“We need stronger science, more connected science” says Ban Ki-moon upon receiving the Board’s report

19 September 2016

Today in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with his Scientific Advisory Board, together with UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova in her capacity as Chairperson of the Board. The Board presented a summary their recommendations to the Secretary General on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in a report entitled: The Future of Scientific Advice to the United Nations. “This Report provides an analysis of priority issues and suggests recommendations on how to tackle them, with science at the heart of our action agenda” explained Irina Bokova. “I believe that this is a powerful resource for the Secretary-General and the UN System as a whole, for stronger action at every level, from local to global.”

Representatives of the Board* shared the main findings in areas pertaining to the 2030 Agenda, including as the role of science; the data revolution; the interface of science, policy, and society; and efforts to reduce inequalities. In their report, Board members stress the need to recognize science as a public good and to invest in research and science education, calling on all countries, including the poorest, to invest at least 1% of their GDP on research and urging the most advanced countries to spend at least 3% of GDP on R&D. “Science can be a game-changer in dealing with even the most pressing challenges”, observes the Board, “if it is used to its full potential”.

Recognizing the potential of the Data Revolution in informing this process and reducing inequality, the Board notes that the UN system is uniquely placed to facilitate the collection, sharing and effective use of quality data while overseeing equitable access. It also explains that bringing together science with indigenous and local knowledge will be critical for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals at the local level and reducing inequalities.

we need stronger science, more connected science. We need science that is more deeply integrated with policy-making,” said Ban Ki-moon, receiving the report. “This is a critical time in human history. We face challenges and opportunities never seen before. We are the first generation that can end extreme poverty, and the last that can avert the threat of runaway climate change,” the Secretary-General continued, noting that science is critical to meeting the transformational goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, which “together, provide a blueprint for peace, dignity, prosperity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet.

Created in 2014 in recognition of science’s critical role in the implementation of sustainable development objectives, the Scientific Advisory Board is a unique experiment that provided the foundation for interdisciplinary scientific advice to the UN Secretary-General. In this report, it also examined its own work and functions, and how to move forward. UNESCO serves as the Secretariat of the Board.

* Members attending included Dr Susan Avery, President Emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (U.S.A.), Dr Ke Gong, President of Nankai University (China), Dr Jörg Hinrich Hacker, President of the German National Academy of Sciences – Leopoldina (Germany), Dr Maria Ivanova, Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston (Bulgaria), Dr Reiko Kuroda, Professor at the Tokyo University of Science (Japan), Dr Hayat Sindi, Founder and CEO of i2nstitute (Saudi Arabia), Dr Wole Soboyejo, Professor at Princeton University (U.S.A), Dr Judi Wakhungu, First Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry for Environment, Water and Natural Resources (Kenya), and Dr Abdul Hamid Zakri, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.