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Science, Technology, Innovation and Sustainability
Alex Steffen, 3 Feb 04

The United Nations Millennium Project's Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation is one of those incredibly important groups of bureaucrats of whom you've never heard. Their job is to explore the ways in which new scientific and technological research can help us meet the Millennium Development Goals. SciDevNet thinks their work shows that science and technology need to be integrated into every aspect of the UN's work:

"[P]rogress towards achieving the MDGs will also required a broader change of culture within the whole UN system. This is one that places a strategic concern for science, technology and innovation at the heart of the missions of all UN agencies. As the report puts it, "meeting the MDGs will require a substantial reorientation of development policies to focus on key sources of economic growth, especially those associated with the use of new scientific and technological knowledge and the related institutional adjustments."

"It would be naïve to underestimate the size of such a task. One of the most substantial challenges is the continued belief in many development circles that the technology required to meet social and economic goals is essentially a tool that can be taken off a shelf, or at least whose creation can be safely left to others. Such a belief ignores the extent to which much of the needed technology will only be produced if sufficient demand can be created for it. It also ignores the essential role of scientific and technological capacity within developing countries themselves."

This is spot on, but it really doesn't go far enough. As the new South-South scientific coalition so obviously knows, the nature of the fruits of scientific and technological research very much depend on the kinds of seed questions one starts by asking. If the questions the global scientific community asks itself are about how to produce a world where as many of people's needs are met as possible while doing as little damage as possible to the planet's natural systems, we'll get very different sets of answers than if the questions are couched in terms of profits, pay-back windows and patents. Dodging the essential question of whether research is truly being done in the public interest is dodging the most important question of all, it seems to me.

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Interestingly, they often emphasize the importance of developing local creativity over the sharing of particular technology.

Meta-comment: I like much of what you're pointing to here at WorldChanging.

I think i'd comment more if you'd actually post less often. Also, i encourage readers to comment more, Let's see more comments from everyone!

Posted by: John Abbe on 4 Feb 04



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