6 June 2019
SDG Knowledge Weekly: Science, Technology and Innovation Roadmaps for the SDGs
Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash
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Despite limited resources, significant progress has been made towards full operationalization of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, a background note for the STI Forum reports.

A guidebook released by the TFM’s Inter-agency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs provides step-by-step guidance for the development and implementation of STI for SDGs Roadmaps.

An InterAcademy Partnership report articulates how the global science community, and in particular the world’s science academies, can more effectively support the SDGs and international policymaking.

This issue of SDG Knowledge Weekly explores the theme of the July 2019 HLPF, “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” through the lens of science, technology and innovation (STI). As a key means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda, STI will be in the spotlight during the HLPF in July although through its in-depth review of SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals). It may also come to the fore at the end of June through the Group of 20’s summit in Osaka, Japan. The Government of Japan has noted its interest in taking on “data governance” as part of the Osaka Summit.

Much of the documentation discussed in this brief was released in the context of the UN’s fourth annual multistakeholder STI Forum, which took place in May 2019. A background note released prior to the Forum reports that, despite limited resources, significant progress has been made towards full operationalization of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM), an entity outlined by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The STI Forum is one of three components of the TFM.

On a second TFM component, the Inter-agency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (IATT), the note flags that IATT membership has increased to comprise 42 UN entities. It also reports on two training workshops conducted in the Arab and Central American regions, which showed the potential “of working as one-UN in direct response to Member State demands.”

A sub-working group of the IATT launched a draft of a resource on preparing “STI for SDG” roadmaps. The guidebook is aimed at national and local governments, agencies and institutions that seek to use roadmaps as a policy tool, and takes a focus on the design stage as crucial for effective implementation and monitoring. The guidebook – currently in “draft for consultation” form – articulates STI roadmaps as being at the intersection of three areas: 1) a country’s national development plan; 2) an STI plan; and 3) an SDGs plan. It notes that an STI for SDGs roadmap can be either a standalone document or integrated into other planning tools. The draft guidebook is structured with chapters dedicated to step-by-step guidance for the development and implementation of STI for SDGs Roadmaps, international partnerships to facilitate effective design and implementation, and recommendations for the international community.

Looking ahead, country-level roadmaps will be piloted and scaled, and the guidebook is expected to be finalized by September 2019. The Sub-Working Group is co-led by the World Bank, DESA, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The IATT’s third component, an online platform, is moving forward under new branding as “2030 Connect.” The platform provides access to a variety of resources, including publications, training opportunities, and technology offers and requests. A demo version of the platform was first launched in May 2018.

Two SDG Knowledge Hub articles by Nathalie Risse summarize the STI Forum’s preparations and the discussions themselves. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the STI Forum is also available here.

Immediately following the STI Forum, the Permanent Missions of Belgium and Brazil to the UN hosted an event organized by the Global Science, Technology and Innovation Conference (G-STIC) on the theme, ‘Towards a One-stop Shop for Innovative, Market-ready Technological Solutions for the SDGs.’ The programme highlights the importance of inclusion and equity in technological solutions.

Also released around the STI Forum was an InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) report designed to help the global science community, and in particular the world’s science academies, better support the SDGs. Titled, ‘Improving Scientific Input to Global Policymaking,’ the report describes the context for the IAP project, the current global science advice landscape, the governance of the SDGs in the UN system, and routes for applying science to the SDGs. The report recommends, among other actions, that UN institutions foster a culture of evidence-informed policymaking. At the academies level, it notes that the IAP can help develop working links with the UN system, support the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group, and more generally be attuned to the UN’s timetable for reviewing progress towards the SDGs.

The IAP is a global network of over 140 science, engineering and medical academies, hosted by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, that work together to support the role of science in seeking solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. A corresponding guest article from IAP is available on the SDG Knowledge Hub.

Relating back to the theme of the STI Forum, the International Telecommunications Union recognized World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on 17 May, with a focus on “bridging the standardization gap.” Noting the potential for uneven benefits following from digitalization, ITU standards aim to ensure that the benefits of digital transformation “are realized on a global scale.” An ITU media advisory flags examples of ITU standards in action, towards digital health, financial inclusion, and smart cities. Further information on ITU’s Bridging the Standardization Gap initiative is available here; National Standardization Guidelines were released in 2018.

Also in May, UNCTAD released a framework for STI policy reviews. The framework provides a “flexible, modular form” of STI policy review, aimed at sharing evidence-based advice with UN Member States. It outlines the foundations of STI policy, different types of “innovation systems,” and describes steps in the STI policy review process, from preparatory research to field missions to policy appraisals to evaluation. UNCTAD is mandated to provide tailored technical support to countries in assessing national STI systems and designing or reframing national STI policies and plans.

The framework was launched during the 22nd Session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), held from 13-17 May 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland on: 1) the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development; 2) the role of STI in building resilient communities; and 3) progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). An UNCTAD news release on the framework is available here, and an UNCTAD compilation of CSTD articles is here. The CSTD is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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