Natural Sciences


Creating knowledge and understanding through science equips us to find solutions to today’s acute economic, social and environmental challenges and to achieving sustainable development and greener societies. As no one country can achieve sustainable development alone, international scientific cooperation contributes, not only to scientific knowledge but also to building peace.

UNESCO works to assist countries to invest in science, technology and innovation (STI), to develop national science policies, to reform their science systems and to build capacity to monitor and evaluate performance through STI indicators and statistics taking into account the broad range of country-specific contexts.

Science policies are not enough. Science and engineering education at all levels and research capacity need to be built to allow countries to develop their own solutions to their specific problems and to play their part in the international scientific and technological arena.

Linking science to society, public understanding of science and the participation of citizens in science are essential to creating societies where people have the necessary knowledge to make professional, personal and political choices, and to participate in the stimulating world of discovery. Indigenous knowledge systems developed with long and close interaction with nature, complement knowledge systems based on modern science.

Science and technology empower societies and citizens but also involve ethical choices. UNESCO works with its Member States to foster informed decisions about the use of science and technology, in particular in the field of bioethics.

Water is fundamental for life and ensuring water security for communities worldwide is essential to peace and sustainable development. The scientific understanding of the water cycle, the distribution and characteristics of surface and groundwater, of urban water all contribute to the wise management of freshwater for a healthy environment and to respond to human needs.

Scientific knowledge of the earth’s history and mineral resources, knowledge of ecosystems and biodiversity, and the interaction of humans with ecosystems are important to help us understand how to manage our planet for a peaceful and sustainable future.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa operates in six priority areas that focus on:

  • Investing in science, technology and innovation;
  • Building capacity in science and engineering;
  • Water security;
  • Geology, ecosystems and biodiversity;
  • Ethics of science and technology; and
  • Science for society.

Our Vision:

The vision of ROSA’s Natural Sciences Unit is to advance prosperous Africa-led global competiveness through the use of science, technology and innovation for peace building, inclusive growth, and sustainable socio-economic transformation of the continent. 

Our Goal:

Our goal is to create an innovative society with a mind to bring about solutions to problems faced by the states and the Southern African region as a whole and strengthen policies, build capacities in science and engineering. 


  • Strengthening member states’ capacities in evidence based Science, Engineering Technology and Innovation (SETI) policy review/formulation implementation and monitoring for sustainable development;
  • Increasing human and institutional capacities in research, development and innovation to create a critical mass of both men and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for Africa’s socio-economic and industrial transformation;
  • Encouraging the participation of youth in the use and application of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) for research, innovation, socio-economic development, commercialization of research results and entrepreneurship;
  • Empowering the youth especially girls and women to take up STEM education and careers;
  • Promoting scientific and indigenous knowledge and capacity for protecting and sustainably managing the oceans and coasts;
  • Promoting the establishment and management of Biosphere Reserves and Geo-parks as laboratories for research, income generation and learning platforms for sustainable development;
  • Strengthening capacity in fresh water security to respond to national and regional challenges including knowledge generation, innovation and the development of human and institutional capacities in policy systems and improved trans-boundary cooperation; and
  • Supporting the development of tools for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and preparedness, improved early warning of natural hazards and resilience building.


To achieve its aims, the Natural Sciences Unit works in collaboration with various partners and other UNESCO units. The Unit collaborates with member states, regional and international bodies such as the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC); African Union Commission on the implementation of its STISA 2024 Strategy and; the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI) through its network with over 200 science and engineering institutions in 37 countries in Africa. Our multi-bilateral partners include the World Bank, the European Union Commission, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and other UN agencies as part of ‘delivering as one’.

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