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Future Earth to get globally distributed secretariat

Future Earth, the new international programme for global sustainability which brings together thousands of the world’s leading researchers on global environmental change, will have a new secretariat with a unique and innovative structure that spans three continents.

The announcement came today from the International Council for Science, on behalf of the members of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability (the Alliance).

The preferred bidder comprises five global hubs which will function as a single entity, and are located in Canada (Montreal), France (Paris), Japan (Tokyo), Sweden (Stockholm) and the United States (Colorado).

Yuan-Tseh Lee, President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) said: “Solutions to the major sustainability challenges facing humanity require integrated science and a closer relationship with policy makers and stakeholders than we have seen to date.  Future Earth has been designed to respond to these urgent needs, and I am impressed by the innovative consortium that has come together to drive the programme forward. The consortium will work with tens of thousands of scientists already engaged in excellent global environmental change research, attract new communities, and build new partnerships to achieve the goals of global sustainability

Over 20 expressions of interest were received for the Future Earth secretariat. Following a two-day bidder’s conference hosted in Paris, consolidated final bids were reviewed on the basis of their vision, capability, organisational model and management plan and funding.

Irina Bokova, Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said: “I am delighted that we are now in a position to establish a permanent secretariat for Future Earth, which will facilitate its full implementation. I am particularly satisfied with its excellent geographic representation, which is underpinned by a truly decentralized secretariat. UNESCO looks forward to continuing to support Future Earth and to working with its permanent secretariat, including by helping to connect its various hubs and nodes with UNESCO’s specialized networks and centres throughout the world”.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP said: “I welcome the establishment of a globally distributed permanent secretariat for the Future Earth research initiative. UNEP and its regional offices are looking forward to continued collaboration with the secretariat and its regional centres across the science policy agenda.  Future Earth constitutes a strong asset to the world community of science as well as to support UNEP’s mandate to bring the latest findings from science into the policy agenda in order to keep the global environment under review. Global and regional assessments and engaging with communities of practice are central to building the new process for our Global Environmental outlook, GEO, developing IPBES, contributing to the IPCC and the work of the Global Environment Facility, GEF.

World Meteorological Organization Secretary General, Michel Jarraud, welcomed the decision to establish the globally distributed permanent secretariat for the Future Earth programme. “Distributing the Secretariat among different regions will strengthen the ability of Future Earth to build bridges between communities of researchers and stakeholders worldwide.  WMO looks forward to continued strong engagement with the World Climate Research Programme, the WMO-led Global Framework for Climate Services and other strategic partnerships, so that Future Earth can gain access to some of the best available research for addressing the most pressing needs of society.

The preferred bid includes a series of regional hubs, from which it is expected new regional networks will develop. These cover Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Asia. Discussions to develop an African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.  To assist researchers internationally, the Secretariat will support five core functions: coordination, communication and outreach, research enabling, capacity building, synthesis and foresight.

This is an innovative model for traditional academic approaches to research and engagement, but one increasingly adopted throughout the private sector, because a globalized world demands innovative and collaborative approaches. We believe a globally distributed leadership model will serve the international community best in advancing new knowledge and novel approaches to solve humanity’s most pressing global sustainability challenges” said the international consortium, in a joint statement.

The preferred bidder consortium is currently working with the Alliance to refine details of their proposal ahead of agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding.  Members of the consortium are also in discussion with the Future Earth Interim Secretariat and the Science and Engagement Committees in order to plan a smooth transition with a view to becoming operational by the end of 2014.

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