Agência FAPESP – FAPESP took part in the eighth annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum), convened by Lachezara Stoeva, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The event was held on May 3-5 at the UN headquarters in New York (USA). Its theme was “Science, technology and innovation for accelerating the recovery from COVID-19 and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels”.
The purpose of the meeting was to gather information on the contribution of STI cooperation in support of the SDGs in Agenda 2030 and provide inputs for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to be held on July 10-19, 2023.
Marco Antonio Zago, President of FAPESP, took part as lead discussant in the May 4 session on cooperation and global research funding to achieve the SDGs. Representatives of public and private research and development (R&D) funding agencies discussed best practices and new ideas for constructing collaborations and strengthening partnerships.
“Achievement of the SDGs depends on the synergistic action of three pillars: governmental decision-making and action, societal engagement, and the contribution of knowledge, science and technology to solve technical problems and create novel solutions,” Zago said.
FAPESP has funded more than 40,000 projects and research scholarships linked to one or more SDGs, he added. “In this respect, science is a tool to help us achieve all 17 SDGs,” he said.
Agreeing with Katja Becker, Chair of the Global Research Council (GRC), who also took part in the meeting, he went on to say: “Science itself should be an SDG, because it’s distributed very unevenly around the world and because access to science is decisive for human and animal welfare, protection of the environment and preservation of the planet.”
International collaboration is also essential. “Indeed, we should acknowledge the complexity of a reality more than ever defined by global phenomena: the pandemic, wars, the global energy and food crisis, climate change and large-scale migrations. No country and no national or regional science system can define its own future alone or independently. International cooperation and a strong emphasis on science will therefore help promote the SDGs,” he said.
Besides Becker, who also heads the German Research Foundation (DFG), the panelists for this session were Ana Cristina Amoroso das Neves, head of Portugal’s Internet Governance Office and Chair of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD); Kazuhito Hashimoto, President of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST); and Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, CEO of South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF). The other discussants alongside Zago were Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Advisor and Director for Research and Evidence at the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO); and Kendra Sharp, Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States. The discussion was moderated by Cherry Ann Murray, a professor at Harvard University (USA) and a former President of the American Physical Society (APS).
A recording of FAPESP President Marco Antonio Zago’s presentation can be watched below.
Strengthening basic research
Zago also attended a side event to the STI Forum hosted by the GRC and DFG on May 3 in New York, with heads of funding agencies from around the world discussing strategies for strengthening basic research and creating conditions that advance the SDGs.
Achieving the SDGs depends on knowledge, planning and logical reasoning, as well as political decisions by governments and engagement of civil society, Zago reiterated. “That means science, technology and innovation must play an active role in the pursuit of new solutions and the implementation of existing ones. Participation by the scientific community, including research funding agencies, is therefore fundamental,” he said.
A starting point for the effort to strengthen the role of higher education and research institutions in facing this challenge is the identification and mapping of current initiatives and how they relate to the SDGs. “We’ve done this at FAPESP, and we’re satisfied to see how our researchers are contributing to the development of new solutions that will help achieve the SDGs. We’ve created a reference page and indexed more than 40,000 grants and scholarships awarded by FAPESP, or about 15% of the total, to one or more SDG,” Zago said.
For example, FAPESP has funded 3,900 projects relating to SDG 6, Clean water and sanitation, and 3,800 projects linked to SDG 13, Climate action.
Zago went on to recall that Brazil has one of the world’s cleanest energy mixes, with renewables accounting for 48%, compared with a global average of only 14%. Fuel ethanol from sugarcane is largely responsible, with FAPESP contributing actively via its Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN). As a result, Brazil’s carbon footprint ranks twelfth in the world even though it has the sixth-largest population (more than 220 million): its CO2 emissions represent less than 2% of the total emissions of the top ten countries on this criterion.
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