Concrete Action Needed to Tap Potential of Science, Technology in Solving Global Development Challenges, Speakers Tell Innovation Forum

ECOSOC/6832
15 May 2017
Multi-stakeholder Forum, 1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Concrete Action Needed to Tap Potential of Science, Technology in Solving Global Development Challenges, Speakers Tell Innovation Forum

Science, technology and innovation had an undisputed role in achieving the global development goals and sustainable development, in general, speakers said today as the Economic and Social Council kicked-off its Science, Technology and Innovation Forum.

In opening the two-day annual meeting, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, warned that, despite all the potential of science and technology to identify and design solutions to mankind’s challenges, no tangible progress would be made without real action on the ground.

In that context, the international community must collectively step up efforts to leverage science and technology in support of concrete steps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, stressing that such cooperation might not only prove to be highly effective, but could also help bridge divides across national borders and between various communities.

Highlighting that rapid advances in science, technology and innovation had revolutionized the way people lived, worked and communicated in recent years, Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted that, increasingly, such transformation was taking place on a global scale.

Addressing unequal access to innovation and technology and increased connectivity, especially in Africa, would be critical, Mr. Thomson added, calling for the establishment of strategic partnerships and broader participation of women in the field.  It was also important to do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security, security and human rights risks associated with technological advances, he underlined.

The private sector must do its part to put technologies at the service of sustainable development by providing the goods and services, while civil society could steer production and consumption towards sustainable solutions, said Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking for Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  Pointing out the wide range of stakeholders participating in the Forum, Mr. Gass said their presence demonstrated that the spirit of innovation and cooperation was alive and well.

Science, technology and innovation had an amazing impact on societies in modern times, recalled Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who delivered a video message to the Forum.  While they were not “silver bullets”, science, technology and innovation could help “unlock miracles”, he stressed, while adding that Governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations all had a role to play in those efforts.

Without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting towards a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries, said the representative of Ecuador, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  She went on to emphasize the  urgent need to channel effective, sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building tailored to the specific needs and constraints of developing countries, and to address technology infrastructure gaps, as well as capacity constraints.

Increasing the availability of technology could help weaker and vulnerable countries build resilience, while also helping to eliminate poverty and promote good governance and financial inclusion, highlighted the representative of Bangladesh, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, and aligning himself with the Group of 77.  Least developed countries needed suitable technologies and relevant know-how to adapt to local requirements, he said, underscoring the need for adequate financial support to harness science, technology and innovation, as well as the important role of private-public partnerships, and South-South and triangular cooperation.

Also speaking today during the opening segment were the representatives of Cameroon (on behalf of the African Group) and El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

Throughout the day, there were also seven panel discussions that explored the key opportunities and priorities for the use of science, technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Forum will continue at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 May.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that science, technology and innovation had an undisputed role in achieving the global development goals and sustainable development, in general.  Yet, for all the potential of science and technology to identify and design solutions to mankind’s challenges, no real progress would be made without real action on the ground.  Given that reality, the international community must collectively step up efforts to leverage science and technology in support of concrete actions towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Such action-oriented cooperation might not only prove to be highly effective, but could also help bridge divides across national borders and between various communities, as well as strengthen communication and collaboration.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Forum would bring together a wide and diverse sampling of public and private actors, ranging from decision makers and regulators, to entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as scientists and civil society representatives, he said.  The mandated objectives of the Forum were to identify and examine technology needs and gaps, including with regard to scientific cooperation, innovation and capacity-building, and to help facilitate the development, transfer and dissemination of relevant technologies for the Sustainable Development Goals.  In that regard, the Forum must consider a range of sources of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, and provide an opportunity to strengthen the dialogue between stakeholders, while also facilitating exchanges on science, technology and innovation solutions.  The summary of the Forum would be fed into the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which would be held from 10 to 19 July, he noted.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted rapid advances in science, technology and innovation that in recent years had revolutionized the way people lived, worked and communicated.  Increasingly, such transformation was taking place on a global scale.  Smart mobile devices were being used to provide banking services to people without bank accounts, to diagnose medical disorders and to remotely manage chronic illness care.  Also highlighting technological advances made in solar energy and in combating illegal fishing, he urged the international community to continue to unlock the potential inherent in innovation.  Properly done, such actions could help achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Addressing unequal access to innovation and technology and increased connectivity, especially in Africa, would be critical, he continued.  Urging the establishment of strategic partnerships, he called on the international community to broaden participation in science, technology and innovation by women.  It was also important to do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security, security and human rights risks associated with advances in innovation and technology.  That included protecting systems against mass-scale malicious cyberattacks as seen across the world last week.

