The role of Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia gathers high-level political representatives to discuss the financial contribution and support for the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. This event serves as preparation for September’s UN General Assembly, where countries will debate a universal post-2015 agenda with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are set to be implemented globally in both developed and developing countries alike.

On July 13th, the RIO+ Centre and the Brazilian Government held a side-event on the role of Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Pedro Conceição, Director of Strategic Policy in the Bureau of Policy and Programme Support of the United Nations Development Program (BPPS/UNDP) made the opening remarks, in which he stressed the importance of coming to an agreement among the Conference participants, given that what is decided in Addis Ababa will lay the foundations for the success of the post 2015 sustainable development agenda and could also set the tone for international negotiations on Climate Change scheduled to take place in Paris later this year.

Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) have been recognized as being critical to the achievement of sustainable development. Their importance first emerged at the Earth Summit (Rio, 1992) and was emphasized more recently at the Rio+20 Conference, highlighting “the relevance of access by all countries to environmentally sound technologies, new knowledge, know-how and expertise.”

To follow up on the Rio+20 call, the President of the UN General Assembly organized four workshops in 2014, the Structured Dialogues for a Technology Facilitation Mechanism, and appointed Switzerland and Brazil as co-moderators to facilitate discussions and help orient the way forward.

The Addis Ababa Accord zero draft builds on the recommendations of the Structured Dialogues and supports three main aspects of technology policy: domestic development of national science, technology and innovation strategies; international collaboration relating to financial and technology facilitation to complement national efforts; and options to address financing gaps in innovation.

Mr. Conceição explained that while a process is in place to explore how to adequately integrate science, technology and innovation into the SDG agenda in a way that is responsive to the needs of developing countries, there has yet to be an agreement on the establishment of a global mechanism for technology facilitation and what it would do.

Moreover, notwithstanding the recognition of the centrality of STI for sustainable development, current flows of technology transfer fall short in meeting the needs of developing countries. While STI can catalyze sustainable economic growth, in order to meet the transformational potential of the SDGs, significant progress will be needed in technology development, transfer and dissemination at the international level.

Contrary to the MDG agenda, which focused on what the North could do for the South, the agenda now has a universal approach. Equity is at the core of the new development agenda as well as the UN Climate Convention, and Member States and Parties have the responsibility to uphold this tenet.

In this sense, technology facilitation is not only about acquiring technology but also about investing in developing countries to enable them to design, produce and implement their own science, technologies and innovations for sustainable development with the possibility of South-South and North-South cooperation.  STI should be fully integrated into international and national sustainable development strategies and accompanied by a framework of investments stemming from both the public and private sector.

Technology and science have enormous potential to catalyze change, but need to be applied responsibly with the interest of the public good in mind. The push to increase technology development and funding needs to be accompanied with an increase in transparency and accountability to understand who benefits from any possible change.  Without adequate accountability and transparency, there is a risk of leaving the power in the hands of those who have the information which tend to be developed countries and their investors, rather than the intended beneficiaries.

Mr. Conceição suggested that an eventual technology facilitation mechanism within the UN could identify, disseminate and scale-up existing initiatives – emerging from citizens, communities, the public and private sector – and contribute to the implementation of the SDGs. This would imply including potential contributions from universities, research institutes, civil society organizations, cooperatives, private companies, philanthropists and investors.

He explained that a technology facilitation mechanism could also benefit from the dissemination and development of technologies from the UN.  He made clear that investment in STI will require both domestic resource mobilization as well as investments from international public funds directed at research and development that extends beyond the commercial arena, to comprise a global public good for a more sustainable future.

As a final remark, he noted that the UN development system will be a key partner in implementation of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and stressed that the UNDP’s commitment to sustainable development has never been stronger. The UNDP will support its partners at the national and international level to devise country-led development strategies and identify the most appropriate financing strategies for those efforts.

One Comment on “The role of Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development

  1. Pingback: Countdown day 9 – SDG 9: Industry, Infrastructure and Innovation | Rio+ Centre

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