Third STI Forum Calls for National Roadmaps, Technology Regulations
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

The third annual STI Forum focused on the Goals under review at the 2018 HLPF, and featured ten substantive panel discussions and a series of 90-second innovation pitches.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Group, explained that STI roadmaps serve as a practical building block for policy makers, the private sector, civil society and development partners, helping integrate STI into national development plans and budgets.

Andrew Keen, author, called for greater regulation of companies and data privacy, adding that the UN is the right place to begin this conversation.

6 June 2018: The third annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum) focused on the Goals under review at the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF): SDG 6 (on water); SDG 7 (on energy); SDG 11 (on cities); SDG 12 (on consumption and production) and SDG 15 (on biodiversity).

The event took place from 5-6 June 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The STI Forum featured ten substantive panel discussions and a series of 90-second innovation pitches selected from numerous submissions related to the SDGs under discussion.

The STI Forum is a component of the UN’s Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The TFM also includes an Inter-Agency Task Team on STI for SDGs (IATT), a 10-Member Group, and an online platform.

Opening the meeting, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Marie Chatardova stressed the need for technologies to address the vulnerabilities of those most left behind. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet for the UN Secretary-General, said new technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology and robotics, will generate new solutions to SDG implementation.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Group, said “STI roadmaps” serve as a practical building block for policy makers, the private sector, civil society and development partners to integrate STI into national development plans and budgets. He said the Bank will leverage public-private partnerships (PPPs) to: develop the foundation for sustainable, technology-led economies; expand the capacity of people and institutions to thrive in a society resilient in the face of disruption; and harness disruptive technology, data, and expertise to solve development challenges and manage risks.

Andrew Keen, author of ‘The Internet is Not the Answer’ and ‘How to Fix the Future,’ called for greater regulation of companies and data privacy, adding that the UN is the right place to begin this conversation. Miguel Ruíz Cabañas, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, called for the UN to collect and analyze information and develop best practices and exchange of information so governments can utilize technological change and AI while minimizing risks.

Arun Sundararajan, New York University, US, noted that it is not pragmatic to try to regulate online platforms, which will increasingly mediate people’s relationships with markets, but we need to negotiate with them as with institutions. He emphasized that we need to start a democratization of these platforms and ask them to come up with a clear, simple set of principles and take a positive role in society.

Elliott Harris, UN Chief Economist, addressed the environmental costs of technology. For example, the electricity demand for cryptocurrency mining equals the electricity use of the Czech Republic.

Peter Major, UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), said the CSTD focuses on the positive implications of big data to fight typhoid in Uganda and help farmers respond to food security and drought in India and other countries. He called for linking traditional knowledge with modern science, as well as examining ethical challenges and bridging the digital gap.

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, United Arab Emirates (UAE), observed that, in order to achieve the SDGs, we will need to capture the data from ongoing experiments. Beyond big data, we will need access to data from other complex projects, she said. Thomas Philbeck, World Economic Forum, stressed that “the way we talk about technology matters” and asked for caution when using language that might lock us into dangerous narratives, such as fear or technology or “worshipping” technology.

For the SDGs to succeed in Africa, technological innovation anchored in local capabilities will be essential.

Erika Kraemer-Mbula, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, stressed that for the SDGs to succeed, they need to succeed in Africa. She noted that Africa is estimated to double its population by 2050, and will have the world’s largest work force, comprised especially of youth. Microenterprises will thus be vital to employment, she said, and technological innovation anchored in local capabilities will be essential for sustainable development. She called for thinking beyond education to learning systems that blend different types of science.

Suresh Nair, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, India, gave an example reflecting the benefits of genetic engineering and biotechnology. To address the decrease in arable land as well as pressure to use less pesticides and the urgent need to increase food productivity, he highlighted “host-based resistance.” By using plants’ natural resistance, he said crop yield can increase, which lessens the pressure to convert forestland into farmland and prevents biodiversity loss. To that end, he recommended carrying out vigorous screening of crop germplasm to identify appropriate resistance against major pests and devise molecular tools to get a better understanding of insect pests.

During the Forum’s discussions, Egypt for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) called for encouraging the development, transfer, and diffusion of technologies to developing countries on concessional and preferential terms. He called for making the TFM online platform operational as soon as possible.

Bangladesh for the least developed countries (LDCs) said internet access depends on a few major companies in the developed world, and LDCs lack the needed infrastructure to attract them. He stressed that access to information and communications technologies and the internet is essential to graduate from LDC status and not to relapse after graduation. He expressed hope that the Technology Bank for LDCs, inaugurated on 4 June 2018, will provide the LDCs with the support they need. Turkey noted that the Bank, which is hosted by Turkey, will strengthen the capacity of LDCs to scale up and deploy technology and innovation, and strengthen partnerships between governments, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Brazil called for addressing inequalities caused by the digital divide. Japan said that every country should develop an STI roadmap for each SDG to ensure no one is left behind. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin Summary] [STI Forum Webpage]


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