“We’ll also have to address privacy concerns relating to the collection, retention and distribution of personal data,” he continued, emphasizing that the automation replacing industrial jobs would have to be carefully managed.  “We cannot all be employed polishing robots,” he added.  The Forum had both an explanative and a constructive role to play as it had become the pre-eminent, global platform to bring together key stakeholders.  Welcoming the December 2016 General Assembly decision to establish the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, he said to function effectively, the Technology Bank, as well as the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, were in need of increased financial resources.

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, delivering a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require transformation on many different levels and scales and would require the kind of change that could only happen through science, technology and innovation.  Science pushed the boundaries of the unknown and inspired practical solutions, while technology and innovation helped transform science into real results that affected everyday lives.  The world was experiencing a time of rapid progress that affected all lives in every aspect — economic and social, as well as environmental.

The international community must put technologies at the service of sustainable development, he said.  Many people must work together to make that happen, including the private sector which needed to provide the goods and services.  Furthermore, civil society needed to steer production and consumption towards sustainable solutions.  The United Nations stood ready to do its part, including by facilitating technology transfer, particularly as most Member States recognized the importance of science, technology and innovation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Forum served as a collaborative space, with the objective of harnessing and disseminating science, technology and innovation.  The participation of such a wide range of stakeholders demonstrated that the spirit of innovation and cooperation was alive and well.  By participating in the Forum with its global reach, stakeholders were in the “right place at the right time” to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

YANEZ LOZA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting towards a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries.  There was an urgent need to channel effective and sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building tailored to the specific needs and constraints of developing countries, and to address technology infrastructure gaps as well as capacity constraints.  There was also a need to fully operationalize the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, recognizing its potential to foster productive capacity, structural transformation, poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The Group reaffirmed that international cooperation, especially North-South cooperation, remained a fundamental catalyst to sustainable economic growth and urged developed countries to fulfil their unmet official development assistance (ODA) commitments.  In the same vein, it was essential to mobilize domestic resources to support science, technology and innovation, while also recognizing the central role of tax systems in development.  Technology transfer and diffusion on concessional and preferential terms from developed countries were also needed.  The Group also underlined that traditional knowledge should be fully considered, respected and promoted while developing policies, strategies and programmes to foster science, technology and innovation.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that countries in Africa were continuing to mobilize resources to meet the 2030 Agenda.  In that regard, science, technology and innovation had been established as a “game changer” for the socioeconomic development of Africa.  Recognizing the Forum’s potential to help create jobs, he noted the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in sharing knowledge and building on experience.  African countries continued to heavily rely on technology in order to shift to a more sustainable path.  However, many challenges persisted, particularly in levelling the playing field and addressing the persistent digital divide.

Unless such challenges were addressed, many developing countries, particularly least developed countries in Africa, would continue to lag behind, he added.  African countries were facing many obstacles, with regard to finance, capacity-building and research and development.  An effective technology innovative system could help bridge the gap.  Welcoming the setting up of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, he called on the United Nations to fast-track its operationalization.  It was of utmost importance to improve the state of science, technology and innovation in least developed countries.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that the 2030 Agenda aptly recognized that science, technology and innovation had great potential to accelerate human progress.  Availability of technology could help weaker and vulnerable countries build resilience.  It could also help eliminate poverty and promote good governance and financial inclusion.  A stronger commitment and political will of the international community was essential to help the least developed countries utilize science, innovation and technology to realize the 2030 Agenda and the Istanbul Programme of Action.  He welcomed collective efforts that led to the adoption in December 2016 of the charter of the Technology Bank.

