Ms. Shamshad Akhtar Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Introduction of the Secretary General’s report on Human Resources Development Agenda Item 23 [c]
17 October 2013, New York
It is with great pleasure that I introduce the Secretary-General’s report on Human Resources Development.
Through the Millennium Declaration and the subsequent adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations has placed human development squarely at the center of the development agenda. This was the result of a hard-won recognition that human empowerment lies at the heart of any effort to advance economic development and broad-based prosperity.
The social and economic imbalances generated by current patterns of growth have reaffirmed the centrality of human resource development both as a goal in itself and as a means to achieve equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth and development.
But despite considerable efforts to promote human resources development around the world, many countries, especially the most vulnerable and underdeveloped, continue to struggle with extreme poverty, poor access to quality education, inadequate healthcare and basic services, rampant unemployment, growing inequality and exclusion.
In the face of the numerous constraints and persistent challenges faced by many developing countries, General Assembly resolutions have continued to stress the need to find new and innovative ways to promote human resources development and expand opportunities to all people, especially the most vulnerable in society.
In this regard, resolution 66/217 requested the Secretary-General, in his report to the 68th session of the General Assembly, to focus on the role of science, technological knowledge and innovation in human resources development.
Science, technology and innovation (STI) are key drivers of economic growth and are increasingly considered central to reducing poverty. They can facilitate investment in human development. When used strategically, STI can overcome important physical, infrastructural and cultural barriers to the way people communicate, access services, and leverage resources, especially in the most disadvantaged communities. They can thus provide new ways to address long-standing HRD challenges.
The deployment of ICTs to enable marginalized groups to access education, healthcare and markets can change the parameters of social exclusion; the successful use of transportation and communication technologies to facilitate knowledge circulation can turn brain drain into brain gain. We know, too, that the application of STI can tackle some of the negative impacts of climate change through low-carbon and renewable energy technologies, leading to energy security and sustainability.
Harnessing the full potential of STI solutions to address human resources development challenges, however, requires certain conditions to be in place. It requires a critical mass of scientists, researchers and practitioners that can manage an innovation-led development, adequate STI infrastructure as well as institutional, regulatory and market capacity that can absorb and adapt existing technologies to local needs. These capacities are often not available in many developing countries.
Building those capacities in developing countries is not only an issue of mastering sufficient financial resources, but also understanding how science, technology and innovation interface with human resources development to ensure that policies and strategies in these two sectors are mutually reinforcing. In this regard, successful policies and strategies would be those that lead to a sustained stream of innovations and technological advances, supported by a critical mass of scientists, researchers and practitioners.
The rapid growth of technology offers governments’ problem-solvers a new dimension, allowing them to move beyond the traditional budget tools and enactment of laws to finding direct, action-oriented solutions. Information technology resources, coupled with a culture that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, are critical in encouraging thinking outside the box in applying information technology to everyday problems.
While there is no one-size-fits-all, lessons learned from current national and regional experiences provide a wealth of insights for the design of effective STI strategies and systems that can deliver on poverty reduction, sustainable growth and human resources development.
Firstly, STI and HRD systems should be well integrated into national development strategies. These must be driven by economic productivity and competitiveness and the need to address barriers to human development;
Secondly, STI strategies should be accompanied by HRD policies attuned to future labour market needs of all sectors of the economy. They should support the emergence of a sufficiently wide and flexible pool of operational, engineering, managerial and research skills, especially among women and youth, to adapt to and benefit from a constantly changing technological landscape.
Thirdly, increasing the participation of women, youth, and other disadvantaged groups in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and employment opportunities is critical not only to reducing poverty and marginalization among these groups, but also to effectively utilizing existing talents to achieve sustainable development.
Fourthly, strengthening STI capacity should involve the participation of all relevant stakeholders across the innovation chain – such as governments, universities, research institutions and businesses. Policy frameworks, budgets and institutions that facilitate and ensure that STI and HRD strategies, investments and outcomes are mutually reinforcing should accompany this.
Fifthly, Government plays a key role in setting in place adequate infrastructure, institutions, policies, and incentives for all relevant actors to promote STI. The role of Government is also essential to ensure that STI outcomes generate gains for society as a whole.
Sixthly, the private sector plays a critical role in transforming the outcomes of scientific research, new technologies and ideas into new commercial products and services. It also plays a key role in promoting a culture of innovation and learning.
Finally, in the context of complex innovation systems that build on internationalized, collaborative and open innovation models, the international community has an important role in making existing technology-based solutions accessible to developing countries. International cooperation can facilitate knowledge dissemination to help build human resources that can absorb existing technologies and adapt them to local circumstances.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we turn our attention to defining a post-2015 world, reflective of a new sustainable development path, we must refocus on the primordial importance of equipping people, institutions and countries with adequate human resources capabilities to pursue this course of development.
The right set of human resources development strategies and policies will be critical to put many countries on a path of sustainable economic growth, social progress and environmental soundness.