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Updated On: Sunday, 19 August 2018
Development Issues

Panellists Discuss How Best to Achieve 2030 Agenda, as Economic and Social Council Concludes Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, Innovation

Content by: UN General Assembly

The Economic and Social Council today heard from a myriad of voices on how best to work towards achieving progress on the 2030 Agenda, as it concluded its two-day multi‑stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Council President Marie Chatardová (Czechia), delivering closing remarks, highlighted some of the recommendations made by a range of participating stakeholders including on identifying broader cross-cutting topics and on how they could support the forum in delivering on its mandate.

From discussing efforts helping to maintain biodiversity to moving towards a circular economy, the forum had worked on initiatives to address a range of issues, she continued.  Among them were progress made in operationalizing an online platform, taking concrete measures towards drafting road maps and capacity-building strategies and dealing with accelerated technological change.  She said that she anticipated further results in the areas that had been discussed.

The forum began its final day with three panels ranging in topic from national science, technology and innovation road maps to the full potential of local and indigenous knowledge, as well as supporting the implementation of the Technology Facility Mechanism.

In the afternoon, three sessions were held, including on science, technology and innovation for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (Sustainable Development Goal 7); science, technology and innovation for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements (Sustainable Development Goal 11); and “Conclusions and next steps”.  Prior to each panel, winners of the Call for Innovations presented their ideas.

Discussing national road maps, a panellist from Jamaica called on the United Nations to help mainstream science, technology and innovation into national road maps.  Strengthening international cooperation was essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.  “We depend on your expertise,” she told the forum, adding that no one country could do it alone.

In the discussion on indigenous voices, a panellist described her work with the female-run cooperative Milpa Maguey Tierno de la Mujer in Mexico.  She said the women were working to make the most of scarce resources, outlining how indigenous knowledge was being used alongside various innovative tools and processes.  For instance, solar panels and water use management had been introduced to the cooperative, which continued to innovate itself to remain operating.

Another panellist said that new inventions were the first step along the long journey from the lab to the last mile.  It was much harder to take an invention and use it at large scale than to invent it in the first place.  Hence, it was important to focus on the subsequent steps that followed the initial invention.

Session VI

The forum held a session on “National science, technology and innovation road maps for the Sustainable Development Goals and capacity-building”, featuring the following panellists:  Patricia Appiagyei, Deputy Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of Ghana; Teruo Kishi, Science and Technology Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; Aisha Jones, Director of Research at the National Commission on Science and Technology of Jamaica; and Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda of the Wold Bank Group.  The panel was moderated by William Colglazier, Visiting Scientist at the Center for Science Diplomacy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ms. APPIAGYEI said technology must drive the implementation of all national policies, plans and programmes.  In Ghana, significant investments were being made in research to ensure that it focused on finding solutions to national concerns while contributing to global efforts.  Four main strategies had been adopted to support national programmes aimed at achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa 2063.  Ghana was currently reviewing its national policy to ensure that it addressed the application of science, technology and innovation.  The private sector and academia were at the centre of such efforts.  To ensure that research was turned into industrial application, Ghana focused on various innovative methods to support industry.  In the area of capacity-building, Ghana was incentivizing firms and companies to support science and technology programmes.  Ghana also focused on boosting female participation in the science, technology and innovation fields, she added.

Mr. KISHI said science, technology and innovation clearly contributed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Data science could provide solutions to challenges such as energy shortages and natural disasters.  At the same time, data gaps between those who had access to information and those who lacked it remained a concern.  “We have to concentrate our wisdom and knowledge in order to be structured,” he said, emphasizing the need to coordinate multi-stakeholders to overcome difficult challenges.  A road map could help unify various actors, open new frontiers in science and help understand the current challenges facing national policies.  It was important that such road maps be customized.  Developing such a map was a tough job, he added, noting the ways Japan’s Government was working to shape a multi-stakeholder approach.  He shared several recommendations for the future, including linking across sectors and fostering human resources for the 2030 Agenda.

Ms. JONES said the Caribbean and the subregion on which Jamaica sits were comprised of 28 independent countries.  What the people of the Caribbean and the world cherished most about the region could be “obliterated” in one instance.  That possibility had forced the region to focus on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which was 90 per cent aligned with Jamaica’s national plan.  She called on the United Nations to mainstream science, technology and innovation into national road maps.  Strengthening international cooperation was essential.  “We depend on your expertise,” she told the forum, adding that no one country could do it alone.  Dissolving silos and focusing on areas of comparative advantage was essential.  Jamaica would remain engaged at the international level to develop a national or regional science, technology and innovation road map to help achieve a sustainable world by 2030 and beyond.