He recommended enhancing vertical coordination between policies and strategies adopted by countries to ensure more public investment in research and development.  That would help ensure availability, affordability and accessibility to technology.  Least developed countries needed appropriate technologies and relevant know-how to adapt with local needs.  Noting also the need for adequate financial support to harness science, technology and innovation, he highlighted the role pf private-public partnerships, and South-South and triangular cooperation.  There must be more concrete initiatives among the countries in the South to exchange their lessons learned.

JAIME CALDERON (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said science, technology and innovation had enabled the building of knowledge societies.  Collaboration in innovation was particularly important to finding competitive solutions to local, national and regional challenges.  To that end, it was essential to refrain from carrying out unilateral measures that could foster conflict among States, he said, also highlighting the need to protect the right to privacy of all individuals.  While science, technology and innovation were central in advancing the 2030 Agenda, he reiterated that not every problem had a technological solution.

Various sources of knowledge, including indigenous understanding, must be utilized, he continued.  Technology transfer was a powerful driver of economic growth and a tool to bridge the digital divide.  He stressed the role of capacity-building, particularly in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries.  Women, children and persons with disabilities must have access to technology.  Technology transfer, capacity-building and the dissemination of information were key drivers of economic growth.

BILL GATES, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, then delivered a video message to the Forum, in which he highlighted that science, technology and innovation had an amazing impact on societies in modern times.  Since 1990, childhood mortality had been cut in half, which meant some 122 million lives had been saved.  He was optimistic about the Sustainable Development Goals and how innovation could help meet those goals.  Science, technology and innovation were not “silver bullets”, but they could help “unlock miracles”.  There needed to be new vaccines, more innovation in agriculture, and reliable, affordable clean energy.  Governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations all had a role to play, which was why the Forum was so important.

Panel I

The first panel titled, “Harnessing Science Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals — the key to unlocking science, technology and innovation potentials”, was moderated by Elenita Daño, Asia Director, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, Philippines.  It featured brief remarks by the Forum Co-Chairs Vaughan Tuekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary Of State, United States, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations.  The panellists were Indira Nath, Professor, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, India, and Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University.

Mr. TUEKIAN said that the Forum had brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, as well as youth, which spoke to the optimism and creativity that would be needed to achieve the future development goals.  He hoped the next two days would provide participants an opportunity to meet with colleagues and exchange ideas and solutions, as well as think about ways to “bend the science, technology and innovation curve” to address some of the great challenges the world faced in a collaborative manner.

Mr. KAMAU noted that the gap between the knowledge and the available science and policies was huge, and it was up to the Forum to address that gap.  There needed to be greater coherence between the various scientific and technological communities so that they spoke to each other across boundaries to ensure a collaborative outcome.  Only 13 years remained to complete the tasks that had been laid out in the 2030 Agenda.  Science, technology and innovation could be transformative and accelerate change; now was the time to ensure that the policymakers “got it”.

Ms. DAÑO said the objective of the discussion was to provide long-term vision on how and to what extent the world could harness science, technology and innovation for the 2030 Agenda and to ensure better human well-being in the future.  Science, technology and innovation should not only focus on high-technology solutions, but there must be acknowledgement of a diverse range of sources, as well.

Ms. NATH said that human health was not only about humans and diseases, but was also about human well-being.  There were an increasing number of infectious diseases and the destruction of animal habitats was contributing to the spread of infectious disease.  The emerging epidemics the world was dealing with related to the spread of diseases from animals to humans.  Sustainability would not be possible unless the relationships between animals and humans were understood, and there must be a better understanding of the health of the total planet.  Some of the early signals of epidemics that affected humans were first evident in animals, but the connection had not been made, which meant that surveillance and reporting must be expanded to avoid that phenomenon.  Rapid urbanization and internal migration also needed to be studied more carefully as they related to the spread of disease.

