Let me begin by commending the Malta Conferences Foundation for this prestigious conference to Malta, and for recognising the importance of our Maltese Islands, as a bridge of peace and dialogue.
I am informed that this forum has brought together scientists from fifteen Middle Eastern countries, in a spirit of sharing and cooperation, to tackle some of the regional challenges which still face our world.
It is, therefore, my pleasure to share some reflections about the critical role of science diplomacy, to create and sustain a culture of positive peace in our world. As we all know, positive peace is not simply the absence of direct conflict and violence. Rather, it is the active and sustainable pursuit of peace, throughout our communities and across our societies, with impact on people from all walks of life.
I believe that the work of scientists, to create a context for this level of peace, is essential.
Science brings together diverse disciplines and areas of study, while also fostering a spirit of sharing and connection. Moreover, it places the pursuit of knowledge above partisan or purely national interests, thereby nurturing a sense of global responsibility.
In all of our efforts to put science diplomacy into practice, we must explore how the sciences can help us to identify and address many of the global challenges, such as climate change and world poverty, which we face today.
Let us also remember that solutions to these problems can only be achieved when the scientific communities of our nations share resources and knowledge, and are encouraged by their national authorities to do so, in a spirit of diplomatic collaboration and cooperation.
In scientific endeavours, as in no other field, our nations have the potential to move beyond their differences and to collaborate, thereby advancing the best interests of our peoples. For this reason, I am convinced that scientists can do so much, to address inequalities and to advance the cause of peace.
There is therefore a pressing need, for the international community to continue prioritising cooperation through the sciences, motivated by the desire to establish and enhance new relationships among our diverse societies.
Science diplomacy has the potential to positively influence national audiences in ways that public diplomacy, by more traditional means, does not. It can do so by improving, in practical and effective ways, the daily lives of countless human beings, through strategies of innovation and technological advancement.
Moreover, as displayed at this conference, science diplomacy has excellent potential to contribute to peace and scientific excellence in the Middle East, and across the world, by bringing scientists together, under one roof, to work for the common good.
This helps to build scientific and cultural bridges between different societies, encouraging transnational dialogue, especially in a challenging context.
Furthermore, science diplomacy is contributing to the stability of the region by boosting regional economic growth, and helping to prevent or even to reverse the risk of brain drain in the Middle East.
There is a tried and tested tradition of using science to mitigate conflicts and crises, to underpin policymaking, and to improve international relations in conflict areas. I am sure that we would all agree, that the universal language of science can open new channels of communication and help to build trust.
Therefore, I believe that these are exciting times for scientists who are working at the intersection of science diplomacy and peace-building. Let us continue to build synergies between scientists from the West and the East, from Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, by giving science its own prominent role in developing new and robust relationships.
I urge you to continue encouraging your respective authorities to place greater emphasis on the efforts of science diplomacy, to help and ease tensions between our different peoples, by promoting a shared culture of peace and innovation.
I also believe that there is further scope to create a framework for a more systematic use of science diplomacy in conflict management. We must find innovative ways to put scientific and technical collaborations to diplomatic use, before conflicts can have the chance to become intractable.
We must invest research into why certain collaborations have become successful peace-building initiatives, and how best to develop these success stories, and to expand their reach into new areas.
I am confident that thanks to the work of scientists, such as yourselves, we can make science diplomacy a more powerful tool in the foreign policy of our nations.
Moreover, advancing the aims of science diplomacy will also move us closer towards achieving the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs can be more effectively implemented if we harness the potential of science diplomacy.
This can be done when scientists are encouraged to offer advice on the challenges we face; to provide essential indicators for monitoring our national, regional, and global progress; and building robust interfaces between science and policy, in every country and internationally.
I urge you all to also remember the importance of our children and young people, in order to create a sustainable and long-term change in the world. We must continue to entice our children and young people to pursue the sciences, especially our girls and young women.
In this way, we shall be equipping the next generation of leaders, innovators, and decision makers, with the knowledge and skills they require, to effectively address the SDGs.
On concluding, let me say that I believe the time has never been better for us to renew our emphasis on the potential of science diplomacy. As processes of globalisation bring our communities and our societies closer together, we have much to gain from working together in a spirit of harmony and innovation.
Nearly every major issue, whether global or national in scale, features science and technology as either an underlying cause or a potential cure.
I augur that this conference will provide a context for all of you, to put science diplomacy into practice, not only as a means towards boosting the economic growth and security of your nations and regions, but also as a way of improving the standards of living, and the quality of life, of all the people who call the Middle East their home.
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to exploring the outcomes of your deliberations.