UN Science, Technology and Innovation Forum to showcase bold innovations for advancing sustainable development

To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment of urgent solutions at a high-profile Forum on Tuesday.

The heightened global demand for new, life-saving measures will be a central focus for the UN’s sixth annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)-- convened by the President of the UN Economic and Social Council--that will bring together governments, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community, UN entities, youth and other stakeholders to identify technology needs and gaps, and help facilitate development, transfer and dissemination of relevant technologies that are needed to achieve the SDGs.

The rapid production of vaccines, the use of artificial intelligence to monitor viral outbreaks, the expansion of e-commerce and telemedicine have demonstrated that science, technology and innovation are critical to building resilient societies.

“The STI Forum is unique precisely because it brings together such a diversity of stakeholders. Only here, so many regulators, policymakers and businesspeople rub shoulders with innovators, scholars and activists. All these players have the power to bring scientific innovation up to scale and advance sustainable development,” said Mohammad Koba, Chargé d’Affaires of the Indonesian Mission to the UN and Co-chair of the Forum.

This year’s Forum, co-chaired by Latvia and Indonesia, will address the theme of "Science, technology and innovation for a sustainable and resilient COVID-19 recovery, and effective pathways of inclusive action towards the SDGs”, particularly relevant as countries continue to combat the health, economic and social impacts of the pandemic amid the mounting pressures of climate change.

“The pandemic has clearly demonstrated that people need to be equipped with skills that help them navigate today’s complex information environment and make well-informed decisions,” said Andrejs Pildegovičs, Permanent Representative of Latvia to the UN and Co-chair of the Forum.

“Hopefully we have also learned that we must do better at not only listening, but also acting on science to avoid crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic in the first place. Science informs us of imminent threats and ways to prepare for them. Our policies and actions must heed it.”

25 winners of the annual Call for Innovations competition organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the Global Innovation Exchange (GIE), will be announced on Tuesday, selected from among hundreds of global entrepreneurs who are advancing sustainable development in their local communities around the world.

From building resilient food systems to improving maternal, child and new-born health, the innovations demonstrate the importance of leveraging science, technology and innovation for driving social progress, protecting the environment and promoting economic development. For example, Fightback Online System in Nepal focuses on gender-based violence while Swarmob in Chile helps schools with the development of online projects around the SDGs.

The winning solutions help address the impacts of COVID-19 disruptions and will remain relevant beyond the pandemic as they promise to help accelerate progress towards one or more of the SDGs.

Keynote speakers at the Forum will emphasize the critical role of partnerships and the need to include the perspectives of all stakeholders when developing solutions to global problems. Julie Makani, Professor and Principal Investigator for the Sickle Cell Disease programme at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania, is set to discuss the critical importance of developing science, technology and innovation capacity to build resilient public health systems.

Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation will highlight current threats to human well-being and the role of science, technology and innovation in addressing global crises.

The summary of the Forum will support this year’s High-Level Political Forum and its review of progress towards the SDGs.

Over the course of two days, the Forum will discuss lessons from the experience with COVID-19 pandemic, deploying rapid technological change to achieve the SDGs, closing technological divides, and initiating new, open and collaborative science and innovation models.  

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash