4.1 Habitat III
At the UN’s Habitat III conference ICSU played a role convening the scientific community and providing a platform for engagement. With its co-sponsored programmes, it advocated for a strong role for science in the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of the conference, which should in turn support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities.
The contribution of the scientific community is vital for supporting the technical, design, institutional and governance challenges facing individual towns and cities and the global system of cities. Science is also key to understanding life within urban ecosystems and the impact of cities on future global environmental change.
Habitat III, which took place in Quito, Ecuador on 17-20 October, was the most inclusive of all the UN framework processes to date, providing multiple entry points for civil society engagement. The most prominent of these was the General Assembly of Partners (GAP). The GAP was open to virtually any organization, individual or stakeholder group with an interest in sustainable urbanization. Its membership ranges from individual city policymakers to organized groups – similar to the Major Group system at the United Nations – of women, professionals and academics, indigenous peoples, foundations, parliamentarians, farmers, children and the media, as well as business and trade unions. ICSU participated actively in the process, feeding in knowledge from its scientific community.
At the European Regional Preparatory Conference in Prague in March 2016, ICSU joined the Research & Academia group of the GAP. Sue Parnell, made a statement in plenary on behalf of ICSU to highlight the need for a global science, technology and innovation system to support and monitor efforts to secure the urban transition to a more sustainable world. She also called for the New Urban Agenda to have a stronger focus on human health and wellbeing.
In July of 2016, ICSU, together with the World Health Organization, the governments of Ghana and Norway, the United Nations University Institute of Global Health, and the International Society for Urban Health, convened an expert meeting to coordinate the community’s input to the New Urban Agenda. The meeting resulted in proposed language which was ultimately included in the New Urban Agenda, and a report on “Health as the pulse of the New Urban Agenda”, which outlines critical connections between health and urban policies and will serve as the basis for further action by ICSU’s Urban Health and Wellbeing programme.
A key component of the work coordinated by ICSU and Future Earth for Habitat III relates to an identified need for a global knowledge platform to emerge in the implementation phase of the New Urban Agenda.
The need for systematic, practical and evidence-based guidance for national, regional and local public and private decision-makers about sustainable urban development has grown dramatically in the wake of several important global agreements that emphasize the importance of cities and urbanization. ICSU joined Future Earth, Adelphi, the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the Prince’s Trust International Sustainability Unit and UCL’s City Leadership Initiative in convening a workshop in September. The workshop issued a call to action and some participant came together around a commentary in Nature, published just ahead of Habitat III. The knowledge coalition formed in Quito will provide the knowledge platform for various actors to engage in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (looking towards the World Urban Forum in 2018 as a key milestone for engagement).
As part of its science advocacy and stakeholder engagement remit, ICSU partnered Future Earth and the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam in the design and execution of a knowledge exchange platform at Habitat III called Habitat X Change. A total of 17 events were held in the space, ranging from science policy dialogues, the launch of Future Earth’s Knowledge Action Network to co-organized events with city stakeholder groups such as C40, WHO and UCLG.
4.2 Interactions across the Sustainable Development Goals
Building on its 2015 report assessing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, ICSU is working on a new report on interactions across the SDGs. It seeks to make a case for the importance of identifying and understanding how the 17 goals and 169 targets interact with each other. The aim is to support effective implementation of the SDGs and achieve the desired outcomes across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. ICSU kicked off this work with a brainstorming meeting in January which led to the publication of a working paper entitled “A draft framework for understanding SDG interactions” in June, accompanied by a commentary in Nature by Nilsson et al. The framework consists of a seven-point scale that characterizes the range of positive and negative interactions that can occur between targets and goals, from one goal counteracting or even cancelling another to one creating the conditions or even being indispensable for the achievement of another. The framework also identifies a set of key dimensions such as governance, geography or technology that also needs to be taken into account when analysing interactions.
ICSU is working on the new report in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), the Kiel-based Future Ocean cluster, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Monash University, the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities, and the Stockholm Environment Institute. The report, expected to be published in the first half of 2017, will provide a focused analysis of key interactions on 4 of the 17 goals (agriculture, health, energy and life below water) as a first step, include location-specific examples of key interactions, and identify important knowledge gaps and policy options to manage synergies and trade-offs. The report is aimed at policy-makers interested in identifying and managing synergies and trade-offs and in promoting an integrated approach to implementation of the SDGs that minimizes negative outcomes.
4.3 Global Sustainable Development Report
In 2016, ICSU stepped up collaboration with UN DESA to engage the international scientific community on contributing to the 2016 edition of the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), a United Nations publication that aims to strengthen the science-policy interface at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. Since the first prototype GSDR in 2014, ICSU has worked closely with the UN and its partners to engage the scientific community in this process.
The ICSU community contributed to the report by submitting briefing notes, participating in Expert Group Meetings convened by UN DESA, peer-reviewing chapters, and raising awareness of the report. The 2016 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) was launched in France at a high-level event at the French Foreign Ministry in October, preceded by a one-day workshop at Sciences Po. The aim of the events – co-organized by UN DESA, ICSU, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) – was to engage the Francophone scientific community towards the next edition to be published in 2019.
The high-level event, which was opened by Andre Vallini, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, brought together a diverse range of actors from academia, government and civil society.
Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in UN DESA, gave an overview of the report and stressed that the GSDR was not just a report, but also a mobilizing process for scientific communities from all over the world, notably non-Anglophone communities. ICSU President Gordon McBean provided some remarks on the Council and its scientific programmes.
4.4 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
As co-organizer of the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group, ICSU participated in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July in multiple contexts. First, ICSU organized a side event to present a draft framework for understanding SDGs interactions. The event involved ICSU President Gordon McBean, who highlighted the Council’s work in promoting integrated science in key areas of the SDGs, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) on key impacts of agriculture and land-use change on human and ecosystem health in the Amazon region and a delegate from the Government of Colombia commenting on the overall approach to interactions and discussing specific challenges faced at national level. It was attended by representatives of Member States and stakeholders and successfully raised awareness on the need to identify and manage interlinkages across the SDGs to achieve positive outcomes across all dimensions, and the role of the scientific community in providing the evidence base to support a coherent implementation of the SDGs.
At a session on the science–policy interface chaired by Hector Alejandro Palma Cerna, Deputy Permanent Representative of Honduras to the UN and Vice-President of ECOSOC, a lively discussion was moderated by the Head of Science Programmes at ICSU. The session included a presentation of the newly released 2016 Global Sustainable Development Report, an “assessment of assessments” that involved 245 scientific experts seeking to synthesize scientific evidence on sustainable development issues and strengthening the science–policy interface. ICSU also moderated a side event organized by UN DESA on the 2016 Global Sustainable Development Report.
4.5 Climate change/COP22
At COP22, the International Council for Science, in partnership with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I convened a side event on key issues in fundamental climate research following the Paris Agreement.
The event brought together a group of high-level scientists, representatives of research agencies and funding agencies. The event was moderated by Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I, and David Carlson, Director of WCRP.
Scientists emphasized that the Paris Agreement has liberated climate research from discussing what we already know – the world is warming, and humans are largely responsible – and that now climate research must define new frontiers and probe deeper into the unknown. They argued that basic climate research can sharpen its view through three simple yet powerful guiding questions:
- Where does the carbon go?
- How does the weather change with climate?
- How does climate influence the habitability of the Earth and its regions?
Scientists stressed that these guiding questions not only help to shape the fundamental research agenda, but are at the heart of what society needs to know to prepare for the climate change challenges ahead. The session was live streamed and is available for viewing online.
Following the side event, a commentary “Climate research must sharpen its view” was published in Nature Climate Change.
4.6 International Network on Government Science Advice (INGSA)
The year 2016 proved to be a landmark in the development of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA). The network, which was launched in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014, operates formally under the aegis of ICSU.
The year started with the Science Advice Workshop in South Africa (26-27 February 2016), organized by INGSA in partnership with the Academy of Science of South Africa and the Department of Science and Technology. This workshop brought together scientists (both young and established researchers) and key stakeholders for a dialogue on models of science advice and promising practices for working at the interface between science and policy. The INGSA Africa Chapter is a product of this successful workshop and is designed to enhance science advice capacity in the continent. The ICSU Regional Office for Africa is represented on the Steering Committee of INGSA Africa.
In September, INGSA, in partnership with the European Commission, organized its 2nd International Science Advice to Government conference in Brussels. More than 600 participants – policymakers, practitioners and scientists – from 72 countries met to discuss the principles and practice of feeding evidence into policy processes.
Over the course of the two days, the theory and practice of science advice were examined from many angles. Plenary and parallel sessions explored such topics as how to respond to global policy challenges such as climate change, migration and health; how to develop the practice of science advice and build capacity; providing advice in crisis situations; the relationship between society and science advice; and how to provide science advice across borders and boundaries.
A recurring theme in the discussion was the idea of post-normal science – when science no longer deals with certainty but with probability, the need for decisions is urgent and the risks are high. In such a climate, the notion of trust both in science and in the mechanisms or institutions for science advice was cited as key.
ICSU was well represented at the conference. Its President Gordon McBean spoke in a session on climate change and the road beyond the 2015 Paris climate talks. President-Elect Daya Reddy spoke about the role of science in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Executive Director Heide Hackmann was a speaker in the plenary that discussed the way forward for science advice and INGSA.
The next edition of the conference will be held in 2018 in Tokyo.
Just ahead of the 2nd International Science Advice to Government conference ICSU and UNESCO entered a formal partnership on the provision of science advice for public policy. This collaboration will be operationalized through INGSA.
Flavia Schlegel, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences and Heide Hackmann, Executive Director of ICSU, signed an agreement committing the two organizations to:
- Assist countries with the development and/or strengthening of advisory systems, particularly in the developing world;
- Enable improved dialogue between scientific and policy communities, with linkages between research programmes and policy needs;
- Provide a forum for policy-makers, practitioners, national academies and academics to develop and enhance approaches to the use of scientific evidence in informing policy at all levels of government.
During the closing session of the 2nd edition of the Science Forum South Africa in December, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, awarded INGSA the Science Forum South Africa 2016 Science Diplomacy Award, in the category for an international STI partnership which has made an outstanding contribution to harnessing scientific advice for multilateral decision-making.
Heide Hackmann, Executive Director of ICSU and member of the INGSA Advisory Panel, accepted the award on behalf of INGSA along with Tolullah Oni, steering committee member of INGSA-Africa.