Partnering for innovative solutions for sustainable development

The Economic and Social Council held its annual Partnerships Forum on 24 April in preparation for its 2013 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), in Geneva this July

ECOSOC Partnership Forum (Photo: UN Photo)

The event attracted over 350 senior representatives from the private sector and foundations, as well as from NGOs and academia. It considered ways in which to partner in support of the AMR theme of promoting science, technology, innovation and culture for sustainable development.

A number of CEOs and heads of foundations participated, including the CEOs of Starwoods Hotels, Vestergaard Frandsen (public health tools), the END Fund (neglected tropical diseases) and Sumitomo Chemicals, as well as foundations like Western Union and the Luce and Pritzker Foundations, to name just a few. 

The morning session included an inspiring address by Mr. Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, who stressed the importance of accountability amongst Governments for the fight against poverty and the achievement of the MDGs to be successful. Panel discussions examined ways for better use of technologies, innovation and knowledge sharing. The two policy dialogues discussed the importance of promoting partnerships to address issues such as job creation, food and water security, green growth and cleaner renewable energy technologies.

It was noted that a huge amount of innovation was already taking place to address sectoral issues, through mobile cash transfers and other innovative initiatives. Business opportunities needed to be created, especially for youth and women. Access to the internet needed to be recognized as a human right. The key role of education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math, was stressed as paramount for sustainable development. 

The afternoon featured four Partnerships Clinics, organized by WIPO, UNESCO, UNICEF and ITU respectively. The ITU Clinic noted that up to 35% of live births go unregistered, a fact that has been described as the single most critical development failure of the last 30 years.

Every child needed to be counted, and the midwife was in the best position to provide critical health information and to make sure that births were properly recorded. Government regulators, service providers, software engineers and midwives were brought together in the Clinic to devise an effective platform for ensuring solutions for providing such critical information.

A white paper would be drafted and presented to the Every Woman Every Child Alliance, the mHealth Alliance and the next Broadband Commission meeting in September. The UNICEF Clinic focused on how to make Innovation and technology sustainable for education. It noted that innovation was not just about digital technology but also different ways of teaching or unusual partnerships. Risks needed to be taken as well as new approaches for meeting the many challenges that prevented children from getting a proper education. The main message emanating from the discussion was that there were no stumbling blocks – just stepping stones.

The WIPO Clinic highlighted the importance of addressing NTDs for achieving the MDGs, and that partnerships played a key role in helping eradicate them. WIPO’s role in making available, through an open innovation platform, the availability of unpublished scientific and regulatory data and know-how for research on NTDs. The Clinic highlighted the need for innovative approaches and stronger partnerships. It was proposed that a political declaration was needed, similar to the one for HIV/AIDS. A Special Envoy on NTDs was also needed to address the problems faced by 1.4 billion voiceless and faceless people suffering from NTDs.

Finally, the UNESCO Clinic emphasized the importance of culture, innovation and technology in the development and dissemination of design solutions to address extreme poverty. Understanding local cultures and partnering to create socially and economically sustainable design solutions was critical, as well as the creation of regional alliances and collaborative networks. Most importantly, the need for learning from communities that devise innovative design solutions with limited resources in a challenging environment was deemed essential.

For more information:
ECOSOC Partnership Forum