Mr. MOHIELDIN said that in a fast-evolving science, technology and innovation ecosystem, developing countries were looking for partnerships to harness technology in support of the 2030 Agenda.  Science, technology and innovation could not be treated as a sector in isolation.  Countries must be examined on an individual basis to fill critical gaps, mobilize and catalyse resources, and clarify division of labour.  Private-public partnerships were essential to develop the foundational building blocks for sustainable economies, expand the capacity of people and institutions, and harness disruptive data and technology.  Focusing on Africa, he said that for a successful and inclusive digital economy, the continent must build the foundational elements which would drive high-impact cases.  Emphasizing the importance of partnerships, he noted the opportunities of challenging and mobilizing public funding and catalysing private investments by shaping common objectives.  Boosting human capital should aim to help countries improve their education, health and social protection systems.

In the ensuing discussion, the Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Science of Georgia said that higher education and science were intrinsically linked.  He stressed the importance of international collaboration and institutional support for science, technology and innovation projects.

Chile’s representative said bringing together technological and scientific knowledge had been a challenge, noting various programmes and institutions aiming to provide services to citizens.  While progress had been made, numerous challenges remained, she continued, emphasizing that her Government would focus on Chile’s various science and technological tools.

A representative of the private sector said that every country must adopt a flexible road map which should adapt with progress.  There were many sustainable development targets to be achieved and that required each road map to have a vision of meeting the 2030 Agenda.

A representative of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and a member of academia also participated in the discussion.

Session VII

The next session held by the forum was on “Realizing the full potential of local and indigenous knowledge, and home-grown innovations for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.  The session was moderated by Paulo Gadelha, Coordinator of the FIOCRUZ Strategy for the 2030 Agenda at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil, and Myrna Cunningham, President of the Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples.  The panel included the following speakers:  Minnie Degawan, Director of the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program at Conservation International, Washington, D.C.; Joel Heath, Executive Director of the Arctic Eider Society, Canada; Mulubrhan Gebremikael, postdoctoral fellow at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), China; and Joselin Soto, representative of Milpa Maguey Tierno de la Mujer Sss, Mexico.

Ms. DEGAWAN said there were many misconceptions on the meaning of traditional knowledge.  For indigenous people, traditional knowledge had sustained them for many years.  “Our traditional knowledge is acquired through interactions with the land,” she added, emphasizing that such knowledge aimed to ensure the survival of indigenous peoples.  That knowledge, however, was often met with scepticism and ignored by policymakers, scientists and academics.  It was also being appropriated.  Many indigenous peoples’ land was not being recognized as their own.  There must be recognition of the validity of the knowledge system by promoting joint-learning.  “We are ready to learn and share,” she said, challenging the forum to include more indigenous voices.  Traditional knowledge must be viewed as a specific system, “not lower, not higher than Western knowledge”.

Mr. HEATH said the Arctic Eider Society focused on three main pillars:  research, education and stewardship.  It had created a platform bringing together social media, social mapping and other technology.  “This is a way to bring together culturally relevant tools,” he added.  The Society was using satellite imagery and products to see through clouds and ice.  Such products must be made available to different communities at low bandwidth.  The Society had also centralized various tools and services on its platforms.  It was now possible to document and tag wildlife as well as classify different ice and snow.  It was a direct way to link together knowledge systems.  The data that had always been there, but now it could be used to mobilize the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. GEBREMIKAEL said that for local indigenous groups data was being communicated through efficient tools and analysis to guide community livelihood decisions.  He used an example of a community in which every individual had a responsibility to collect weather information and data.  That information was then analysed and used by communities to make informed decisions.  For example, if the community concluded that a drought was coming, each household would then be asked to sacrifice a calf to ensure that there was enough milk for everyone in the community.  He emphasized that traditional and indigenous knowledge helped pastoralists make important livelihood decisions.

Ms. SOTO said the Milpa Maguey Tierno de la Mujer was a women-run cooperative seeking productive ways to make the most out of scarce resources.  Harvesting was seasonal and not always successful.  She said that knowledge of various plants was essential to the work of the cooperative.  She also outlined how indigenous knowledge was being used alongside various innovative tools and processes.  Solar panels and water use management had been introduced to the cooperative, which continued to innovate itself to remain relevant and operating.  That was critical as many people relied on the region’s plants as their food source.  The cooperative system was based on indigenous knowledge of the agave plant.  She emphasized that such knowledge was a dynamic system that could help improve living conditions of all people.

A representative of civil society from El Salvador said it was essential to examine how history had changed the entire region.  Traditional knowledge was simple.  It was wisdom and science.  It helped people carry on with their lives despite the many coup d’états, mass migration, and drug epidemics.

