High-level Session on ‘The role of science, technology and innovation in supporting sustainable and resilient societies’

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Stefania Pia Grottola

This session identified the possible ways in which to prioritise science, technology and innovation (STI) in national development strategies, in order to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and support the development of sustainable and resilient societies.

Mr Sarath Amunugama (Minister of Science, Technology and Research, Sri Lanka) talked about the developments taking place in Sri Lanka in science and technology which will help to achieve the SDGs. Regarding Goal 6, he said that the country has a relatively high national coverage – with more than 80% of the population having access to clean water and sanitation. However, some remote rural areas still lack quality water and the government is worried about the spread of waterborne diseases. With regards to Goal 7, the minister stressed that Sri Lanka has achieved 98% of electricity coverage and it represents the 39th greenest country in the world. Under Goal 11, Sri Lanka is facing the problem of increased urbanisation, while under Goal 12, he underlined the role of the Strategic Environmental Assessment and its authority. Finally, regarding Goal 15, he recalled the actions taken towards the protection of biodiversity in the country.

Ms Marisa do Rosário Bragança Sambo (Minister of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Angola) expressed the importance of resilience societies meant to represent the ability of a system to manage a crisis with its own sources, for self-developing purposes. New technologies can help build sustainable societies, for example through better response systems to deal with crises caused by climate change and soil connected reasons. She recalled the national development plan meant to implement the risk reduction and environmental protection, and she stressed the crucial role of specific tools for the planning, designing, identification, and characterisation of risk areas all over the country. To this end, satellite maps and geographic data can play a crucial role.

Ms Jenny Carrasco Arredondo (Vice Minister of Science and Technology, Bolivia) recalled the implications of the 4th industrial revolution in terms of its opportunities and the challenges for developing countries. In addressing the role of technology in building resilient and sustainable societies, she proposed the distinction of two levels of analysis: local and global. On the one hand, we see what countries can do domestically to achieve progress overall; however, there are limitations in terms of digital gaps, the lack of access to technology and the lack of education. She then stressed the push for Bolivia to improve its role in the digital environment and highlighted the importance of fostering partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Ms Mmamoloko T. Kubayi-Ngubane (Minister of Science and Technology, South Africa) recalled the development the country has made in terms of technology facilitation mechanisms. On this point, she recalled the strategic partnership with Statistics South Africa in making sure that the information can be reliable and trustworthy. One main crucial point was stressed: the partnership with countries in the region for sharing experiences and knowledge.

Ms Nkandu Luo (Minister of Higher Education, Zambia) talked about the country’s policy on access to computers in all schools, which aims to ensure that children are exposed to technology and science as soon as their education starts. With regards to alternative sources of energy, she stressed the importance of the nuclear science agenda. Nuclear science is indeed important but not limited to agriculture and health (i.e. treatment of cancer). On the topic of climate change, she highlighted the ability of more sensitive technology to identify deforestation and allow quick and effective environmental policies.

Mr Thesele Maseribane (Minister of Communications, Science and Technology for Development, Lesotho) argued in favour of STI and information and communications technologies (ICTs) as a way to support the sustainable development of a country geographically situated 'inside another country'. The subscription to mobile services has increased in the country; however, Internet usage is still low (about 8%) because of the lack of accessibility to ICT infrastructures. Furthermore, he spoke about the implications technology has on the labour market, as well as on issues of security, privacy, and ethics. He further recalled the developments made by Lesotho with regards to renewable energies and finished his speech by stressing the need to ensure that the world remains the best place it can be for humanity to live.

Mr Rana Tanveer Hussain (Minister of Science and Technology, Pakistan) stated that while the word around us is changing, it is our duty to promote science and technology in the landscape of development. A collaborative effort between the public and private sectors should be explored, and there should be a stronger push for sharing knowledge and technology from the North to the South.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has taken initiatives to set up a resilience and climate change unit to implement actions in support of a green economy. Furthermore, their representative recalled their collaboration with UNESCO to enhance the role of science, technology, and innovation in the IsDBG’s interventions and to create synergies between its 10-Year Strategic Framework and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. IsDB is putting efforts into going beyond sole the financing of projects and becoming an impactful knowledge organisation.

The representative from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) underlined the importance of resilience and disaster risk reduction in order to reduce negative socio-economic impact. Science and research need to become more integrated for a multi-risk approach including a multi-generational perspective. In this regard, capacity building and investments in human capital are key. Furthermore, a better understanding of disaster risks (natural and man-made) is crucial for sustainable development.

The previous statements were followed by two additional speeches. The first one was addressed by a delegate from Cuba, who stressed the role of knowledge and education for the sustainable development of both the people in Cuba and beyond. Finally, the last speech was from the representative of Thailand who stressed the importance of increasing water security, by considering a multistakeholder management, and called upon the countries in the region for a transferred development model.