Harnessing Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development (2005)

Summary

In this report, we present the Advisory Group’s views on the fundamental principles that should underlie efforts to harness science and technology for sustainable development. We first present a conceptual framework for understanding the relationships among the different types of activities and stakeholders involved in these efforts. This framework emphasizes the need to view the creation of new scientific information and technical capabilities as part of an experimental, social process in which the producers and end-users of scientific and technical knowledge interact to identify R&D priorities, and to translate knowledge into real-world action. We suggest a set of initial priorities for issues where greater scientific understanding and technical capacity is most critical. This includes four broad cross-cutting themes: Resilience and Vulnerability of Social-Ecological systems; Governance Institutions for Sustainable Development; Sustainable Production and Consumption; and the Role of Behaviour, Culture, and Values. Many existing R&D programmes are addressing these issues, but there is a need to augment such efforts with place-based, systems-oriented investigations that not only bridge divides among natural science, social science, and engineering disciplines, but that also integrate ‘formal’ R&D efforts with ‘informal’ grassroots knowledge and innovation. There are numerous ways in which international scientific organizations can contribute to the development of new R&D efforts worldwide, and can help enhance the capacity of all nations to engage in such efforts. This includes greater mutual support of existing activities, and active contributions to new efforts such as the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development. We suggest, however, that a key role for the Consortium organizations (operating either as individual entities, or in a formal partnership) is to create an ongoing mechanism for convening dialogues among natural scientists, social scientists, engineers, and the wide array of societal actors who have the potential to utilize new scientific and technical information for addressing problems of sustainable development. The goal of these dialogues is share information and perspectives, and to develop common agreement on priorities for future R&D efforts. This must be a longterm, evolving process that develops in response to new input and changing needs. The Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue process that takes place within the meetings of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development could provide an excellent platform for building such efforts. In the longer-term, this could become a highprofile activity that attracts tremendous public interest, and that is seen as a central ‘hub’ of knowledge, leadership, and exchange of new ideas among the global community.

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