At a meeting convened on 21 January by the President of UNESCO’s Executive Board to discuss the theme of Science for Development and International Cooperation, high-level experts gathered to discuss two pertinent topics facing science today - Basic Sciences and Science Education for Development, and Science Policy for North-South and South-South Cooperation.
During her opening remarks, the Director-General mentioned that the meeting was not only taking place at the start of UNESCO’s 70th anniversary year, but also on the heels of the launch of the International Year of Light. Ms Bokova noted that the letter "S" in UNESCO’s acronym was introduced during the Organization’s constituent conference, held in London in November 1945. The Director-General also recalled that UNESCO recently convened the United Nations Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board, whose purpose is to strengthen dialogue between science and policy. In this regard, she said that UNESCO plays a vital role “in promoting science education, especially for girls and women, and the development of science, technology and innovation policy, based especially on south-south cooperation.”
In the second session on Science Policy for North-South and South-South Cooperation the focus was on the role that UNESCO can play, and is playing, to address this fundamental issue at the heart of science for development.
UNESCO’s role in the development of science and policy
The expert panel observed that UNESCO has a unique role in the development of science. As the only UN agency to specialize in science, UNESCO is ideally placed to provide an international platform to bring together scientists and decision-makers from around the world to discuss and advance STI agendas through sharing knowledge and experiences. The panelists added that UNESCO’s role should be to ensure multilateral cooperation and co-sponsorship between institutions and to promote partnerships.
The experts also noted that UNESCO also has the role to better shape policies that identify and reinforce institutional, infrastructure and multilateral opportunities in STI on a national, regional and international scale. The panelists noted that adopting a sound national science policy and strategy is important, but also the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these policies is equally important. UNESCO has also a role to play in assisting Member States to review, implement and evaluate their science policies.
The panelists concurred, that UNESCO has a mandate to bridge the gap between Science and Policy. UNESCO is the hub for international cooperation to support capacity-building in science, technology and innovation, and that there is a clear and growing recognition of the role of scientific and technical knowledge in global governance.
Finally, it was agreed upon that UNESCO also has a vital role in facilitating and building a critical mass of scientists and innovators that can educate, train and inspire young generations, and increase the interest of young girls and boys in science and mathematics. UNESCO can also assist in strengthening the capacities of public officials and decisions makers in STI policy to better frame STI systems and integrate STI in the development process.
Distinguished panelists of the Science Policy for North-South and South-South Cooperation Session included:
- Ms Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology (South Africa)
- Professor Ana Maria Cetto, former Deputy Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)and former Secretary-General of International Council for Science (ICSU) (Mexico)
- Professor Jose Mariano Gago, former Minister of Science and Technology (Portugal)