02.07.2014 - Natural Sciences Sector

Globally distributed secretariat for Future Earth

© D. Seidel, DKN Future Earth Secretariat The Future Earth Initial Design Report sets out a framework for the functions of the Secretariat, which will act as 'a hub to synthesise input from all components of Future Earth'.

Future Earth, a UNESCO-sponsored initiative that aims to provide the knowledge required to address risks posed by global environmental change through international scientific collaboration, will be coordinated by a new secretariat with a unique and innovative structure that spans three continents. Future Earth will mobilize thousands of scientists and local and indigenous knowledge holders, working closely with the private sector, civil society and governments to provide early warning signals of environmental risk and change, and stimulate new research to support the transition of societies towards sustainability.

No nation can face the challenges posed by the impacts of global change alone: these threats are global and interconnected, as are the sustainable solutions we need. When research is placed at the service of society, designed to meet the needs of policy makers, and results are shared widely and freely, scientific cooperation becomes a driving force for peace and sustainability. Together, we must answer fundamental questions about how and why the global environment is changing, what are likely future changes, what the implications are for the wellbeing of humans and other species, what choices can be made to enhance resilience, create positive futures, and to reduce harmful risks and vulnerabilities, and how this knowledge can support decisions and sustainable development. 

The purpose of Future Earth is to provide these answers by bringing together many disciplines and knowledge systems, to build a science and innovation platform that is also global and interconnected. It will focus on the impacts of global change on the climate system, food and water security, changes in human settlements in urban and peri-urban areas, institutions and governance. 

The permanent secretariat that will support this ambitious, cutting edge platform is comprised of five global hubs that will function as a single entity, located in Canada (Montreal), France (Paris), Japan (Tokyo), Sweden (Stockholm) and the United States (Colorado). To ensure the inclusion of every region and country and the active participation of developing countries, they will be complemented by regional hubs in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa; discussions to develop an African hub are underway. Over 20 expressions of interest were received for the Future Earth secretariat. Following a two-day bidders' conference hosted in Paris, consolidated final bids were reviewed on the basis of their vision, capability, organizational model and management plan and funding. The official announcement was made on 2 July 2014. The preferred proposal is expected to be refined and finalized by September 2014.  

I am delighted that we are now in a position to establish a permanent secretariat for Future Earth, which will facilitate its full implementation”, said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. “I am particularly satisfied with its excellent geographic representation, which is underpinned by a truly decentralized secretariat. UNESCO looks forward to continuing to support Future Earth and to working with its permanent secretariat, including by helping to connect its various hubs and nodes with UNESCO’s specialized networks and centres throughout the world”. Future Earth and developments related to its permanent secretariat is in line with UNESCO’s work in international science cooperation and in building bridges between different disciplines, knowledge systems and constituencies. 

Future Earth was jointly established and scientifically sponsored by a Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability that includes the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations University (UNU), with the support of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

About the preferred bidder
The preferred bidder is the winning consortium from a competitive process to select a secretariat for Future Earth.  The consortium is currently working with members of the Alliance to refine aspects of their proposal and this work is expected to be completed by September 2014.

The preferred bidder is an international consortium of several lead organisations: Montreal International (Montreal, Canada), the Ministry of Higher Education and Research(Paris, France), the Science Council of Japan (Tokyo, Japan), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Stockholm, Sweden), and in Colorado, USA, the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Colorado State University (Fort Collins).

These organisations are complemented by regional hubs co-ordinated by: the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (for Latin America), the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (for Asia), the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (for Europe) and The Cyprus Institute (for the Middle East and North Africa).  Discussions to develop an African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.

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