Sustainable Development Goals for Natural Sciences

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© UNESCO

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a significant step forward in the recognition of the contribution of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to sustainable development. UNESCO is part of the United Nations Task Team leading the global Technology Facilitation Mechanism, launched on 26 September in order to support the Sustainable Development Goals by enhancing North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms.

Throughout its 70 years of history, UNESCO has been a true facilitator of such cooperation, via its networks and centres, especially the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and the World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries, which have been a driving force behind global efforts to advance scientific expertise in the developing world and respond to the needs of young scientists in countries that are lagging in science and technology.

Through its natural science programmes, UNESCO contributes to the overall implementation of Sustainable Development Goals by providing policy assistance to support developing countries in strengthening their scientific and technological capacity, and to help Member States design effective policies, based on the best available knowledge, including local and indigenous knowledge systems.

UNESCO plays a vital role in constructing a global culture of resilient communities. Through its multidisciplinary mandate in education, natural and social sciences, culture and communication, it is in a unique position to address climate change holistically. In order to help societies around the world to better understand, mitigate and adapt to global change, over 30 programmes contribute to creating knowledge and raising awareness of climate change, associated risks and ethical implications. UNESCO also helps countries to build their capacities in managing disaster and climate risk and with their ability to cope with disasters, especially geohazards, tsunamis and water-related disasters.

Water security is the focus of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), devoted to water research, water resources management, education and capacity building. IHP contributes to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water, which is closely linked to human health and well-being. Sustainable water management contributes to food security by solving issues at the nexus of water with food and agriculture. Today, most of the people lacking access to clean water and basic sanitation live in cities in developing countries, where IHP promotes new approached to manage increasingly scarce resources that are under pressure from climate change and population growth.

UNESCO promotes the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, including sustainable forest management, combating desertification and halting biodiversity loss through its Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB). The MAB biosphere reserves are learning sites for sustainable development, where interdisciplinary approaches are tested to understand and manage interactions between social and ecological systems, and solutions are promoted to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. In order to provide the knowledge base needed to address the current decline in biodiversity and ecosystem services, UNESCO is actively engaged in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and leads efforts to ensure respect for indigenous knowledge within the Platform.