Thailand’s representative said that local communities had the traditional knowledge, resources and expertise to offer solutions to local problems.  Hence, stronger support to local communities was essential.

A representative of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that communities around the world were using their own knowledge systems.  Outlining various programmes, she noted her agency’s work in bringing together key networks and partners.

Session VIII

A session on “Supporting the implementation of the Technology Facility Mechanism — the way forward for joint action”, moderated by Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, included panellists Alfred Watkins, Chair of the Global Solutions Summit, United States; Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, Austria; Veerle Vandeweerd, Policy Director with the Global Sustainable Technology and Innovation Conference; and Rafat Al-Akhali, Head of the Secretariat of Pathways for Prosperity: Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development, United Kingdom.

Mr. WATKINS said it was important to consider who was partnering with whom, also asking:  “Why aren’t we making more progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?”  New inventions were the first essential step along the long journey from the lab to the last mile.  It was much harder to take an invention and use it at large scale than to invent it in the first place.  Hence, it was important to focus on the subsequent steps that followed the initial invention.  New technology had made small scale solutions possible.  “You have all these different people out there and they are uncoordinated,” he added, stressing that a coherent and organized system was essential.  He also said it was important to examine various roles, including that of the United Nations, private sector, national Governments, academia and civil society.

Ms. DI PIPPO said that the world was increasingly relying on space science and technology.  Space technology was tackling deforestation and measuring and mitigating climate change.  Put simply, space had become fundamental to policymaking.  Space science and technology must be integrated towards the global efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.  Space science could be used to build catalogues to help for better planning.  More must be done to utilize and expand the understanding of space activities.  The policy challenges would not be easy to overcome.  The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs remained eager to insert its expertise and knowledge into the conversation.

Ms. VANDEWEERD said it was important to make a bridge between the technology and policymakers at the global, regional and national levels and that achieving the 2030 Agenda would require new technologies.  Very often speakers talked about technology transfer, without a good overview of existing technologies that could help achieve sustainable development.  “If we are serious about achieving the 2030 Agenda, we need to be very practical,” she said.  Technology and the need for technology transfer were not discussed enough at the United Nations.  With 2030 not far off, it was essential to ask what could be done to harness technology and innovation.  Working across sectors was critical, she said, outlining how various ministries must work together to achieve just one target.  Moreover, involving the private sector required making assessments that were relevant to them.

Mr. AL-AKHALI said for the most part people were confident and comfortable with the uses of technology but there was a rising level of uncertainty about where humanity was heading with robotics and automation.  He said his organization was focusing on developing countries, with its 3-person Commission concentrating on policymakers and the private sector.  It also focused on avoiding the silos approach seen so far.  It focused on inclusive economic growth, a balance of trade-offs at the national and international level, and a system-wide approach in education and health.  Its aim was to make a contribution of academic rigor while remaining connected to the needs on the ground.

A representative of United Nations University said making a significant impact on the 2030 Agenda would require collaboration between all stakeholders, including between the United Nations, private sector and academia.

Mexico’s delegate said that two days of discussions were not enough, recalling that the forum was created for various purposes.  She also said that the online platform must receive multi-stakeholder support.

The representative of Guatemala also participated in the discussion as did a member of civil society.

Session IX

In the afternoon, the forum held a session on “Science, technology and innovation for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (Sustainable Development Goal 7)”.  Moderated by Agnes Kijazi, Director General, Tanzania Meteorological Agency, in the United Republic of Tanzania, the panel included the following speakers:  Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director General and Deputy Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Applied System Analysis; Jim Watson, Director of the United Kingdom Energy Research Centre and Professor at the University of Sussex; Daniel Cardinali, Business Development Manager at Novozymes in Brazil; and Jack Metthey, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission.

Prior to the presentations, winners of the Call for Innovations presented their ideas.

BEN JEFFREYS presented ATEC Biodigesters International, which provided services that promoted job creation surrounding a plug-and-play system.  Projects were ongoing in Cambodia and ATEC was ready to expand to make a significant impact on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

KENETH NDUA made a presentation on Jiko Raha, which provided cooking stoves that also created safe drinking water.  Ready to scale up services, Jiko Raha was already benefiting users in Kenya.

DANA BUCHBINDER presented Education for Sharing, which focused on fostering science learning for children and teachers.  Such programmes would prepare them for the future and were already reaching participants in several countries.

Ms. KIJAZI introduced the panellists, saying that they would discuss ways to address needs, including the many communities that lacked both electricity and the knowledge required for sustainable energy supplies.

