ETC Group follows the post Rio+20 developments on Technology for the Women's Major Group and have delivered this statement at the UNGA's consultative workshop on technology transfer in April again on 30-31 May 2013
Written Statement for: ECOSOC AMR on Science, Technology and Innovations
Title of Statement: Assessing Technologies for Sustainable Development
Submitted by: Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration
“The Future We Want” reaffirmed the commitment of UN member-states in Agenda 21 to strengthen the capacity of countries to pursue national and regional technology assessment initiatives. It is time to translate that commitment into action to ensure that science, technology and innovation genuinely contribute to the attainment of equitable and sustainable development.
As noted in the UNEP Foresight Report, “21 Issues for the 21st Century,” the pace of introducing new technologies has increased while the role played by regulatory bodies in protecting the public from the consequences of new technologies has diminished. The situation is alarming given the rapid introduction of new technology products into ecosystems and the food chain. The lapses in technology governance are happening as public concern over the safety of technologies and lack of confidence in the ability of governments to protect its interests increase as shown by technology-related disasters, like “Mad Cow” disease and Foot and Mouth disease (mostly in the North), and the rapid spread of unregulated GM crops globally.
There is consensus view among global institutions and experts that there is little effort to assess, much less to try to control the introduction of new technologies to minimize their harmful effects. UNEP’s Foresight Report urges policy makers to consider “,organizing a new international governance system which would produce, and potentially oversee, new international procedures to identify dangerous side effects of technologies and chemicals before they are produced”. A technology governance system should be anticipatory, impartial, universal, aware of the need to deal with the risks arising from interactions among multiple technologies developed for different purposes, and ensure that countries and corporate interests do not unilaterally make decisions that may have global impacts.
A key tool in technology governance that aims to address concerns on unpredictability of technology impacts and the lack of public trust arising from controversies over technologies is Technology Assessment (TA). To be effective, TA needs to be anticipatory, comprehensive, inclusive and oriented toward decision-making.
In operationalizing the commitment affirmed at Rio+20 to strengthen technology assessment capacity at different levels, the UN should develop the institutional capacity to identify and monitor significant technologies, including an evaluation of their social, economic, cultural, health and environmental implications. To minimize waste and risks, based on the Precautionary Principle, monitoring process should accompany the development of the technology from science to shelf, and assessments must be completed before a new technology is even released. Any TA body established (or reinvigorated) at the UN must have the mandate to assert the integrity of the multilateral community in relation to testing outside the laboratory and the deployment of technologies intended to manipulate planetary systems by establishing a legally-binding prohibition on all forms of unilateral and non-UN-sanctioned deployments that have the potential to cause harm to the planet, such as geoengineering technologies. Any international mechanism for technology assessment must build on participatory platforms at the regional, national and local levels to ensure a bottom-up approach that responds to the actual needs of states and communities.