productive employment.

i)International Conference on Struggles Against Poverty, Unemployment and Social Exclusion: Public Policies, Popular Action and Social Development (Bologna, Italy, 2-3 December 1994)

This meeting will facilitate the sharing of information and policy experiences on approaches being tried out in different countries or regions of the world in tackling various forms and processes of exclusion. It is organised jointly by UNESCO, the University of Bologna and the City of Bologna.

Deliberations will be structured around six case studies commissioned by UNESCO.

ii)International Seminar on Science and Technology for Social Development (New Delhi, India, 12-14 December 1994)

This international seminar jointly organised by UNESCO and NISTADS [the National Institute for Science, Technology and Development Studies of India] will assist in identifying science and technology strategies that are consistent with the goals of the Social Summit. The seminar will be attended by specialists from various fields, including the natural sciences, science and technology and social and human sciences. Deliberations will be focused along the following thematic lines: scientific and technological revolution and endogenous capacity building; the second green revolution and its social implications; decentralised industrialisation prospects ; urban sustainable development strategies; meeting the challenges of human resource development and emerging issues in education and training.

iii) International Symposium on Socially Sustainable Development: Challenges for Research and Policy (Copenhagen, Denmark, Week of 6-10 March 1995)

Jointly organised by UNESCO/MOST, the University of Roskilde, the International Institute of Labour Studies, WHO and the French research institution ORSTOM, it will draw upon the results of the two previous meetings. It will cover a wide range of issues and concerns related to the emerging international trends towards globalisation and their effects on societies and economies of various countries or regions of the world (e.g., the developing countries; so-called "countries in transition"; industrial countries; and so on). It will examine such issues as the social impact of economic restructuring on different societies; the prospects and opportunities of the trends towards globalisation; the challenges and threats of the emerging transformations; science, technology and social development, particularly employment and eradication of poverty; social aspects of health policies. The symposium will be a two-day event organised around 4 half-day sessions, preceding the Social Summit. It is anticipated that 30 senior scholars and policymakers will participate.

MOST Newsletter:

Director: Ali Kazancigil
Executive-Secretary, MOSTProgramme

Editor: Nadia Auriat
MOST Secretariat, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
E-mail: n.auriat@unesco.org

Layout and printing: Egoprim
Illustrations: Florence Bonjean
Photos: Seteboun - Rapho;
Eric Congo - Sipa Press; Françoise Huguier - Rapho - (Agence Vu).

This publication appears every 3 months in english, french and spanish.

National MOST Liaison Committees and UNESCO National Commissions are invited to submit to the Editor information on national MOST activities for publication in upcoming editions of the Newsletter.

Ministries, NGO's, research councils, research institutions, universities and other UN Agencies working with social science research or supporting policy-relevant research projects may send information to the Editor for diffusion in this publication.

This publication is sent to Universities, Research Councils, Development Agencies and UN Agencies world-wide.

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