Mr. NAKICENOVIC said that while access to renewable energy was progressing, much remained to be done to expand services to reach those targeted by the Sustainable Development Goals.  Making several suggestions, he said integrating policy approaches could tackle air pollution, energy security and climate change challenges, lowering costs while fostering achievements of relevant Sustainable Development Goals.  Convergence of information and communications technologies could also promote gains, as could be seen with broadly available mobile phones.  However, not everyone had access to such devices nor to the electricity needed to recharge them.  Still, it would be effective to approach all 17 Goals through concerted actions.

Mr. WATSON presented a synopsis of a paper presented at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Noting that fossil fuels still played a big role in some developing countries, he said renewable energy made up only about 14 per cent of all sources.  In some countries, renewable energy comprised 80 per cent, as in Kenya, but much of that was biomass-related.  Ambitious gains projected renewable energy percentages climbing to almost 30 per cent.  In that regard, most investments today targeted renewable energy technology versus fossil fuels.  Yet, a systemic approach was needed, with support for research and mechanisms to ensure technologies reached those who needed it.  Suggesting a number of integrated approaches, he recommended support for renewable energy research and development complemented by policies that phased out fossil fuels.

Mr. CARDINALI said there was a range of products available now, but efforts were needed to bring those innovations to users with a view to creating sustainable solutions.  Efforts could target communities in need to help them to choose a tailored, reliable solution.  In addition to technologies, holistic policies could pave the way towards progress on development objectives.  Commercially available technology should and must be used, including such innovations as ethanol-fuelled vehicles, until technologically advanced products like electric cars became more readily affordable and available.  In that vein, policies were already in place to reward efficiency and productivity gains for ethanol use, with results including the establishment of a framework that incentivized the deployment and use of sustainable resources.

Mr. METTHEY agreed that a systemic approach worked, as could be seen in mechanisms aimed at addressing goals related to the Paris Agreement on climate change.  In addressing air pollution, the European Union had deployed a framework to align members’ policies and actions, using a road map to accelerate clean energy use.  Providing a snapshot of several projects, he said focus areas included promoting clean energy use and advancing research and development on new ways to do so.  For instance, a contest was now challenging entrants to find innovative ways to partner with a view to advancing achievements in a range of sectors, including broadening access to clean water.  In closing, he recommended setting a price for carbon, supporting innovations and promoting technological advances.

In the ensuing discussion, participants raised concerns and offered suggestions to promote sustainable development.

The representative of Japan said a road map should be made for each target for each country to most effectively achieve progress.

A representative of the major group for children and youth said innovations must be supported with a view to increasing the share of renewable energy while considering young people’s role.  Nexus models should also be supported, with efforts targeting related Goals, such as food security and access to water.

The representative of Colombia said that while resources were available, they were being distributed inefficiently.  A general framework, with regulations and coordination, must address such complex challenges.  Isolated efforts were an approach of the past, as integrated initiatives would help advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of South Africa said his country had invested in electricity and energy projects, resulting in coverage rising to 94 per cent today from 60 per cent in 1995.

Session X

The forum held a session on “Science, technology and innovation for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements (Sustainable Development Goal 11)”, moderated by Vaughan Turekian, Senior Director at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  It featured the following panellists:  María Victoria Sukenik, Adviser to the ICT Ministry at SeTIC in Argentina, Chair of the ITU Study Group 5 on Environment and circular economy and Vice-Chair of the United for Smart Sustainable Cities; Yunus Arikan, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy at ICLEI; Kamal Bhattacharya, Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom Innovation Hub in Kenya; and David Edwards, Professor at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University.

Prior to the discussion, two winners of the Call for Innovations for the forum made presentations on their entries.

PATRICIA ALATA presented Ocupa Tu Calle, which targeted poor urban communities by improving public spaces through small public-private investments.  A tool box was being developed so others could implement such projects, which improved the quality of life.

SANTOSH POUDEL discussed the City Based Common Hospital Waste Treatment Facility, which provided hazardous waste management solutions in Nepal.  Through innovations, local government offices were working with eco-friendly management and waste treatment methods to make further gains.  The public-private partnership was already making inroads on six Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. TUREKIAN noted that as urban populations were growing, action was already taking place on related issues.

Ms. SUKENIK said policy decisions should aim at making cities more sustainable.  Describing an initiative she was involved with in Argentina, she said the “smart cities” project aimed at developing new, effective policies.  Involving 16 agencies, the project had already drafted a series of recommendations to build sustainable cities, including financing for transitional steps.  Underlining the importance of involving cities in those processes, she said commissions in various sectors were also involved to ensure a coordinated approach and concrete results.

