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Creation of a Group of Friends on Science for Action at the UN

15 April 2023, New York – Sizable developments are underway for improved scientific support of decision-making at the global level through the UN General Assembly Briefing on Science-Based Evidence for Sustainable Solutions, and the launch of the Group of Friends on Science for Action at the UN.

Progress on a new Scientific Support System at the UN

The President of the General Assembly Csaba Kőrösi had adopted at the beginning of his mandate the motto ‘Solutions through solidarity, sustainability and science’. On multiple occasions, he has expressed the need for robust science to underpin deliberations in the United Nations. In line with these ambitions, this week President Kőrösi convened a second informal plenary meeting for eminent scientists and academics to brief Member States on the best ways to drive evidence-based solutions in consultation with the scientific community. This is particularly critical to support the thirteen negotiation processes related to transformation under the ongoing seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly, which could all benefit from science.

Within the framework of this Briefing of the General Assembly on Science-Based Evidence in Support of Sustainable Solutions, the CEO of the International Science Council (ISC) Salvatore Aricò addressed the UN and its Member States as part of a panel on “Scientific Support System at the UN: A new science-based ‘normal’?”. He urged for integrated science advice to support all relevant UN deliberations, bridge science to action gaps, and promote durable solutions to complex problems.

“Science and policy are joining forces to rely on knowledge to guide action and make tangible progress on sustainability issues. The integration of sound findings from science with evidence-based policy-making can act as a game-changer, reducing risk and maximizing opportunities related to peoples, nature and sustainability.”

Salvatore Aricò, CEO of the International Science Council

Establishment of a Group of Friends on Science for Action at the UN

As the world faces urgent and interconnected challenges, there is a need for a stronger and more agile interface between science, policy, and society to inform decision-making and steer action towards desired outcomes.

To that end, Belgium, India, and South Africa announced the launch of the Group of Friends on Science for Action at the Briefing of the General Assembly on Science-Based Evidence in Support of Sustainable Solutions and stated that the International Science Council will support the Group. The Group is co-chaired by Belgium, India, and South Africa and all UN Member States have been invited to join it. Several additional Member States have already expressed their interest in joining the Group, following a note verbale by the founding countries.

“We need an organized and regular cooperation between the scientific and the policy community. The scientific support we need must be multidisciplinary, data-driven, pragmatic, and solutions-oriented. I congratulate Belgium, India, and South Africa on their initiative to create a Group of Friends on Science for Action and I encourage all Member States to consider joining. The Group is a new endeavour not just because it is newly created but also because its approach will be more advanced in supporting deliberations.”

H.E. Csaba Kőrösi, President of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly

The establishment of this Group supporting science and actionable knowledge provides an important and complementary impetus to ongoing efforts to build a stronger role of science in decision-making at the global level.

“We need solutions informed by science more than ever. The main goals of the Group of Friends on Science for Action will be to inspire maximum commitment by UN Member States to the application of knowledge, and to ensure that they have access to actionable knowledge. The co-chairs invite all Member States to join the Group of Friends”.

H.E. Ruchira Kamboj, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, on behalf of the three co-chairs.

“The initiative by Member States to form a Group of Friends on Science for Action demonstrates vision and leadership. This initiative comes at a critical juncture to enhance evidence-based decision-making at the global level and complement ongoing efforts to create a scientific advisory mechanism for the UN. The International Science Council is thrilled to have been invited to assist the practice of scientific support to the UN through a formal technical role in the Group of Friends.”

Salvatore Aricò, CEO of the International Science Council

The International Science Council was invited to actively support this group to ensure the engagement of the scientific community based on the needs and priorities identified by participating countries. The Council’s commitment to working with Member States will enable actionable knowledge to be championed at the global level and push the scientific community to deliver better knowledge that provides robust insights on the scope of issues as well as the range of options, solutions, and interventions that need to be considered to address them.

“It is critical that science is better used to achieve action on so many issues confronting the global community. The Group of Friends on Science for Action provides a mechanism to assist in having science playing a stronger role in informing Member States’ deliberations. The ISC is delighted to have been a catalyst for the establishment of the Group of Friends. We will provide secretarial and evidentiary synthesis support to the Group. This is an important step forward in bringing scientific knowledge more effectively to the key multilateral fora.”

Peter Gluckman, President of the International Science Council

“The President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General have consistently drawn our attention to the need to develop new ways of using scientific evidence to support policies and decision-making, and science remains under-funded as documented in UNESCO’s regular science report. The Group of Friends will offer evidence-informed options for negotiations and deliberations. Belgium will take up the Presidency of the EU in January 2024 and one of the priority areas will be health and health care as critical for the achievement of the SDGs.”

H.E. Philippe Kridelka, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations

South Africa is honoured to be part of this initiative to be supported by the International Science Council. As exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, science plays a major role in our daily lives and in informing decisions. South Africa’s commitment to impactful science has also been demonstrated by South Africa’s hosting of the World Science Forum in December 2022.

H.E. Xolisa Mabhongo, Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations

The International Science Council will mobilize its global membership of national academies, international scientific unions and associations and international scientific networks across the natural and social sciences to catalyse and convene scientific expertise and advice on major issues of concern to both science and society and provide scientific and technical support for the deliberations and initiatives of the Group of Friends.

Photo by James Waddell – ISC.

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