Earlier this month, an informal meeting of the High-Level Political Forum 2021 explored the challenges and opportunities for mobilizing science, technology and innovation (STI) and strengthening the science-policy-society interface to support the implementation of SDGs.
STI: The benefits and the risks
The global progress of STI has been revolutionary, promising tremendous benefits to the societies, which have been even more evident in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state-of-the-art technologies in vaccine development have provided powerful means to fight and eradicate the disease; meanwhile, the advancement of ICT allows people to work remotely, resume economic activities and build social connections across the world. On the other hand, the discoveries of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and 5G networks are expected to be the backbones of our societies for the next decade, advancing global economic, social and environmental development to an unprecedented extent. Despite the immense potential for STI in SDGs realization, challenges abound. Around half of the world’s population remains digitally unconnected, creating a digital divide that hinders numerous lives in the enjoyment of STI services. The weak alignment between current STI and SDGs has also exacerbated inequalities in vulnerable communities including women and indigenous people, undermining the global achievements of the 2030 Agenda.
Sustainable and transformative STI pathways towards SDG realization
To ensure effective mobilization of STI in SDG realization, a better science-policy-society interface is utterly needed. Policymakers should focus on enhancing the availability of open data for STI in tackling social issues, while ensuring the nature of these STI are in alignment with the sustainable development principles. Moreover, multi-stakeholder partnerships in scientific research, open innovation and youth nurturement should be further strengthened for global digital transformation. To address the global digital divide, inclusiveness should be put in the utmost priority of STI advancement. It includes strengthening the participation of women and indigenous communities in the sector, who are often underrepresented; as well as providing universal STI services through provision of digital infrastructures, affordable Internet, and digital literacy skills for the unconnected people. It is also important to build public trust in STI related to all areas of sustainable development, and it is policymakers’ and companies’ responsibility to prevent exacerbation of violence, hate and inequalities in such means.
Advances in STI should be harnessed to enhance equal opportunities and access to basic services so no one is left behind. Governments and the international community have a central role in providing directionality to innovation activities to ensure STI is driven by considerations of inclusiveness and sustainability. The pandemic is a wake-up call for effective bilateral and multilateral cooperation to collectively address the sustainability challenges and accelerate the global progress of SDGs through the means of STI.
Meeting Title: 2021 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2021), 11th Informal Meeting
Date/Location: Friday, 9 July 2021; 11:15-13:15; The meeting was held virtually
Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya (Ukraine), Vice President of ECOSOC;
Mr. Mohammad Koba, Co-Chair of the 2021 STI Forum, Ambassador and Charge d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations;
Mr. Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU);
Mr. Andrejs Pildegovičs, Co-Chair of the 2021 STI Forum, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Latvia to the United Nations;
Ms. Cherry Murray, Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s 10 Member Group to Support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, Professor of Physics and Deputy Director for Research, Biosphere 2, University of Arizona; etc.
Written by: WIT-UN Representative Iris Sit