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Special> United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development > Latest News
UPDATED: June 19, 2012
Science, Technology Key to Sustainable Development: UNESCO Official

PARIS, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Sustainable development could not be achieved without the involvement of science and technology, Gretchen Kalonji, assistant director general for Natural Sciences with the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in an interview with Xinhua.

"Science and technology, in many respects, underpin all aspects of sustainable development. There cannot be any sustainable development without preserving environmental and natural resources," Kalonji said.

As the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ("Rio +20" Summit) is set to convene in Rio de Janeiro on June 20 and 22, the UNESCO official stressed that science and technology were essential to promote sustainable development in broad domains.

"All of the major challenges facing sustainable development draw on the scientific and technological communities to help to find solutions," Kalonji said.

"There cannot be sustainable development without job creation, which is of course related to technologies very directly," she said, adding that effective solutions to water resources management, green and renewable energy development were all based on the best science.

Accordingly, the scientific community in recent years had greatly changed, Kalonji said, as scientists worked to extend their focus beyond scientific research to make influence on decision-making.

Changes could also be seen in the practice of science, the UN science official said. "Science is becoming more interdisciplinary. Science and technology are becoming more linked. We are seeing new modes of scientific research."

However, Kalonji noted the imbalanced development of science and technology between countries, with some, such as China, paying more attention to science and technology while others putting less emphasis on those two.

"China is rapidly rising as a major power in science and engineering. And I really credit that to the strategic investments on the part of not only central government but also provincial governments, in science and technology, in human resource development in these areas... The investment in universities is really extremely important and a very wise move,"said Kalonji, who is also an honorary professor at China's Sichuan University and a visiting professor of Tsinghua University.

Having visited China for dozens of times, the UN science official said "I know China and the Ministry of education and various universities are, in fact, promoting new models of science and engineering education. But, I believe yet more could be done. "

Kalonji said international exchanges and cooperation in science and technology was an important way to play down differences between countries and it is also one of the UNESCO's key works.

For that reason, the UN agency has organized a number of large-scale intergovernmental science programs, such as the program of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the International Hydrological Program, and the Man and the Biosphere Program, to bring scientists from around the world together to exchange ideas.

Promoting open access to scientific knowledge was another very important component of the communication needs of science, the UNESCO official said, citing exchanges of researchers and students and collaborating on large-scale international projects.

Kalonji admitted existing obstacles were still impeding technology transfer as there were enormous amounts of technologies that are available but were not known by the right people who need them.

"Some of our member states are interested in collaborating with the UNESCO on making the information about technologies for such things as climate change adaptation more widely accessible for all member states around the world. Of course, there are also legal and financial barriers sometimes to the transfer of technology," she added.

The upcoming Rio summit would provide the UNESCO a platform, through science forum and side events, to raise public awareness of the importance of science and technology in achieving balanced and sustainable development, and to "provide a very comprehensive overview of science and technology for sustainable development," the UN official said.

"In general, the international community and the debate leading up to Rio are increasingly recognizing the importance of science. But, there is still much more that can be done," Kalonji underscored.

(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2012)

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