The SDGs @7: Advancing Scientific Diplomacy

The SDGs @7: Advancing Scientific Diplomacy

Tuesday, September 27, 2022 5:26 pm

The SDGs Advancing


By Olasoji Fagbola

Last week the world gathered in New York for the annual UNGA. It’s the third decade since the millennium that ushered in the Millennium Development Goals; a precursor for the SDGs and bringing into focus the challenges facing humanity occasioned by the pandemic. Changes in climate, devastating floods, food insecurity, global warming, drought, hunger, large scale poverty, diseases, inequality among others.

Sunday 25 September 2022, the SDGs had its 7th anniversary. It is against that backdrop that several thoughts flooded my mind that, “at the current pace we are progressing with the SDGs, are we on track to achieving them by the year 2030? How about our commitment to it, is it focused enough to see us scoring the sustainable goals by 2030? Will the SDGs end up as the MDGs? Will a new set of goals be conceptualized in 2030? Will another set of goals be introduced till 2045? These thoughts preoccupied my mind in consonance with the submission of a former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, that “implementation is the litmus test of a new agenda.”.

Gradually the society has begun to rewrite its compass with technology and this is corroborated by the conclusion of the incoming President, Csaba Kőrösi, of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) who has said, ““… we will push for “Solutions through Solidarity, Sustainability, and Science to achieve the transformation necessary for better outcomes.”

The need to incorporate scientific evidence in policy formulation and execution has been widely recognised in literature (Yagboyaju, 2019). Over the years there have been increases in literature focusing on knowledge and how public policies can be better informed by evidence. This practice also termed evidence-informed policy making (EIP) or evidence-based practice has been promoted to help in policy development in most countries (Lomas, 2000; WHO, 2007).

Government requires scientific evidence in a wide range of situations, from long term policy development through to urgent crisis management (OECD, 2015). One of the most significant manifestations of science’s impact on society has been its place within public policy. There is an ever-growing recognition that science has an important role to play in virtually every dimension of policy making at every level of government, from local to international. These dimensions exist in the social, environmental, and infrastructural areas as well as innovation and economic sectors (Gluckman, 2016). Science-based evidence has proven to be relevant in formulating public policies. However, the practice is relatively new in Nigeria and has not gained much ground. Therefore, there should be collaborative efforts to increase awareness of Evidence- based policy making and collaborative effort should be made between the government, individuals and researchers to ensure that science-based evidence is implemented in initiating and developing policies in Nigeria.

In his work titled, “Achieving sustainability in a 5G world”, Darrell West examined ways in which technology can help the international community achieve its ambitious sustainability goals. As the world faces major conservation and environmental challenges in terms of water and air quality, energy and transportation, and building design, the paper contends, technology advances are underway that will help people deal with those problems: one of which is already visible in Google Earth pro, a geospatial desktop application that provides real time video feeds and allows you to see the world and create highly detailed maps without charge. He detailed the scope of the environmental challenges facing our world, noting that understanding their reach is vital to determining ways to mitigate their negative consequences and to identifying which emerging technologies are going to improve service delivery and further economic opportunity.

West furthered by examining the many companies and cities today that are deploying existing technology solutions that help with resource management and monitoring. And he discusses the intelligent devices of the future, including sensors and other connected devices, that will enable never-before-seen data analytics that will generate social and economic benefits including things like traffic alleviation, smart building design and energy management—all informed using advanced intelligent networking capability.

From the above, it is evident the challenges affecting humanity are intertwined globally. Thus, solutions can be conceptualized through scientific solidarity and international cooperation for sustainable development. It provides an opportunity for researchers, scientists, governments, policymakers, multilateral agencies to develop effective partnerships through Scientific Diplomacy for human sustenance. Government policies and multisectoral collaboration between public, private and multilateral agencies to ensure policy consistency; a conceptualization through a structured mindset, client-oriented attitude and strong ownership to deliver high quality results will make this realistic.

Science Diplomacy is of many parts. When countries convene to discuss climatic adaptations for agriculture or negotiate cooperative agreements on ocean management, education or emissions scientific expertise is required. When scientists come together for a multifaceted or multisectoral projects associated with tropical diseases, nuclear energy, vaccines development, institutional strengthening, their countries devise bilateral or diplomatic agreements on financing and management, ultimately, for sustainability. Collaborative research efforts have the potential to allow for dialogue in strained bilateral relations between nations. Thus, it is necessary to encourage the advancement of scientific diplomacy by building a bridge between the worlds of science, innovation and diplomacy.

For instance, on the issue of insecurity, insurgency is rife in many parts of Africa and there have been issues with accurately and reliably tracking movement of supplies, identification of collaborators and more importantly the advancement of these people. Considering the aforementioned security challenges, all this will need to wait till people get to a point where they can walk freely and gather at the playground. For now, this is not the best way to introduce ~fairly~ new technology no matter how useful. Tech companies should not become insensitive at this time and lose a significant portion of good will.

Hence, it is important to leverage technology like the Internet of Things, Computer vision – Artificial Intelligence (AI) – distributed communication – cluster networks and renewable energy. This solution will help to solve these problems by providing eyes and ears in critical areas. In advancing the concept, public engagements are paramount as it will enlighten people on the connections and interrelationships between different scientific concepts and humans and the environment.

Scientists must adopt the use of persuasive communication and visuals in the most ethical manner to point out discoveries in the simplest manner. Equally, appealing visuals that captivates both the eyes and mind should be used to demonstrate an entire scientific result; the benefits of the results, the uniqueness of the results, and what can be lost if the result is not considered.

On the whole, the strategic objective is to partner with other disciplines to develop interdisciplinary projects and public participation through constant engagements; highlighting the scientific contributions in simple and understandable terms to enhance scientific interactions among community members and beyond will advance the concept of scientific diplomacy.

*Olasoji Fagbola is a Sustainable Development expert, policy analyst with flair for Science Journalism

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