Secretary-General welcomes UNESCO Director-General and Members of Scientific Advisory Board

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Professor Maria Ivanova (Bulgaria), Professor Abdul Hamid Zakri (Malaysia), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Professor Wole Soboyejo (Nigeria)
© Eskinder Debebe
10 July 2015

9 July 2015 - UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, welcomed today at UN Headquarters UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and members of his Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Professor Maria Ivanova (Bulgaria), Professor Abdul Hamid Zakri (Malaysia) and Professor Wole Soboyejo (Nigeria).

Two years after the establishment of his Scientific Advisory Board, for which UNESCO hosts the Secretariat, the UN Secretary-General expressed his profound thanks to SAB Members for their excellent work and commitment in promoting science and providing scientific advice to support the ambitious sustainable development agenda in front of us.

He expressed particular appreciation for the leadership of the Director-General, and for the vital recommendations that the SAB provided on the science policy interface and the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) in the context of the elaboration of a post-2015 development agenda.

He invited the SAB to continue advising him through valuable scientific inputs in the upcoming critical phase of the transition from MDGs to SDGs, to which a continued close dialogue between scientists and policy-makers will be key. He thanked the Prime Minister of Malaysia for the successful last meeting of the SAB in May 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, co-chaired by UNESCO Director-General and Professor Zakri.

Recalling the Secretary-General's critical role in raising the profile of science in the UN, Irina Bokova praised the innovative and high quality work of the 26-member multinational and multidisciplinary SAB.  Expressing their great honor in serving the UN Secretary-General through the SAB, SAB Members updated the Secretary-General on the current work of the Board crediting him for "making science not only an observer but an advisor" in the post-2015 development process. They urged him to continue to champion STI and conveyed the importance of investment in STI for sustainable and inclusive development.

The meeting came after UNESCO Director-General had hosted in the morning a high-level roundtable breakfast on the critical role of science, technology and innovation (STI) for the implementation of the future post-2015 sustainable development agenda, organized at the margins of the 2015 high-level segment of ECOSOC.

At the roundtable, Irina Bokova highlighted the progress made in recognizing the importance of STI as a driver for sustainable development. But "more needs to be done, specifically at the country and regional levels", she said. "We need to make sure science, technology and innovation delivers on the SDGs -- to promote not just sustainable but inclusive and just development for all."

"Countries need to commit to significant and adequate investment in STI and Research and Development in order to harness the full potential for STI to provide concrete solutions to the post-2015 development challenges", emphasized Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid.

Professor Maria Ivanova summarized the current thinking of the SAB on strengthening the science policy interface in the context of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) calling for increased participation and representation of science in the political process. 

Noting that the internet of things and cloud computing changes how we measure, instrument and assess the progress of the SDGs as they occur,  Professor Shankar Sastry of Berkeley University highlighted the need for a data roadmap to address issues pertaining to data collection, privacy and use. On the same subject, Professor Wole Soboyejo stressed the need for data revolution to lead to inclusive development with benefits for all people. 

Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) called for a focus on least developed countries where the percentage of R&D expenditure is very low and where there is critical need for collaboration with other countries including trough technology transfer.

Ms Amina Mohamed, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on post-2015 Development Planning, commended UNESCO and the SAB for having proactively promoted STI in the current development discussions. She highlighted the need to engage with all relevant stakeholders and focus on bringing STI in the implementation of SDGs on the country level.

In their concluding remarks Irina Bokova and Professor Zakri reiterated that integration of STI in the implementation of SDGs at the country level will be key for the success of the future sustainable development agenda and the transition from MDGs to SDGs. Multistakeholder collaboration, the creation of enabling policy environment and strengthening the national scientific capacities, including through STEM education, were vital factors in this regard.