UN to explore role of science and technology policies in covid-19 recovery

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Science, technology and innovation (STI) policies will play a key role not only in post-COVID-19 recovery plans, but also in the decade of action to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Shaping these future policies is a key focus of the UN’s Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) virtual meeting from 10 to 12 June.
The online meeting is a condensed edition of the annual session of the CSTD, which acts as the UN’s focal point for the analysis of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development.
“Science, technology and innovation provide a shining light to help us navigate and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, head of the CSTD Secretariat.
“We’ll use this meeting to discuss how we can foster international collaboration in science and technology, not only to tackle and recover from the virus, but also to address other pressing sustainable development concerns, which range from climate change to inequality,” she added.
Sirimanne said STI-related activities should be incorporated in recovery packages. Not only can this spur economic activity, but it can also enhance the resilience of countries to cope with future crises.
The CSTD has consistently emphasized that technological change is essential to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic provides daily examples of how harnessing frontier technologies can make the difference between life and death.
However, despite the well-documented advantages that frontier technologies offer in solving a vast range of problems, for many people around the world, their benefits remain a distant prospect.
Scaling technologies so that everyone, including the most vulnerable in our global community, can benefit from affordable and unrestricted access, requires a coordinated approach to initiating global cooperation for scientific advancement and resource mobilization.
International collaboration in STI is urgently needed in three areas: research cooperation, capacity building and official development assistance (ODA), to ensure that emerging technologies are developed with inclusiveness and sustainability in mind.
STI-related ODA to developing countries has stagnated over the last decade. In 2010, it was $4.7 billion, compared with $4.8 billion in 2017. Less than 4% of the ODA commitments to developing countries were reported under sectors associated with STI in 2017.
The levels of ODA dedicated to these sectors must increase for developing countries and particularly least developed countries to build the STI capacities for achieving the SDGs.
The meeting will also tackle the topical issue of space technologies and the question of international collaboration to address STI capacity constraints.
Emerging space programmes in many developing countries require long-term policy thinking to deliver their full potential development impact.
For example, the tide of raw data that flows from satellites requires filtration, refinement and modeling to translate it into usable information.
Forecasting models require huge computing capacities and appropriate skills in machine learning and artificial intelligence.