Mr. ARIKAN said cities were innovation hubs and seizing the opportunity to enhance the quality of life in the urban world would have a broader impact, spilling over into other Sustainable Development Goals beyond Goal 11.  Responding to climate change concerns, innovations could be city-centred whereby change would be triggered if a city’s mayor began cycling to work, a city council prohibited cars from an urban centre or if all cities banned diesel vehicles.  For its part, his organization had been contributing to sustainable development projects with more than 1,500 partners in towns and villages around the world.

Mr. BHATTACHARYA said that as a private-sector company, Safaricom had examined smart city issues, including infrastructure development.  However, concrete gains had not yet taken hold in even the most advanced cities.  The first wave of smart cities had experienced marginal success, providing inspiration to tailor future approaches.  Pointing out areas that required further investigation, he said key messages included that data had been revolutionized and the physical infrastructure must be addressed.  In turn, a gap much be bridged to enable the use of data in new ways and to harness emerging technologies to enhance further developments.  For instance, the open data system model had not been completely successful, so new models should be developed, he said, adding that local governments were the key actors.

Mr. EDWARDS said disease, depression and other concerns were by-products of poor urban conditions.  Public health initiatives in urban settings must address those and related concerns with a view to changing the sensory design landscape.  In smart cities, sensory design and their delivery systems should promote wellness.  To adapt to a denser population, any technology that was introduced to address a range of concerns — from high noise levels to air pollution — must be safe and protect the privacy of individuals.  Future wellness depended on governing the exchange between managing the development of policies and technologies, he said, pointing at the opioid crisis as an example of how a coordinated approach could address a public health issue.

In the ensuing discussion, several representatives of civil society made recommendations, with one asking Governments to make policy changes that provided a social safety net to give people a choice of living inside or outside cities.  He pointed out that the use of data in informed decision-making in city Governments was a key tool, but algorithms should be transparent and open to criticism to ensure effective results.

A representative of civil society said science, research and technology could foster system-based solutions, emphasizing that local engagement was key in turning global ambitions into transformative progress on the ground.

A representative of civil society, providing an example of incentives for smart cities, said that the Government of Japan had awarded several cities for their sustainable development gains.

A representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), offering a summary of its contributions, said a technical cooperation programme was supporting Member States in their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in cities.

Session XI

The forum held its final session on “Conclusions and next steps”, with co-chairs Toshiya Hoshino (Japan) and Juan Sandoval-Mendiolea (Mexico) leading an interactive dialogue with the 10‑Member Group to support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism.

Prior to that dialogue, a winner of the Call for Innovations presented their idea.

CHRISTOPHER FABIAN, Principal Adviser in the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Innovation, made a presentation on the Organization’s Innovation Network.  The informal group was now examining how the United Nations could use the innovations for a range of activities.  Providing several examples, he explained that the United Nations was partnering with the private sector to use drones to deliver vaccines and was using data to analyse where diseases and viruses, such as Zika and Ebola, were moving in real time.

In an ensuing interactive dialogue, participants offered a range of suggestions, with a representative of civil society recommending further regional efforts to address some of the topics discussed.

A representative of the World Bank suggested exploring whether there were ways to integrate science, technology and innovations financing into Sustainable Development Goals plans.  Interested parties could also cooperate to strengthen intersessional work to exchange action, progress and learning.  However, to do so, resources were needed.

A representative of civil society reminded the forum that the major groups had sent a letter noting the absence of representation of civil society on the panel sessions.  However, she expressed appreciation about the broad range of issues the forum had addressed.

Mr. SANDOVAL-MENDIOLEA said science and technology must ensure development reached people.  Thanking participants for their fruitful discussion, he ensured participants that the forum would aim to improve in the next annual meeting.

Mr. HOSHINO agreed that there was room for improvement.  Summarizing the session, he said many recommendations had touched on critical areas.

Also participating in the discussion were the representative of Mexico and speakers representing civil society.

Closing

MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, delivering closing remarks, highlighted some of the recommendations made by a range of participating stakeholders.  Recommendations had also been made on identifying broader cross-cutting topics, including how stakeholders could support the forum in delivering on its mandate.  From discussing efforts helping to maintain biodiversity to moving towards a circular economy, the forum had also worked on remarkable initiatives to address a range of issues on how to work towards advancing progress.  Among them were progress made in operationalizing an online platform, taking concrete measures towards drafting road maps and capacity-building strategies and dealing with accelerated technological change.  Expressing her appreciation for the forum’s engagement with other regional, international and thematic meetings and the opportunity to cross-fertilize across them, she said she anticipated further results in the areas that had been discussed.

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