Mr. OKI recalled that the Sustainable Development Goals pursued both inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development, although that could not be achieved without holistic approaches that strengthened the pillars of sustainable development through good governance, social inclusion and environmental conservation.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require an immense amount of work and determination, and in that regard, science, technology and innovation had a fundamental role to play by equipping humankind with better tools to progress beyond social hurdles and environmental hazards and reaching development equality across nations.  By supporting developing countries to implement the Sustainable Development Goals on their own, science, technology and innovation had the potential to become a form of ODA.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China said that science and technology were important links to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, eradicating poverty and promoting better human health.  The representative of Ethiopia, associating himself with the statement of the Group of 77, recalled that the Forum was an outcome of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and stressed that the transfer of science, technology and innovation from developed to developing countries was of great importance, particularly for the least developed countries.  The representative of Canada said that the Forum should help build the enabling environment required for science, technology and innovation to be best utilized to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  A representative of a stakeholder group, meanwhile, stressed that “silo solutions” must be broken down.

Panel II

Opening the second panel, the Forum heard an innovation pitch from John Gibbons, winner of the Call for Innovations for the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, on “Babajob in India”.  Babajob was a website in India that helped connect employers with job seekers.  By doing so, it had also acquired a wealth of data on employment trends in India.

Titled “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation to end poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal 1)”, the panel was moderated by Gillian Tett, the United States Managing Editor, Financial Times.  Participating in the discussion were the following speakers:  Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Belgium; Priyanthi Fernando, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Poverty Analysis, Sri Lanka; and Anne Kingiri, Senior Research Fellow, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, African Centre for Technology Studies, Kenya.

Mr. FRANSAER said integration was critical to fostering innovation and remained vital to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  The integration of the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development were essential to find myriad solutions to current development challenges, relating particularly to science, technology and innovation.  For example, a Government programme focusing on purifying water would be aided by also including aspects of sanitation, sewage, waste and energy consumption.  “We start from problems and we look at how integrated solutions could help bring forth solutions,” he added.

Ms. FERNANDO, noting that poverty was not an abstract concept, said women and girls were disproportionately affected by the phenomenon.  Less than 46 per cent of Indian women used mobile phones; that was substantially less than Indian men.  In India, mobile phone usage by women was seen as undermining tradition.  Such social attitudes limited female autonomy, restricted women’s job searches and perpetuated the gender gap.  More than 1 billion people still lacked access to electricity, with women particularly affected.  “Babies are delivered in the dark,” she added.  Governments had failed to invest significantly in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable citizens and private investment alone would not resolve the gaps.  She urged Governments worldwide to demonstrate political will and stop discounting women’s potential.  “Women are technology producers and innovators”, and not just consumers, she stressed.  Respecting that potential would prevent multinational corporations from exploiting resources and local populations.

Ms. KINGIRI focused her presentation on the importance of enhancing capabilities which she said must be a priority for all Governments that wished to achieve sustainable development.  Multi-stakeholder collaboration and sustainable learning depended largely on the capacity of domestic and local actors.  Interactive learning, whether at the level of project, national innovation system or global value chain, was critical to sustainability.  It often led to capacity-building conversations including on how to conceptualize and form business models.  She highlighted the importance of rethinking the role of science, technology and innovation policy in building platforms and promoting collaboration between enterprises and universities.  Examining the social aspect of innovation helped expose complex dynamics of access, affordability and distribution, she added, highlighting the need to invest in domestic capabilities.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China outlined steps her Government was taking to eradicate poverty, particularly by mobilizing resources and focusing on technology gaps.  China would continue to partner with developing countries and share its experience and expertise at international conferences. 

The representative of Zambia said with so much international competition, knowledge-sharing was instrumental in breaking down silos.  Echoing that sentiment, Ms. KINGIRI highlighted the need to change mind sets and start new conversations.

