Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development begins ahead of Rio+20

Aisling Irwin

Aisling Irwin
Consultant news editor, SciDev.Net

Yuan Tseh Lee, Nobel prize-winner and president of the International Council for Science (ICSU) will have three minutes, at the opening of the Rio+20 summit on June 20, in which to convey to heads of state the multiple fears the science, technology and engineering communities have about the deteriorating state of the planet.

How luxurious, in comparison, is the full week, beginning today, in which the science, technology and engineering communities will be tossing ideas around on solutions to the same problems, from sustainable consumption to ecosystem services, and indigenous knowledge to water security.

The Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development (11-15 June) may be cumbersomely titled but it is, refreshingly and possibly uniquely here in Rio de Janeiro over the next few days, not purporting to shape the Rio+20 negotiations of the following week.

Instead, says Gisbert Glaser, senior advisor at ICSU,  it is trying to influence what happens afterwards – “the implementation of the outcome or, if it is not as ambitious as we would have liked, it’s a good opportunity to press again government people on the need to move away from just implementing business as usual on sustainable development”.

In other words they are trying to get at the key moment where, arguably, things went wrong after the first Earth Summit in 1992. Scientists had triumphed with the power of their message, persuading politicians to agree to act; an agenda was set and conventions were agreed – but this was followed by many failures of implementation leaving us in a situation 20 years later which is, on many counts, worse than before.

This forum is not about what the goals should be but about how to achieve them, says Glaser. Scientists have been ordered to avoid making science presentations and think instead of the “policy narrative” when they talk. Glaser is particularly excited that a quarter of the 600 delegates are from government delegations. It’s a good place to catch them, just before an international summit.

Very tough though, to get real movement out of such multidisciplinary gatherings. If we spot any fine examples of stakeholders bridging the linguistic and ideological barriers that separate them we’ll be blogging about it here; and tweeting about it from @scidevnet on the hashtag  #sciforum. ICSU will be tweeting, too, on @icsunews. And there’ll be news on our website soon.

This blog post is part of our Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development coverage which takes place 11-15 June 2012. To read news and analysis from the conference please visit our website.

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