30 January 2014

Secretary-General's remarks to Inaugural Meeting of his Scientific Advisory Board (as prepared for delivery)

Welcome to this Opening Ceremony to launch the work of the Scientific Advisory Board.

I am pleased to see such high-level representation here today.

It confirms the importance of scientific advice in shaping our collective action to advance sustainable development, reduce inequality and eradicate extreme poverty.

This Board has been established on the recommendation of the High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, co-chaired by President [Tarja] Halonen of Finland and President [Jacob] Zuma of South Africa.

When I spoke to the Informal General Assembly Plenary on the Global Sustainability Panel Report, I emphasised the importance of strengthening the ties between the global scientific community and the United Nations, so science can better used in policy-making processes.

This Board will provide additional support to the United Nations in addressing global challenges from an integrated, holistic perspective.

We need to strengthen our decision making processes based on a variety of scientific fields, including traditional and indigenous knowledge.

I am grateful to Germany for hosting this event.

I thank UNESCO for providing the Board’s Secretariat, and its Director General, Dr. Irina Bokova for her wisdom and guidance.

And I particularly thank all the members of the Board for accepting my invitation.

Your presence here, taking time from your busy schedules, is a demonstration of our collective commitment to put the world on a sustainable path.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For too long we have sought to burn and consume our way to prosperity.

That model is unsustainable.

We have entered a new era, which has been given the name ‘Anthropocene’.

Human activity is now having a direct and measurable impact on the planet’s life support systems.

We need science to understand our environment, to protect it and use it wisely.

We need to understand the many economic and demographic forces at play in our changing world.

And we need to tackle the big issues – hunger and food security, growing inequalities, disaster prevention, urbanization, sanitation and sustainable energy for all.

The renowned scientist, Marie Curie, once said:

I quote: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

End of quote.

But to know is not enough.

We need new ways of thinking and acting.

We face a multiplicity of crises, risks and vulnerability that are too intertwined to be solved by one nation alone.

No single decision-making body can address them.

No single research area can unravel them.

We need more integrated policies.

We have to weigh the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development equally, under a single agenda.

This is the main message of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.

The ECOSOC Ministerial Review has also called for strengthened links between science and policy.

This Board is a concrete step towards these goals.

We need scientific approaches that overcome barriers between disciplines and methods.

We need a holistic vision of the challenges to build integrated responses.

And we need local and global political leadership informed by solid science and innovative approaches to problem solving.

This Board represents some of the world’s best scientific competence.

It will provide indispensable advice on the interface between science and policy for sustainable development.

The next two years are critical for three reasons.

First, have agreed to finalize a global legal climate agreement by the end of 2015.

We have to limit global temperature rise or we will never achieve sustainable development and eradicate extreme poverty.

That is why I will host a Climate Summit on September 23rd for global leaders from government, business, finance, and civil society.

I want to catalyze ambitious action on the ground and strengthen mobilize political will.

Second, 2015 is the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

We have to accelerate action.

Third, Member States are busy defining a post-2015 development agenda.

We must build on the MDGs, and deliver a framework that can end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and advance sustainable development.

I count on this Board to provide valuable ideas in all these areas, and wherever we need cutting edge thinking on the interface between science and policy.

Thank you.