Panel III

Opening the third panel, the Forum heard two innovation pitches; the first from Asher Hasan on “doctHERs in Pakistan”, which was a home-based technology that connected young, female doctors in India to patients.  The second innovation pitch was from Adama Kane on “JokkoSante in Senegal”, which helped families, including those with young children, store necessary medicines in their homes.

Titled “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation for ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, the panel’s opening remarks were delivered by Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.  The moderator was Paulo Gadelha, Senior Advisor, FIOCRUZ, Brazil, and the panellists were Livio Valenti, Co-Founder, Vice-President of Policy and Strategy, Vaxess Technologies, and Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, United States; and Sarah Marniesse, Director, Mobilization of Research and Innovation, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, France.

Ms. KYTE said that, by focusing on energy and health together, it was possible to seek solutions that may in fact scale up and expedite the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals related to each area.  Fortunately, there was a plethora of data available on both energy and health, and it was clear that there was both a public and private sector interest in finding solutions to energy and health challenges.  International, national and local policy makers would all need to be involved.  Closing the energy access gap was a clear target laid out in the future development agenda, but, without concerted efforts, that goal would not be met until 2040, at the earliest.

There were real challenges to bringing the existing science, technology and innovation to market in the most effective way, including insufficient human capital and managerial capacities within institutions which were not always forward-looking.  Unfortunately, there was a weak enabling environment for health care and sustainable energy, which also slowed progress.  A constant push from the top would be required to make the two complex systems work together to provide solutions.  There was, however, some “low-hanging fruit” which could be addressed immediately for quick, positive results, such as pushing for clean cooking, which would reduce indoor air pollution and the associated illnesses and loss of life.

Mr. GADELHA said that health was one of the Sustainable Development Goals most closely related to human well-being and social rights.  He noted that more than 60 per cent of health problems were due to communicable diseases, while only 1 per cent of money allocated for research and development in health care was devoted to the most predominant communicable diseases in developing countries.

Mr. VALENTI said his group was most focused on ensuring vaccines were made available to those who needed them the most.  In that context, the creation of vaccines that did not require refrigeration or that could be administered without the use of needles was the primary aim of his organization’s research.  Through the use of new technologies, it was possible to envision a dramatic decrease in the cost of vaccination campaigns in the near future.  His organization had created a patch through which vaccines could be administered, and in which individuals could receive two doses at once, making the entire process far more efficient.  There was a sense of urgency to his work, although additional funding was also of critical importance.

Ms. MARNIESSE recalled that about 16,000 children were dying every day.  From that figure, it was clear that more needed to be done to prevent and treat diseases, improve nutrition, and other efforts; all under the umbrella of universal health care.  A holistic approach would be required to mobilize synergies across the Sustainable Development Goals.  Silos needed to be broken down and research institutions in developing countries must be supported in order to bolster local research outcomes, while innovation had to take into account local social and cultural aspects.  As evidenced by the success of anti-malaria campaigns, which were largely focused on the proper use of bed nets, more research was necessary on the social determinants of health.  Most health challenges were locally specific, which called for improved local research and capacities at the core of any viable solutions.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of a stakeholder group stressed that knowledge gained from publically funded research should be made available to everyone and be publically owned, while the representative of another stakeholder group highlighted that assistive technologies could help persons with disabilities to obtain equal access to health care.  The representative of Zambia emphasized that people needed to understand all the determinants of health, rather than simply focusing on prescribing drugs, while the representative of Ethiopia stressed that the number of deaths in Africa from preventable diseases was unacceptable.

Panel IV

Launching the second afternoon panel, the Forum played a video of Emmanuel Owobu, also a winner of the Call for Innovations for the Science, Innovation and Technology, who presented his innovation pitch “OMOMI in Nigeria”.

