Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

Introduction of the 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report HLPF session
“Keeping science involved in SDG implementation”

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity to introduce the 2015 edition of the Global Sustainable Development Report.

The purpose of the GSDR is to strengthen the science-policy interface at the High-level-Political Forum. The GSDR is designed to synthesize and present scientific findings in the field of sustainable development that are most relevant to the political context of the HLPF. It highlights trends and provides policy-relevant analysis; it provides a platform for science-policy dialogue; and it contributes to the agenda-setting functions of the forum.

The task of the GSDR is to bridge the gap between science and policy, and facilitate meaningful dialogue between the two communities. The 2015 report draws upon inputs from more than 500 contributing scientists and many experts from more than 20 UN agencies.

Without a doubt, the report is timely for this historic year. Important political decisions are being made that will shape the international agenda for the next generation – at Addis in July, New York in September, and Paris in December. These decisions are expected to put us on an ambitious, universal and transformative pathway towards sustainable development.

The challenges we face are complex and multi-faceted. Science matters more than ever, to policymakers, to citizens seeking to make informed choices, and to the private sector.


One of the most distinctive features of the GSDR is its recognition that sustainable development requires an integrated approach, both in research and policy-making.

For the research community, sustainable development calls for interdisciplinary research, across the natural sciences and the social sciences. For policy-makers, sustainable development calls for working around institutional barriers, avoiding silos and collaborating with a broad range of stakeholders.

The report provides a survey of scientific findings on pressing sustainable development issues:

  • oceans, seas, marine resources and human well-being;
  • the cross-cutting issue of disaster risk reduction;
  • industrialization and its links to sustainable consumption and production; and
  • the use of “big data” in Africa.

It also examines how well prepared the scientific community is to support the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. Many gaps have been identified. For example, Chapter 3 identifies a lack of information on how improvements in human well-being can reduce adverse impacts on oceans, seas and marine resources. Chapter 6 highlights important gaps in data and capacity in countries in special situations.  

Another feature that distinguishes the GSDR is its inclusive preparatory approach. In addition to the traditional top-down approach which identifies new and emerging issues through consulting eminent experts, the GSDR also launched a bottom-up process, issuing an open call to the global scientific community to submit policy briefs for the attention of policy-makers at the HLPF. Chapter 7 reports back on this process.

I will now highlight some key messages from each chapter in this report.

Chapter 1 suggests a menu of roles and actions that the HLPF could consider in order to strengthen the science-policy interface. Some of the ideas proposed include: providing improved access to the findings of existing assessments, highlighting synergies and trade-offs and tools to address them, and helping translate the outcomes of global science-policy debates into regionally and nationally relevant frameworks for action.

Chapter 2 presents a global, integrated perspective on the Sustainable Development Goals and draws lessons for the next few years from an integrated analysis. All the goals address the three dimensions of sustainable development to varying degrees, and are further interlinked through their targets. The most interlinked are the goals on reducing inequalities and on promoting sustainable consumption and production, as well as the goal on means of implementation, which provides critical linkages to all the SDGs. Existing assessments rarely have the breadth to cover all 17 goals, no less the interconnections among them. So, bringing together the results of multiple assessments will be critical.

Chapter 3 provides an overview of the status of scientific knowledge on the linkages among oceans, seas, marine resources and livelihoods. Of critical importance to human well-being, oceans, seas and marine resources are increasingly threatened, degraded or destroyed by human activities. This chapter is based on inputs from more than 70 scientists as well as national and regional case studies.

Chapter 4, on disaster risk reduction cites estimates that, since the year 2000, natural disasters have caused the loss of life of over 1.1 million and affected another 2.7 billion people. The chapter finds that effective disaster risk reduction measures will need to play a key role in implementing the post-2015 agenda. Only then will we be able to ensure that hard won development gains are not eroded by such disasters, which can set development back by years, if not decades.

Chapter 5 discusses the role of industrialization in shaping structural transformation and economic growth for sustainable development. Countries that have enjoyed decades of high growth rates have also exhibited structural change. Yet countries that have remained poor have failed to achieve structural change. An inclusive and sustainable industrial development strategy that promotes structural change and more sustainable patterns of consumption and production – can be a cornerstone of a transformative post-2015 development agenda.

Chapter 6 analyses the body of research focused on countries in special situations – least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small-island developing States (SIDS). These countries face a range of difficulties in achieving poverty eradication and sustainable development. It also looks at the alignment between the emerging post-2015 agenda and the group-specific legislation for these countries – the Istanbul Programme of Action, the Vienna programme of Action, and the SAMOA Pathway.

The identification of new and emerging issues is a key part of the interaction between scientists and policymakers. An issue can be understood as emerging when the scientific community considers it important, but the policy community has not given it adequate attention. Chapter 7 illustrates different methods for identifying emerging issues, and proposes options for addressing them in the HLPF. It also provides an overview of the rapidly developing use of “big data” in all the SDG areas.

Chapter 8, the final chapter, focuses on use of big data in Africa. Big data provides a valuable complement to official statistics in informing sustainable development decisions, especially where there is a premium on getting reliable data in real time. This chapter is an eye-opener on the dynamism of Africa, and on its wealth of innovation. Such efforts will need to be sustained and deepened, not just in Africa but in other parts of the world.


The 2014 and 2015 GSDRs, as you know, were prepared to support the strengthening of the science-policy interface at the HLPF. I am confident that member States will use this session, and other opportunities, to provide further guidance on how the GSDR could support the work of the HLPF in the future.

I assure you of my Department’s continuing support. We also look forward to further strengthening our engagement in this effort with scientific communities around the world.

Thank you.