Reflections from UniPID and FinCEAL Plus BRIDGES participation in the 6th Multistakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals
The 6th annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum) was held virtually from 4 to 5 May 2021. The Forum aims to discuss the role and contributions of science, technology, and innovation (STI) to SDGs. This year, the theme for the Forum was “Science, technology and innovation for a sustainable and resilient COVID-19 recovery, and effective pathways of inclusive action towards the Sustainable Development Goals”.
One of the key messages from the event is that the inequalities exacerbated by, and resulting from, COVID-19 must be addressed, and science must be a key part of developing the answer by formalizing and strengthening science for policy. During the Ministerial session, Annika Saarikko, Minister of Science and Culture of Finland, stressed the importance of addressing future skills for creating a successful and resilient society. Continuous learning in equality in education and science and innovation can lead to coherence between science and innovation policies. The event also stressed the need to ensure that sustainable growth doesn’t leave people behind. For that to happen, a comprehensive approach is needed, paying particular attention to providing support for help low- and middle-income countries achieve the SDGs. After all, the pandemic has created additional difficulties, but also opportunities.
Dr. Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, Research Coordinator at the University of Helsinki and member of the UniPID Board, took part in the Finnish delegation to the STI Forum. She contributed to the discussion, along with other stakeholders, on how STI can help in the development of SDGs, especially: 8, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; 10, reduce inequality within and among countries; 12, ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; and 13, take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. According to her, Finland enjoys a high position in the SDG index ranking due to the high educational level, science and innovation, and societal stability, which also includes a high level of trust, transparency of decision making, and possibilities for participation. She noted that even though not all countries enjoy the same societal conditions, science advice for policy is an integral part of Agenda 2030 and its activities can be scaled up globally to benefit all societies in achieving SDGs, if both scientist and policy makers are willing.
It was during the special event “STI and harnessing global opportunities for transformation in 2021” that panelists and stakeholders discussed the importance of infrastructure to support the diffusion and adoption of innovations. According to the panelists, we already have a lot of innovations, but we still need to work closely with the private sector to develop small and medium-sized enterprises and to enact the right policies to support their development. One of the key messages of the session was that it is still necessary to invest more in science but right now the focus should be in scaling up the innovations that already exist at the right level. The panelists also pointed out that there is a tendency of taking new technologies and applying them to the same old policies, resulting in the same problems. There is a need to change policies and regulations, without which technologies alone won’t be able to promote change. For change to happen, multistakeholder partnerships between academia, science, industry, governments, and international organizations are necessary to build up and build forward resilience within societies, which will be based on skills and knowledge on literacy in science.
The Multistakeholder Forum on STI for the SDGs offered the chance to reflect critically on the inequalities, challenges, and opportunities exposed by the Corona virus and how science and multistakeholder partnerships can address these. The need for more and better science advice and science diplomacy was emphasized throughout the Forum. Finnish higher education and research institutions can help to address this need by utilizing existing channels for providing science advice – such as via the Science Advice Initiative of Finland and UniPID’s Commissioned Studies Mechanism – and creating new ones.