Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability

Mobilizing global sustainable science action is imperative if we are to realize the 2030 Agenda.

Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability

Why do we need a Global Commission?

Advancing human development within planetary boundaries is the most important challenge for humanity and for science. The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious attempt to respond to this challenge. Achieving the transformative vision of the SDGs by 2030 requires all countries and actors to urgently intensify the pace of progress and realign their priorities and resources towards more collaborative and drastically accelerated action. It also requires game-changing collective action within science systems and funding globally.

To rise to the challenge of acting effectively in the face of existential risks, we need the best of global science to focus on delivering Science Missions in the critical areas of food, energy and climate, health and wellbeing, water, and urban areas. Delivering these missions will require bold and strategic action from a ‘Coalition of the Willing’– including governments, science policymakers, science funders, scientists, philanthropists, the private sector, and civil society.

In this decisive decade, science must be empowered to support societies and build a dignified future for humanity and the planet. This calls for courage, and it calls for commitment. To identify the most appropriate institutional arrangements and funding mechanisms required to co-construct and deliver on the Science Missions for Sustainability, the International Science Council has established a Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability.

This Global Commission, co-chaired by Irina Bokova, former Bulgarian Foreign Minister and Director General of UNESCO, and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and previous administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, is tasked with co-designing and mobilizing support, aiming for a global fund of $US100m per year for mission-oriented science as part of the Decade of Global Sustainability Action.

This Global Commission, backed by our recent Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability report, makes the compelling case for stepping out of our business-as-usual approaches towards structuring science, funding science, and doing science. While science has done a lot to advance the human condition over the last hundred years, science now needs a quantum shift in how it works together with society and policy on the many issues that need to be addressed with urgency.

Most recently, the International Science Council established a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to advise the Global Commission on examples of game-changing questions that each of the five Science Missions could address and on funding mechanisms and institutional models to deliver science missions for sustainability. The TAG will submit a report to the Global Commission with key recommendations in the third quarter of 2022

The TAG will advise the Commission on practical matters towards advancing the Science Missions for sustainability by undertaking the following actions: 

Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability


Helen Clark

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of UNDP

Irina Bokova

Former Director-General of UNESCO


Abdulsalam Al-Murshidi

President of Omani Investment Authority, Oman

Albert van Jaarsveld

Member of the TAG, Director-General of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria

Beatrice Weder di Mauro

President of Centre for Economic Policy Research, CEPR, Professor of International Economics at the Graduate Institute, Switzerland

Bernard Sabrier

Chairman of Unigestion and the CEO of Unigestion Asia Pte Ltd, Switzerland

Huadong Guo

Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, China

Heide Hackmann

Interim Director, Future Africa; Advisor on Transdisciplinarity and Global Knowledge Networks, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Hiroshi Komiyama

Chairman of the Science and Technology in Society Forum

Ismail Serageldin

Founding Director of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt

Izabella Teixeira

Former Minister of Environment, co-chair of the International Resource Panel, Brazil

James Cameron

Filmmaker, Canada

Jeremy Farrar

Director of Wellcome, UK

Julie Wrigley

Founding Benefactor and co-chair, Global Futures Laboratory, Co-founder and co-chair Global Institute of Sustainability, USA

Johan Rockström

Joint Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany

Macharia Kamau

Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Trade at Government, Kenya

Magdalena Skipper

Editor in Chief, Nature, UK

Maria Leptin

President of the European Research Council, Germany

Martin Rees

Co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, UK

Naledi Pandor

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa

Pamela A. Matson

Director of Stanford University Change Leadership for Sustainability Program, USA

Peter Gluckman

President of the International Science Council, New Zealand

Thomas Hughes-Hallett

Chair of John Innes Centre and Founder Marshall Institute for Philanthropy, London

Yuan T. Lee

Former President of ICSU and of the Academy of Sciences located in Taipei, Nobel laureate

Salvatore Aricò

CEO, International Science Council

Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the Global Commission


Pamela A. Matson

Co-chair of the TAG, member of the Global Commission, Director of Stanford University Change Leadership for Sustainability Program

Albert van Jaarsveld

Co-chair of the TAG, member of the Global Commission, Director-General of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis


Alan Bernstein

President and CEO of CIFAR, one of Canada’s leading scientists of health and cancer, founding president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Connie Nshemereirwe

Director of the Africa Science Leadership Programme, former Co-Chair for the Global Young Academy

Ian Goldin

Professor of Globalisation and Development at the University of Oxford

Ingrid Petersson

Director General of Formas – the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development

Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

Professor and Director of the Institute for Water Futures and Associate Director Staff Development at the Fenner School Of Environment and Society, at the Australian National University

Maria Ivanova

Associate Professor of Global Governance and Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Boston

William Clark

Harvey Brooks Research Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

Zakri Abdul Hamid

Chairman of Atri Advisory, Ambassador and Science Advisor, Campaign for Nature (CFN), Professor Emeritus

Barend Mons

President of CODATA, Scientific director of GO FAIR Foundation, Professor of Human Genetics Department – LUMC

What are the five broad areas where mission-oriented science is needed?

To stabilize the Earth system within a safe-operating space within 10–20 years, mission-oriented science needs to focus on five broad areas to urgently make them more sustainable, equitable and resilient:

How these missions will be adapted and fulfilled in different contexts will be defined with key stakeholders. The Commission will advise on the conditions and process for ensuring this can be done effectively. Fulfilling Science Missions requires focus, full-time dedication of the people involved, adequate financial support, and institutional shielding. The objective of science missions is not only to produce new knowledge, but also to open the way to change. Scaling up science investment to support a number of focused science missions strongly and sustainably, united around a common sustainability agenda, provides a real opportunity for mobilizing and putting to use the best transdisciplinary science for societal transformations in an outcome-driven, coordinated and integrated manner.


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