Science for sustainable development is the focus of Chapter 35 of Agenda 21. It calls for:
- strengthening the scientific basis for sustainable management;
- enhancing scientific understanding;
- improving long-term scientific assessment; and
- building up scientific capacity and capability.
Decisions relating to science have subsequently been taken by the Commission on Sustainable Development at its third (1995), fifth (1997) and sixth (1998) sessions, by the United Nations General Assembly at its Special Session to review the implementation of Agenda 21 (1997),
and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002).
The special session of the General Assembly held in June 1997 to review progress five years after UNCED stressed the need for authoritative scientific evidence for assessing environmental conditions and changes, which would facilitate international consensus-building. Scientific cooperation was to be promoted across disciplines for that purpose, and building scientific and technological capacity in developing countries was extremely important in that regard.
The Plan of Implementation adopted by WSSD underlined the importance of science-based decision-making, inter alia, by: integrating scientists' advice into decision-making bodies; partnerships between scientific, public and private institutions; improved collaboration between natural and social scientists, and establishing regular channels for requesting and receiving advice between scientists and policy makers; making greater use of integrated scientific assessments, risk assessments and interdisciplinary and intersectoral approaches; increasing the beneficial use of local and indigenous knowledge. Strengthening and creating centers for sustainable development in developing countries were encouraged, as well as networking with and between centers of scientific excellence and between science and education for sustainable development. Tools for science-based decision-making and sharing of knowledge and experiences to be promoted include: information and communication technologies, ground-based observations, satellite technologies, national statistical services capable of providing sound data, assessment models, accurate databases and integrated information systems. The Plan also urged support for publicly funded research and development entities to engage in strategic alliances for the purpose of enhancing research and development.