09.07.2014 - ODG

ECOSOC High Level Segment: UNESCO Highlights the Critical Role of Science for Sustainable Development

In the margins of the High Level Segment of ECOSOC, UNESCO Ministerial Roundtable highlights the universality of science and its critical role for poverty eradication and sustainable development

The Ministerial Roundtable Breakfast on Sciences for Sustainable Development, organized by UNESCO in the context of the High Level Segment of ECOSOC and the High Level Political Forum, took place on 8 July at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The event, gathering a number of Ministers, UN Ambassadors, high-level personalities from the United Nations, governments and academia, was co-chaired by UNESCO Director General and the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa, Ms Edna Molewa. 

The Director-General highlighted that “investment in science is investment in food and water security, renewable energy, disaster risk reduction and resilience to climate change. It is about peace and prosperity for all.”

Reminding that 0.5% of the world’s researchers live in Least Developed Countries, that only 0.5 percent of GDP is devoted to R&D in Africa and less than 1/3 of the world's researchers are women, Ms Bokova called for more inclusive science with stronger links to policy and society. She welcomed the establishment of SG’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) as an important step in this direction.

H.E. Minister Molewa  praised the establishment of the SAB as an important mechanism to ensure that science is at the core of the environmental affairs and the future sustainable development goals.  She further underlined the need to use science to eradicate poverty and overcome inequalities around the world and in particular in developing countries.

In their keynote addresses, the two members of the Secretary-General Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Professor Hacker from Germany and Professor Tubiana from France, provided and overview of the first paper released by the SAB which focuses on the Crucial Role of Science for Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

In their respective presentations, they illustrated the links between science and the social, economic and environmental challenges of sustainable development. Considering the value of science in framing the sustainable development discussions, as well as its value per se, they strongly recommended anchoring science in the SDGs and the Post-2015 development agenda. They further advocated for rising the spending on research and development, with a fixed minimum percentage of the gross national product (GDP) for this purpose, including special allotments for basic research, for science education and for the promotion of science literacy.

H.E. Ms Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and the Francophonie of France argued that policy makers need scientists to keep them alert to a broad range of sustainable development challenges but also to offer solutions. While recognizing that knowledge precedes application, she called for solution oriented science, research and development.

From Croatia, H.E. Ms Vesna Batistic Kos, Assistant Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Global Issues, reminded of the importance of the regional perspective in addressing sustainable development challenges through effective networking and exchange of information on the regional level.

From the perspective of the Small Island Developing States, Ambassador Jumeau from Seychelles and Ambassador Otto from Palau both raised the fundamental role that science plays in addressing the issues related to oceans and the related blue economy, as well as its importance for the preservation of the world's natural and cultural heritage.  They highlighted the urgent need to support SIDS in developing their own STI capacity, to take into account SIDS specificities in the process of technology and knowledge transfer and to further promote STEM education and science literacy in SIDS.

After a rich debate, the Director-General concluded the event by commending the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his leadership in placing science at the heart of sustainable development, including by establishing the Scientific Advisory Board, and designating UNESCO to host its secretariat. 


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