Focusing on “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, the panel was moderated by Myrna Cunningham, President, Centre for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples in Nicaragua, and member of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism.  It featured presentations by Susil Premajayantha, Minister for Science, Technology and Research, Sri Lanka; Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations; and Dalia Francheska Marquez, member of the Women’s Leaders Committee, Organization of American States-Youth United in Action, Venezuela.

Ms. CUNNINGHAM said that, as an indigenous woman, she represented more than  150 million indigenous women from seven sociocultural regions of the world.  They were knowledge-bearers and transmitters of culture, history, languages, traditional medicine, agricultural systems and biodiversity.  The 2030 Agenda was critical for indigenous women in that it recognized that realizing gender equality was crucial to progress.  While expanded opportunities for women and girls could reduce poverty and inequality through better education and health, women only accounted for 28 per cent of the world’s researchers, she noted.

Mr. PREMAJAYANTHA highlighted the work of her Ministry, saying that new information and communication technology had immensely contributed to the empowerment of women, especially in the developing world.  Noting a village programme that provided a midwife to advise pregnant women, he underscored the role of the midwives, who now enjoyed access to iPads to find information and do research to help pregnant women with their delivery and beyond.  Harnessing the potential of women and girls required a multi-stakeholder approach, he continued, citing progress in engaging science, technology and innovation towards that goal.  A higher number of women were involved in science and medicine, and were helping contribute to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  Women were participating in university science departments.  Female faculty had been performing much better than their male counterparts.  “It is a matter of pride for us,” he said.  However, challenges persisted, especially in the private sector, which had a higher gender imbalance.  The private sector preferred to recruit men, due to myriad gender perceptions including that men were available to work later in the day.  For those reasons, women must have a role in decision-making in both the private and public sectors.

Mr. NUSSEIBEH said that, as a small country with big ambitions, the United Arab Emirates recognized that progress would not be possible without the empowerment of half of its population.  As a historically oil-based economy, economic diversification depended largely on building-up a highly skilled pool of labour.  Women were encouraged to participate in various sectors, including science and medicine, she said, noting another programme to educate young girls in the sciences.  While the gender-based digital gap in the United Arab Emirates was marginal, the Government remained committed to bridging it and called on the United Nations to prioritize closing that gap at the international level and empowering women through science and technology.  Women’s empowerment and protection was a major pillar in the economic development of the United Arab Emirates.  That empowerment had to begin in schools with Government-supported curriculum.  Resource allocation also remained critical in making science and technology accessible to women and girls.

Ms. MARQUEZ said women were less likely to have a mobile phone which today was seen as a major driver of innovation.  “We still face a glass ceiling which keeps us far away from prestige,” she said.  Women faced many gaps, both economic and social.  Sexist education played a major role, she said, noting that, while boys were encouraged to play strategic games, young girls were encouraged to follow paths associated with motherhood and household activities.  The best way to achieve equity was through fair learning.  Her organization set up educational workshops and supporting women researchers focusing on human rights.  “We bet on education,” she said.  Training in entrepreneurship was crucial, as well, she continued, emphasizing the need to guarantee access to education that was nor sexist and not gender-biased.  Economic dependency on partners or family limited women’s potential and remained a major challenge in Latin America.  The private sector must support women entrepreneurs.  “If we cannot innovate, we stagnate,” she said.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Zambia, referring to the presentations focusing on gender progress, said of her country, “we have not gotten there yet” due to culture biases limiting women to “non-difficult professions”.  It would be important to enact policy that put women in science and technology positions.  “I think it should start at home,” she added, emphasizing the need to educate young girls about the past achievements of their gender.  Responding to a question by the representative of Panama on whether national successes had been driven by grass-roots or global progress, Mr. PREMAJAYANTHA said that in Sri Lanka most graduates in science and technology were women, who then become engaged locally, educating and empowering other women and girls.  Ms. NUSSEIBEH said that, in the case of the United Arab Emirates, direction from the top was critical.  There were currently eight women Ministers in the Cabinet and the Government was further focused on achieving gender parity in the coming years.

For information media. Not an official record.