The theme of the 2017 High-level Political Forum on sustainable development will be “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”, which is also a central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the lead-up to the 2017 HLPF, weekly blogs by representatives of Member States, UN system, and major groups and other stakeholders will be featured in this series to present various perspectives on this theme. The role of SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14, and 17 will also be highlighted, as these goals will be in focus at the 2017 HLPF discussions.
Dr. Vaughan Turekian, Co-Chair of the STI Forum and Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary, U.S. Department of State
In the face of significant global challenges, the international community must rethink its approach to development. Older paradigms that rely primarily on government aid to drive development activity are no longer sufficient or the most effective option. The three key pillars of development—economic, social, and environmental—can only be effectively addressed by leveraging an expanded array of new and non-traditional partners, by harnessing cutting-edge technologies, by accelerating research and development, and by scaling innovations wherever they are produced. The United Nations' Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lay out a plan for tackling such economic, social, and environmental challenges—now, this plan needs to be turned into on-the-ground action.
Many departments and agencies within the U.S. Government are doing their part to drive innovation in development by mobilizing the talent outside of government. For example, the Department of State builds skills among young foreign science innovators through the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative. Since 2011, GIST has engaged more than 2.8 million science entrepreneurs worldwide and mentored more than 5,500 startup companies. GIST alumni have leveraged those skills to secure over $10 million in investment and generate more than $218 million in revenue. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has tested new ways to catalyze investment in entrepreneurs in developing countries who are focused on critical sectors such as agriculture, energy, health, and education. As of 2017, USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative has worked closely with 40 incubators, accelerators, and seed-stage impact investors through 17 public-private partnerships that are expected to leverage more than $100 million in private resources. For example, one of the partners based here in the United States, Village Capital, has invested in 25 innovators that have raised $18.4 million in follow-on support from the private sector and served nearly 30,000 customers.
The Second Annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI Forum) that the UN’s Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) is hosting this May is another opportunity to turn words into actions. Multi-stakeholder venues like the STI Forum provide unique opportunities for communities of practitioners with valuable on-the-ground, local experience to share best practices and catalyze concrete actions. Among other activities, this year’s STI Forum aims to facilitate matchmaking and the creation of networks between relevant stakeholders, ultimately to foster partnerships that can address the development priorities identified in the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This, in essence, places the focus on "bottom-up" rather than "top-down" approaches that often characterize policymaking. In order to amplify these efforts, the STI Forum brings together senior representatives from private sector companies, civil society, academic institutions, and philanthropic organizations. A diversity of viewpoints is critical to stimulate innovative approaches to development needs, including those articulated through the SDGs.
Science, technology, and innovation are engines of economic activity and growth. Building innovation capacity contributes to global economic prosperity. Developing new products and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation enable communities to address both local and global challenges, such as pandemics, poverty, and food scarcity. As countries build their own innovation ecosystems, they develop opportunity in places where it is lacking and create positive internal pressure towards inclusive and representative governance. The STI Forum presents us with an opportunity to focus the best minds on some of our greatest development challenges.