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Diplomacy in Action

Opening Remarks at the Intercessional Panel Meeting of the U.N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development

Andrew Reynolds
Senior Adviser for Space and Advanced Technologies 
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
December 2, 2013



Distinguished delegates,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to Washington DC, and the 2013–2014 Inter-Sessional Panel of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development. I am sure I speak for all my US colleagues who are in attendance when I say we are all at your disposal to ensure you have a productive meeting and an enjoyable stay here in our Nation’s capital.

Many of you have been serving on the Commission for years now, while some are newcomers. I would like to offer my particular welcome to those of you who are participating for the first time, including colleagues from governments, civil society, the private sector and other organizations engaged in the important work of the United Nations.

Over the next three days, the Panel will address some of the most pressing science, technology, and innovation-related issues that we face together in the world today, set against a background of population growth, rising demand for natural resources, and environmental change, among other trends. Over the years the Commission has examined many of these issues in detail, including two themes of great importance at its Sixteenth Annual Session, held in Geneva in June. These were first, the role of science, technology and innovation for sustainable cities and peri-urban communities, and second, Internet broadband for an inclusive digital society. Substantive reports on these two topics were submitted to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as outcomes of the Sixteenth Session and are available on-line at the CSTD website for your inspection.

In June, the CSTD also recommended to ECOSOC the adoption of two draft resolutions: one on “science, technology, and innovation for development,” and one on “assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” (WSIS). These resolutions benefitted from many policy and program recommendations derived from the two theme papers on sustainable cities and Internet broadband.

I am pleased to report that ECOSOC has adopted both of these resolutions (E/RES/2013/9 and E/RES/2013/10).

We continue this tradition again this week at this CSTD Intercessional as we consider two new themes for 2013-2014 on today and tomorrow, and progress made on the World Summit on the Information Society outcomes and action lines from Tunis - on Wednesday. Our work here is critical to preparing documentation and recommendations for consideration and action by Ministers at the Seventeenth Annual Session of the CSTD in Geneva, now scheduled for May 12-16, 2014.

Ladies and gentlemen, our first priority theme of the 2013-2014 work program that this Inter-sessional Panel will consider is:

Science, technology and innovation for the post-2015 development agenda in two discrete but related parts:

  • Taking stock: a decade of CSTD contributions to the Millennium Development Goals
  • Looking forward: STI prospects for the post-2015 development agenda

As the "torchbearer" of the United Nations for science, technology and innovation issues, the CSTD has contributed a decade of work under priority themes covering a wide range of sectors and fields in which science, technology, engineering and information and communication technologies have fostered innovation and practical solutions for development challenges.

Sectors and fields addressed by these priority themes include, inter alia, agriculture, water, energy, open access to digital data, virtual libraries, geospatial analysis, GIS and remote sensing, capacity-building in education and research, sustainable urbanization, STI financing mechanisms, and measuring the impact of ICTs for development.

Drawing on information from the UN system and many other public and private sources and stakeholders, ECOSOC is assessing progress in meeting the current MDGs and developing the basis for establishing the post-2015 development agenda. The recent High-Level Panel Report to the UN Secretary General and the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review that took place in July 2013 in Geneva are important milestones. The time to take stock, deliberate and contribute to this ongoing work is timely and the Commission can continue to make its important contribution.

Under the first theme, we can take stock of a rich array of themes and issues that the Commission has addressed over the last decade to address the MDGs and, in looking forward, to position itself to influence and support the evolution of the post-2015 development agenda. This can include recommendations for venues for future engagement and recognition of the work of the CSTD in important areas where science, technology and engineering and ICTs for development have made and can continue to make major contributions.

This retrospective will refresh the CSTD's record of accomplishments for the ECOSOC, UNGA and the Secretary General at a critical milestone in 2014. It will also afford the opportunity to recommend policy actions both in the fields of STI and ICT that require greater attention in the post-2015 development agenda, and highlight the central, continuing contribution of the Commission to fostering sustainable social and economic development for developing countries. In this context, however, we have enlisted experts for this Intercessional discussion to provide a longer-term perspective to the years 2025 and 2030 in order to shed light on how science and technology might evolve over the next two decades in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.

The second priority theme for this Panel is “ICTs for inclusive social and economic development.” Digitization and the extensive diffusion of ICTs since WSIS 2006 have demonstrated enormous economic and workforce benefits for both the developed and developing world. CSTD member countries increasingly report on their formal national development plans, ICT and broadband strategies, promulgation of supporting laws and regulations and investments in infrastructure, e-programs, data management and local content. These commitments attest to a wholesale appreciation and embrace of the powerful role of ICTs in fostering STI for development and sustainable economic growth.

On Tuesday, our experts will recount evidence that digitization and ICTs are powering collaborative research and education, manufacturing, e-services and government and overall economic growth with unprecedented speed. They will present case studies of success stories in many developing countries to demonstrate economic growth and employment in many sectors where ICTs have been deployed and the Internet accessed by more and more people.

The digitization and ICT revolution continues to expand rapidly and is a clear megatrend of modern society. It warrants continuous and constant monitoring, particularly as technologies multiply and new spectrum is utilized. Accordingly, the CSTD is addressing digitization and ICTs as its second theme, including, among others, the related areas of the Internet of Things, Big Data, cloud computing and technology, digital libraries and their collective contribution to responsible use and inclusive economic development.

This continued concentration on an ICT theme by the CSTD complements the first theme proposed for 2013-2014 as a critical element of the overall UN development schema, particularly as ICTs appear to be underemphasized in the ECOSOC preparations for the MDGs and post-2015 development agenda currently underway. It also provides an important input to the ongoing WSIS review for which the CSTD has a substantive and direct responsibility.

Ladies and gentlemen, during the third day of this Intercessional, we will explore a range of activities related to the WSIS and progress on implementation of action lines over the last decade, so-called WSIS+10, and related Commission responsibilities that must be addressed at the Seventeenth Session next May. As the designated focal point for the system-wide follow up for review and assessment of this progress, CSTD can also offer related insights on science, technology, engineering and the power of ICTs in leveraging these assets for development. CSTD has a vital role in identifying key trends, understanding the evolving situations and needs of developing countries, fostering the exchange of best practices, challenges, and lessons learned, and in formulating actionable next steps including drafting resolutions and decisions for consideration by the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly during the important transition period of 2014.

In 2015, in addition to reviewing progress towards achieving the WSIS targets, the General Assembly will also evaluate the status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The CSTD will have an important role to play in both reviews. In both achieving the WSIS targets, and the MDGs, much has been accomplished, but substantial work remains to be done. As the CSTD has described over the past several years, ICTs and the transition to an Information Society provide unique opportunities to achieve rapid progress in development and achievement of MDGs, particularly along the WSIS action lines.

Ladies and gentlemen, this Panel is an opportunity to exchange and share country experiences and best practices among member States. The Commission has already contributed towards the promotion of STI as a key factor in national development, triggering policy debates and contributing immensely to global dialogue and understanding on these issues. The timeliness and relevance of the Commission’s substantive work has been noted with satisfaction by a number of member States at ECOSOC and at the General Assembly.

This is a short summary of the work we have before us these three days. May I invite you to actively engage in our discussions to produce deeper documentation and constructive proposals for the Ministers when they meet for the 17th session in May 2014.

Now I would like to introduce our two keynotes speakers for this Morning Session. First to speak is Dr. Alex Dehgan, Chief Scientist and Director of the Office of Science and Technology, US Agency for International Development. Dr. Dehgan will be followed by His Excellency Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy here at the US Department of State.

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