2 May 2019
Experts Prepare for STI Forum and SDG Summit
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash
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The Workshop on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs was organized by DESA, UNCTAD and ESCAP.

Participants discussed STI for Goals that will be considered at the STI Forum 2019 and reviewed in-depth at the July session of the HLPF, namely SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13 and 16.

Participants also discussed lessons learned from the Technology Facilitation Mechanism since its inception in 2015.

1 March 2019: Officials and experts met in preparation for the fourth annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the SDGs, also known as the STI Forum. Participants shared insights on STI for the SDGs that will be reviewed in depth at the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). They also discussed lessons learned from the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) since its inception in 2015, in order to inform the “SDG Summit” in September 2019.

The STI Forum is a component of the TFM outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The TFM also includes a UN Inter-Agency Task Team on STI for SDGs (IATT) comprised of several UN agencies, a 10-Member Group to support the TFM, and an online platform to serve as a gateway for information on existing STI initiatives, mechanisms and programmes.

The 2019 Forum will take place from 14-15 May 2019. It is expected to provide inputs to the July 2019 held under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It will focus on SDGs 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The HLPF will also convene in September 2019, under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). This meeting is being referred to as the SDG Summit.

The ‘Workshop on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs’ was organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). It took place from 27 February to 1 March 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. According to the report of the workshop, participants concluded that: the STI Forum 2019 could be structured similarly to its 2018 session, information from the workshop could be included in substantive background notes for the HLPF, and the STI Forum process would continue to work cumulatively, building on the co-chairs’ summaries of previous sessions of the Forum.

The summary notes that, according to discussions at the workshop:

  • The TFM is still limited in what it can achieve due to lack of resources, a short time for engagements (only two days of meeting per year), and a lack of coordination between multiple activities of the TFM, which are “being conducted in isolation”;
  • Developed and developing countries have different needs, which makes it hard to establish one size fits all recommendations;
  • There is a need to develop roadmaps that follow an action-oriented strategy and consider outputs and deliverables from the TFM;
  • An online platform could be established to provide information such as technologies available to address particular issues and relative costs; and
  • There is a need for metrics, indicators and plans that include all relevant stakeholders.

Presentations made during the workshop are available on the meeting’s webpage.

Tateo Arimoto, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), and Fumie Imabayashi, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), outlined the need to: highlight and enhance the visibility of STI at the HLPF, and enhance the science-policy interface at the UN; improve the format of the TFM and the STI Forum and “schedule STI forum and related workshops in advance” to invite “influential people;” and have two or three “deliverables” from the TFM every four years.

Wei Liu, IATT Coordinator, DESA, noted that the Task Team has proposed establishing a global pilot programme on STI-for-the-SDGs roadmaps as part of the TFM’s deliverables. The pilot programme would: test a draft guidebook on building STI-for-SDG roadmaps; build capacity for and scale up adoption of STI-for-SDG roadmaps by Member States; and promote good practices, knowledge sharing, peer learning, international cooperation and partnerships on the design and implementation of such roadmaps. According to the presentation, pilot countries would be announced by March-April 2019, and the pilot programme would be discussed at the STI Forum 2019.

On STI for reducing inequality within and among countries (SDG 10), Marta Peerez Cuso, ESCAP, outlined ESCAP’s work on inclusive technology and innovation policies, such as: the organization of a workshop on policies to support grassroots innovations in January 2019 in Ahmedabad, India; the preparation of a workbook on policies and strategies to support grassroots innovations; research on artificial intelligence (AI) for social good to inform policies; and a mapping of inclusive businesses in countries including Cambodia and Vietnam.

On promoting synergies with indigenous knowledge for the achievement of the SDGs, Minnie Degawan, Conservation International, suggested that the 2019 STI Forum include a dedicated panel with indigenous knowledge holders who can share their experiences in utilizing science and technology for their communities. She also called on STI experts to interact with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII).

In his presentation on ‘Promoting Responsible AI innovation for Sustainable Development,’ Gong Ke, President-Elect, World Federation of Engineering Organizations, pointed to an insufficient understanding of AI role in society, adding that ethical and legal developments “are far behind” AI developments, public awareness about AI is highly informed by movies and novels, and insufficient discussion has been held on the subject. Among other recommendations, he suggests that governments establish a national committee of responsible conduct with AI, which would engage multiple stakeholders.

The workshop was attended by 41 technology experts from governments, the private sector, financial institutions, NGOs, and research institutions. It included six members of the 10-Member Group and selected members of the IATT. [Workshop Webpage]

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