The changing role of governments

The world's economies are undergoing a fundamental transformation to knowledge-based industries. The role of government is changing. The democratic process is making the decision-making process more complex, requiring support systems for decision-making.

Countries need to respond with policies, programmes, institutions and partnerships that maximize their economic opportunities while sustaining social fabric. Governments must re-evaluate not only where to spend their S&T resources but also how to spend them more effectively. There is also a need to focus on establishing partnerships, networks and an innovation system that enhance a country’s ability to share knowledge and information.

At the same time, the effective management of relations between society, science and technology is becoming vital to present and future development because of the growing, and sometimes contradictory, pressures of economic competitiveness and broad social demands.

Accordingly, any future programme should take into consideration the following factors:

    • governments need to shift emphasis towards becoming partners to businesses, academic institutions, other governments and voluntary organizations which stimulate S&T activity;
    • better governance of S&T entails strengthening the role of parliaments. It also requires participatory policy reviews resulting in a common set of principles and guidelines to improve the management of S&T in government departments and agencies;
    • genuine partnerships and collaborative arrangements in the innovation system are required to make sure that the overall S&T effort responds to both domestic and global challenges.

UNESCO’s reflection on the role of science in the 21st century culminated in the holding of the World Conference on Science for the 21st Century: a New Commitment (Budapest, Hungary, 26 June-1 July 1999) . The Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and the Science Agenda-Framework for Action adopted by the conference highlight the vital importance of science policy. The conference emphasized the fact that ‘regional and international networking and co-operation can facilitate the exchange of national experiences and the design of more coherent science policies.’

The link between science, society and governance has been underlined, as has the role that science plays in helping societies to achieve sustainable socio-economic development. In this process, it can be vital to form an alliance between technical science and holistic wisdom from different cultures.

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