Ministerial breakfast stresses importance of STI for global sustainability

© Magali Devrin, Prof. Leemans speaking at the ministerial breakfast on 3 July

Ministers and high-level personalities from the United Nations, governments and academia attending an early morning roundtable in Geneva (Switzerland) have reasserted that science, technology and innovation (STI) are drivers of sustainable development and pillars for the post-2015 development agenda.


 The ministerial breakfast took place on 3 July, during the High-Level Segment of this year’s Substantive Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The breakfast was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the International Social Science Council and chaired by UNESCO Assistant-Director-General for Natural Sciences Gretchen Kalonji. She stressed the importance of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability that incorporated knowledge from all the sciences (natural, social, engineering, agricultural, medical, environmental…) to address development goals.

The general sentiment of the 40-plus participants in the ministerial breakfast was that STI facilitated the future we want for all. Science diplomacy and south–south collaboration were identified as mechanisms that could be used to strengthen the interface between science and policy, while advancing science.

Maria Cândida Teixeira, Minister of Science Technology of Angola, described how international collaboration in science contributed to global sustainability if it was a mutually beneficial process, as in the case of Angola and its partners, such as Brazil and Portugal.

Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, underscored how STI could improve the economic growth of least developed countries (LDCs) and lessen their socio-economic inequalities by improving their productive capacity. He identified the transfer of affordable, environmentally friendly and cultural relevant technology as one tangible way in which STI could change economic growth models. The Minister called for innovative financing mechanisms to support the transfer of modern technologies to LDCs.

In taking the floor, Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Vice-President of ECOSOC, referred to the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to the General Assembly for the establishment of a technology facilitation mechanism for LDCs. The proposed technology bank for LDCs was a tangible way in which technology transfer could facilitate sustainable development in LDCs, he said.

Amina J. Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development, stressed the importance of the post-2015 agenda being an ‘owned process’, so that, when it came time for implementation, it would be ‘our agenda’. She also highlighted the fact that global partnerships were a major pillar in ensuring the seamless integration of STI into the development agenda. Ms Mohammed pointed out that UNESCO’s STI policy programme provided an integrated framework for science policy governance.

The keynote address was given by Prof. Rik Leemans, Head of the Environmental Systems Analysis group of Wageningen University. He spoke of the major scientific challenges in the Anthropcene and the role of international collaboration. He cited some of the main challenges currently facing the planet, such as population pressure, climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and renewable energy concerns. He stated that each member of society had a role to play in addressing these challenges, as society as a whole faced these challenges.

Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), focused on the importance of information on climate for forecasting and calculating risks and liabilities. Mr Jarraud said that information on climate could inform policy processes concerning food security, agriculture and disaster preparedness. He stressed the key role international collaboration played in facilitating the sharing of data and information and mentioned WMO’s longstanding partnership with UNESCO.

In his remarks, Néstor Osorio, 60th President of ECOSOC, acknowledged the important role UNESCO played during the preparations for high-level segment of this year’s Substantive Session, through its involvement in coordinating preparation of the report of the UN Secretary-General on Science, technology and innovation (STI), and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the MDGs. He also acknowledged UNESCO’s role in preparing the ECOSOC 2013 Youth Forum, e-discussions and Partnerships Forum.

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