Science and technology aimed at the SDGs
The UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development at EPFL joins efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for “people, planet and prosperity”, adopted by the UN in 2015, recognises the key role that science and technology play in sustainable development, emphasising their importance not only for economic growth and prosperity, but also for environmental protection, development and social inclusion.
Linking science to society
The Agenda offers broad opportunities to reconnect science to society. As the only UN agency that integrates science in its mandate, UNESCO plays a central role in encouraging international cooperation in research and education linked to the SDGs; it does so through its scientific programmes, science education initiatives and centers of excellence. One example of this is the UNITWIN UNESCO Chairs Programme, which gathers more than 700 UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in 116 different countries. These chairs and networks implement activities relevant to UNESCO’s areas of competence through international interuniversity cooperation, by acting as think tanks in their specific domain of competence and deploying efforts to put the interests of society at the core of their endeavours.
UNESCO Chair at EPFL
The UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development managed by the Cooperation and Development Center (CODEV) at EPFL is among the 25% of UNESCO Chairs specialising in natural sciences and engineering. Through its UNESCO Chair, EPFL provides scientific excellence and expertise to advance sustainable development in deprived countries, through science-based education and research and technology applications linked to energy, habitat and cities, disaster risk reduction and environmental and resources constraints. It achieves this through partnerships involving local researchers and communities that facilitate the impact in countries such as Haiti, Burkina Faso, Vietnam and Palestine.
Mobilising UNESCO Chairs
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the UNITWIN UNESCO Chairs Programme in 2017, UNESCO hosted the UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks specialized in natural sciences and engineering at a conference held in Geneva last summer, supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with EPFL, UNIGE and the CERN. The aim was to get the Chairs to reflect on their impact on the 2030 Agenda and to enable the expansion of synergies between the Chairs and UN agencies and other stakeholders to stimulate further action.
“The Geneva Milestone” and the way ahead
The conference adopted "The Geneva Milestone", which will guide the forthcoming efforts of UNESCO Chairs towards the SDGs and facilitate new partnerships with the scientific community, policy makers and society at large. An Action Plan with specific activities will be drafted before March 2018. It will establish an exchange platform to showcase the work of the Chairs, promote open science practices and ensure that the institutions concerned pay sufficient attention to the SDGs in their endeavors.
The Geneva Conference initiated a process calling for the scientific community to show greater support for the 2030 Agenda. This will surely mark EPFL’s future undertakings through its UNESCO Chair and will hopefully encourage other researchers to persevere in addressing global challenges, finding innovative solutions and providing policy advice.
Dr. Gabriela Tejada, Scientist at CODEV and member of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO