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Civil society not happy with science commission

Civil society organizations have once again expressed reservations with government’s decision to establish the National Commission on Science Research and Technology despite the unresolved “fundamental flaws” contained in the legislation establishing the commission.
Since 2011 civil society organizations working under the auspices of the NANGOF Trust have been calling for the reversal of the research regulations that established the National Commission on Science Research and Technology (NCSRT) because of the “many unconstitutional” provisions contained in the legislation and the regulations.
The NCRST is a State-Owned Enterprise established in terms of the Research, Science and Technology Act, 2004 (Act no. 23 of 2004) tasked with the promotion, coordination and development of research, science, technology and innovation in the country.

While the intentions of the Research, Science and Technology Act have been considered noble, and include the intention to promote and develop research, science and technology, encourage innovative and independent thinking, analysts say the implementation of the law will, however, not only seriously undermine academic freedom, but also constitute a clear and present danger to Namibian democracy and open society in general.
Last week, the Legal Assistance Centre, the Institute for Public Policy Research and other civil society groups said they note with concern that the NCSRT is proceeding to develop national programmes and funding mechanisms – that will begin to set out priorities research areas for Namibia – on the basis of such fundamentally defective legislation.
“We are issuing this statement to re-emphasise our initial concerns – that these regulations place unacceptable restrictions on academic freedom enshrined in the Namibian Constitution, limit creative thinking, create uncertainty around research carried out by NGOs, researchers, and institutions of higher learning, and introduce far-reaching restrictions. These concerns have thus far not been addressed either by the Ministry of Education or the NCRST,” a joint statement from civil society said.
“We have written on multiple occasions to the Minister of Education and even had a meeting with the Minister and his advisors on research. However, the most fundamental issues with regard to the law and the research regulations still remain unresolved. The Minister promised in May 2013 to get back to us after consulting with his advisors but has not kept that promise.”
Civil society urged the Education Ministry to withdraw the regulations and to institute a new consultation process that will help create an environment where quality research is encouraged and incentivized. “Until civil society’s fundamental objections to the research law and regulations are addressed we cannot see the point of being drawn into ongoing efforts to legitimize the NCRST and its programmes since they are built on foundations that are blatantly unconstitutional.
“We therefore call on all concerned NGOs and civil society actors in Namibia to avoid being drawn into the fundamentally flawed process of developing NCRST programmes and attending NCRST events when the profound concerns about the law and regulations have not been addressed.”

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