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Experts Discuss Science, Technology for SDGs

United Nations16 December 2013: An expert group meeting hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) addressed 'Science for Technology for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).' Attended by members of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Open Working Group (OWG) on SDGs, academics, scientific experts, civil society and representatives of UN agencies, the meeting allowed for open discussion about the role for science in the sustainable development agenda.

Held at Columbia University in New York, US, on 16 December 2013, the meeting followed the OWG's sixth session. OWG Co-Chairs Macharia Kamau and Csaba Kőrösi spoke about the consensus in the Group that science and technology should be included in goals and targets. Kőrösi spoke of the need for scientific advice on mutually reinforcing areas of development, and for suggestions for how to catalyze knowledge generation into political action. Kamau said that, for science and technology to reach its "full transformative potential," it must be accessible to all countries and no longer face political or trade barriers.

David O'Connor, UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), stressed that "sustainable prosperity" can only be achieved with strong fundamentals of technological capabilities and high levels of productivity. He said the SDGs must consider how to incorporate this ambition into its goal and targets, with an emphasis on "networked innovation systems" between scientists.

Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN and Columbia University, declared that "everything about development is about technological change," and that all sustainable development solutions must include major transformative technologies. He highlighted both the innovation and diffusion stages of technological development, saying interaction between social inclusion and science and technology can broaden the reach of life-saving goods and services to the poor. Sachs stressed the need for creating national, regional and global "technology innovation road-maps," in order to plan for development in key areas.

In addition, presentations were made on the following subjects: de-carbonizing the energy system; sustainable food systems; energy access; sustainable cities; ICT for sustainable development; and how to promote science and technology for sustainable development and incorporate it into the SDGs.

Some participants proposed specific goals and targets, while others emphasized the inter-linkages between issue areas. Most agreed that deep technological shifts in society are necessary to get the world on a more sustainable growth path, in both rural and urban areas. Suggestions for including science and technology in the SDGs included: a technology transfer fund for developing countries; specific goals and targets on science and technology education; dedicated targets under each goal; and national plans for technology innovation. [Meeting Agenda] [SDSN Website] [IISD RS Coverage of OWG 6]