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2021 Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs: amplifying STI for a sustainable and resilient COVID-19 recovery

With an overall focus on science, technology and innovation for a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19, the sixth annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum) took place on 4-5 May 2021.

The STI Forum, a component of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, together with the 10-Member Group, is convened annually by the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to discuss science, technology and innovation cooperation around key thematic areas for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

In his opening remarks the President of ECOSOC, Mr. Munir Akram, called on the Forum to reflect on how science, technology and innovation can be fully unleashed and utilized to design a resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery:

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Both the President of ECOSOC and the President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Volkan Bozkir, discussed the central role of digital technologies in achieving sustainability, stressing that the digital divide is becoming the ‘new face of inequality’ – arguing that there is no viable path to achieve sustainable development without closing  technological divides.  

Discussions during the two-day Forum brought to the fore lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and how pathways to a better science-policy-society interface are urgently needed. Other topics of discussion included:

  • Harnessing a resilient, sustainable and inclusive recovery, new approaches to accelerate SDG progress through innovation;
  • focused priorities for STI development;
  • successful experiences from the pandemic response that can be scaled up to have impact across multiple goals and targets;
  • most impactful STI applications with the potential to simultaneously influence multiple SDG targets;
  • practical ways in which the STI community can collaborate to ensure that solutions generated address synergies across the SDGs; and
  • national and regional initiatives related to design and review of STI for SDG roadmaps and related policy actions.  

Speakers discussed the key role played by the STI Forum in bringing together different parts of society to co-design the solutions required to achieve the SDGs, and to address the multiple global challenges trough systemic and diverse approaches. Achievements gained so far by the Mechanism underlined by the speakers included the creation of the Online Platform: 2030 Connect, as well as the STI for SDGs roadmaps, aimed at interested national and local governments, agencies and institutions that wish to use roadmaps as a policy tool to harness STI as a mean to achieve the SDGs.

Discussions during the forum also reflected on the next steps for the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, which was established by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, with a special dialogue reuniting several members of the 10-Member Group advancing a series of recommendations in order to strengthen the impact of the Mechanism going forward.  

Throughout the deliberations, speakers underscored the need to scale up the Mechanism, to build equitable and inclusive partnerships involving the private sector and developing countries that lack strong scientific and technological capacities. There was also a need identified to harness international STI collaborations including through new funding schemes, and to promote a more interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach on achieving the SDGs. Promoting synergies and addressing trade-offs amongst the SDGs was also seen as a critical step in realizing the 2030 Agenda.   

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The Scientific and Technological Community Major Group reviews ECOSOC and HLPF

The UN’s ECOSOC and the HLPF play a central role in mobilizing global cooperation, solidarity and action, and in ensuring that global responses to the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic are aligned with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. The Scientific and Technological Community Major Group shares the following proposals as part of this timely review process.

The conclusions and recommendations of the 2021 STI Forum will be summarized by its Co-Chairs and serve as inputs to the 2021 High Level Political Forum.

A series of side events were also organized on the margins of the 6th STI Forum, including: 

  1. A side event on Vaccines: A case for Science, Society and Policies Interactions in the Quest of STI for SDGs organized by FIOCRUZ, the ISC and G-STIC. A résumé of the meeting is available here  
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2. The World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) side event on Engineering – Bridging the Gap for a Sustainable and Resilient Recovery The event focused on: 

  • the role of engineering in implementing the SDGs including through providing societal solutions to the great challenges humanity is facing; 
  • the need to strengthen the contribution of engineering to have more trans-, multi- and interdisciplinary approaches, allowing scientists and engineers to work together on identifying innovative and applicable solutions to the global challenges;  
  • promoting systems-thinking and inclusive learning to enable engineers to fully reveal their potential in contributing to sustainable development and 
  • building new partnerships and strengthening existing ones, including with the UN system, to overcome existing gaps in SDG implementation, particularly through the promotion of engineering capacity building. 

3. STRINGS’s side event explored how best to harness the power of STI for SDGs. The project’s unprecedented mapping of how different areas of STI relate to SDGs highlighted the frequent misalignments between scientific research and SDG challenges.

STRINGS (Steering Research and Innovations for Global Goals) will publish a full report and recommendations from its research later this year, more information about their work is available on their website. 

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