Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for SDGs - 4th Meeting

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SIX OFFICIAL 16-May-2017 03:11:06
With technology rapidly transforming society, countries need delivery models to implement development goals, speakers say as innovation forum concludes.
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Technology was transforming people’s realities, and the benefits of those advances were evident, speakers stressed today, as the Economic and Social Council concluded its two-day Science, Technology and Innovation Forum.

“Change is here to stay,” declared Augustin Jianu, Romania’s Minister of Communications and Information Society, who went on to underscore the importance of finding a model that countries could use to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

From the use of smartphone apps to route traffic, to the use of social media by world leaders as a governing mechanism, technology was changing the world at a rapid pace, said Mr. Jianu, who added that at times, people seemed unaware of the impact and persistent nature of that change.

Given that start-ups were a key engine in powering gross domestic product (GDP) in countries that had demonstrated strong economic growth over the last two decades, funds should be distributed to such businesses in large, open, nationwide competitions, he said, highlighting that in doing so, Governments would not only be investing in businesses, but would also be able to align that investment to national priorities.

The world was in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, which was moving at a pace that was at least 10 times faster and 100 times more global than the previous industrial revolutions, said Mary Snapp, Corporate Vice-President of Microsoft Philanthropy at the Microsoft Corporation.

With that revolution, however, came concerns that individual gains would not be as great as Government and business gains, and in that context, it was imperative that no one was left behind, emphasized Ms. Snapp, adding that there would be disruption and also breakthroughs which would cause anxiety that would need to be overcome.

Underscoring how science improved livelihoods, Romain Murenzi, Director of the Division of Science, Policy and Capacity Building at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), called on countries to equip themselves with policies that built capacity and synergy and promoted public participation. In that context, it was noteworthy that women only accounted for 30 per cent of all researchers worldwide, he lamented.

An increasing number of countries were developing more formal science advisory mechanisms within their own domestic contexts, which were playing an important role in development, highlighted Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The United Nations needed to focus more on providing coherent and consistent scientific advice to States, he said, underlining that while the Scientific Advisory Board established by the Secretary-General had potential, its lasting impact was questionable.

Policymakers often ignored science at their own peril, warned Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, emphasizing that Governments not only needed to follow the laws of their countries when making policies, but to also respect the laws of nature.

Understanding the needs of stakeholders would be crucial and should not be an afterthought, she stressed, adding that her organization was a fully independent scientific advisory body to the United States Government and received all its funding from outside sources.

Throughout the day, the Forum featured five panel discussions on harnessing the potential of science, technology and innovation in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wrapping up the meeting, Economic and Social Council President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe) said that the two-day Forum had held intense discussions covering a range of issues and had collected myriad recommendations. “We have learnt much over these days,” he said. The Forum had identified ways to address broader cross-cutting issues, including on how to best leverage national science, technology and innovation plans, policies and capacity-building.

The work of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism must be more than just an annual two-day discussion forum, he stressed. It should become the yearly culmination and outcome of intersessional work, drawing on most relevant international events that focused on science, technology and innovation. The Forum would benefit from events organized by Member States to take the conversations further, he added.

Bill Colglazier, Co-Chair of Mechanism’s 10-Member Group, said it was important to find greater synergy and strengthen the science interface at the United Nations. Emphasizing the need to bolster stakeholder engagement and create business opportunities to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals, he said horizon-scanning exercises could help bring forth opportunity.

Forum Co-Chairs Vaughan Turekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the United States Secretary of State, and Macharia Kamau (Kenya) also made closing remarks. Mr. Turekian said using science, technology and innovation to impact some of the world’s most wicked problems required geometrically-driven data, while Mr. Kamau said he hoped that participants could bring together ideas in a way that would truly transform people’s lives.

Panel I

In opening the first panel of the day, titled “Lessons learned in improving the impact of science, technology and innovation on the Sustainable Development Goals — highlighting the cross-cutting nature of science, technology and innovation”, Macharia Kamau (Kenya), Co-Chair of the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, said that making Governments smarter and more fit for purpose, and policymakers more responsive and focused on outcomes, was imperative. Science, technology and innovation would be key in those endeavours.

Panel II

Focusing on “National science, innovation and technology plans and policies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, the second panel of the day was moderated by Bill Colglazier, Senior Scholar, Center for Scientific Diplomacy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and member of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism 10-Member Group. The panellists included Abdullah Lootah, Director-General, Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, United Arab Emirates; Michiharu Nakamura, Counsellor to the President, Science and Technology Agency, Japan; and Marcia McNutt, President, National Academy of Sciences, United States.

The panel began with an innovation pitch from Rebecca Firth on “Missing Maps”, which was a project that helped people in developing countries map out their communities, which otherwise did not exist on formal maps.

Panel III

Opening the next panel on “Science, innovation and technology capacity building for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, the Forum heard from Jiwon Park and Bailey Ulbricht, both winners of the Call for Innovation for the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, who presented their innovation pitches “CodePhil in the Philippines” and “Paper Airplanes”, respectively.

Moderated by Romain Murenzi, Director, Division of Science, Policy and Capacity Building, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the panel included the following three speakers: Geoffrey Boulton, President, Committee on Data for Science and Technology, International Council for Science; Bitrina Diyamett, Executive Director, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization, United Republic of Tanzania; and James Querry, Associate Professor, Philadelphia University, United States.

Panel IV

Focusing on “Emerging frontiers: evolving science, technology and innovation developments with implications for the Sustainable Development Goals”, the fourth panel was moderated by Miguel Ruíz Cabañas, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mexico. The speakers included: Xiaolan Fu, Professor of Technology and International Development, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Ellen Jorgensen, Founder of GenSpace, United States; and Jose Ramon Lopez-Portillo, Chairman of Board, Zenith Energy, and Co-Founder, Centre for Mexican Studies, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Panel V

The Forum held a final panel discussion on “Supporting the implementation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism”, moderated by Heide Hackmann, Executive Director, International Council for Science, and Co-Chair, Technology Facilitation Mechanism 10-Member Group. The panel included the following speakers: Shantanu Mukherjee, Chief, Policy Analysis Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Klaus Tilmes, Director of Trade and Competitiveness, World Bank; Nina Harjula, Co-Founder and board member of the Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and Chairman of the Board, Nordic Innovation Accelerator, Finland; and Kurt Vandenberghe, Director, Climate Action and Resource Efficiency, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission.
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