Strengthening Global Progress Toward Sustainable Development Through Innovation In Science And Technology

Strengthening Global Progress Toward Sustainable Development Through Innovation In Science And Technology

Debates on how best to promote sustainable and inclusive development are incomplete without a full consideration of issues of science, technology and innovation (STI).

Access to new and appropriate technologies promote steady improvements in living conditions, which can be lifesaving for the most vulnerable populations, and drive productivity gains which ensure rising incomes. There are two essential STI issues that need to be tackled simultaneously development agenda. Firstly, innovation driven growth is no longer the prerogative of high income countries alone, some developing countries have achieved significant economic growth through the creation and deployment of STI capacity. But, this has not been the case for all countries, in particular LDCs. Secondly, STI policy has often been pursued independently of the broader developmental agenda; it is important that STI be integrated into public policy goals, giving particular focus to the nexus between STI, culture, education and development. In addressing these issues, STI will need to be made more participatory and inclusive so that there is public engagement in the scientific endeavour from the full spectrum of social factors, including women, young people and indigenous communities. The least developed countries will require dedicated support to bolster their efforts to build STI capacity.


The concept of sustainable development remains a broad and complex topic. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development first loosely defined the term sustainable development in the report Our Common Future, saying that sustainable development is, "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."More recently, the outcome document The Future We Want, from the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), recognizes the essential requirements of sustainable development to be, "poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development." When examining these diverse definitions of sustainable development, it is important to realize that sustainable development combines three pillars of development: social, economic, and environmental.

Though the concept sustainable development has grown, it is increasingly clear that innovations in science and technology are an integral component of sustainable development. Agenda 21, adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, confirms the importance of innovations in science and technology, claiming that information and education sharing are a key factor in helping to eliminate extreme poverty. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio +10), places emphasis on information communication technologies and the critical role they play in sharing best practices of sustainable development. In addition, the Economic and Social Council 2013 Annual Ministerial Review focused on a diverse range of topics such as agriculture, energy, and equality, demonstrating the various ways that innovations in science and technology can assist with the challenges of development.


In September 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declaration which included a set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are a set of specific targets to: (1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, (2) Achieve universal primary education, (3) Promote gender equality and empower women, (4) Reduce child mortality, (5) improve maternal health, (6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, (7) Ensure environmental sustainability, and (8)Develop a global partnership for development. The MDGs represent an important, widely-shared initial vision of sustainable development, and they can serve as useful guideposts for the efforts of the science and engineering communities -- recognizing, of course, that S&T has more to contribute to some of these goals than others; and that in general, such goals represent only a starting point for the developments that need ultimately to be achieved. We emphasize also that simple, single-dimension analyses of progress in achieving the MDGs can be misleading, since in some cases, the means that are used to achieve this progress (such as heavy reliance on foreign development aid) are not themselves sustainable.

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