Science of the Future. Amplifying the best practices for sustainable development

Last October, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe made an official presentation in Venice, Italy, of the UNESCO Science Report publication “The Race Against Time for Smarter Development,” launched this year. The report serves as a monitoring tool on the implementation and development of science, technology and innovation worldwide, and maps the recent trends and developments in science governance. It provides essential information on gaps and priorities in development of science to rethink the ways of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UNESCO is the United Nations specialized agency with a specific mandate for “building peace in the minds of men and women” through the advancement and promotion of science. Working in close collaboration with both institutional and non-institutional partners, UNESCO supports capacity building in the scientific sector and promotes science as a pivotal driver for sustainable development.

Every edition of the quinquennial UNESCO Science Report includes sections dedicated to countries of South-East Europe and the Mediterranean under the purview of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. The seventh report, published in 2021, highlights UNESCO’s longstanding commitment to achieving the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda by strengthening Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) policies worldwide.

On 26 October 2021, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe organised a regional launch of the UNESCO Science Report 2021. The event took place at Palazzo Zorzi, UNESCO’s premises in Venice and convened local and national authorities, academia, researchers, NGOs and scientific community members.

The launch was attended by UNESCO partners and national authorities, including Cecilia Piccioni, Deputy Director General/Principal Director for Promotion of Italian Language and Culture at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Enrico Vicenti, Secretary-General of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO; and Massimiliano De Martin, Councillor for Urban Planning and Environment of the Municipality of Venice.

Italy is playing a leading role in science-related aspects in Europe. For instance, it has the largest national network of biosphere reserves in the South-East European and Mediterranean region covered by our office. Both the national network and individual biosphere reserves are leaders and innovators in promoting science and sustainable development on the ground.
Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores, Director UNESCO Regional Bureau

Susan Schneegans, Editor in Chief of the UNESCO Science Report, presented the main outcomes of the report to the attendees. “Although countries are investing more in green technologies, sustainability science is not yet mainstreamed globally. Sustainability science is attracting more attention, proportionately, in developing countries. To modernize, countries need to invest more in science: 8 out 10 spend less than 1% of their GDP on Research and Development. Some countries have increased researcher numbers, but not expenditure, namely Argentina, France, Italy, Germany and South Africa,” she underlined.

The event was an occasion to present the scientific activities undertaken by the Science unit of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. Among these, the EU Horizon 2020, funded projects dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge and research through UNESCO designated sites. An example of such projects is GEO4CIVHIC, which aims to promote the use of sustainable energy in historic buildings, notably the Porta Degli Angeli in Ferrara, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The GEO4CIVHIC project fosters UNESCO’s partnership with Italian research authorities, in particular the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and the University of Padua.

UNESCO is also working on a “Recommendation on Open Science” that was considered for adoption at UNESCO's next General Conference in November 2021, providing the international community with a framework to help countries adopt a transparent, inclusive and effective science development.

Enrico Vicenti, Secretary-General of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, introduced to the participants a report on the prospects for Research and Development in Italy, developed by a high-level working group. The report highlights solutions to the main challenges of the Italian scientific research system and calls for strengthening structures to support research in all its phases.

Massimiliano De Martin, Councillor for Urban Planning and Environment of the Municipality of Venice, also took the floor on behalf of the City of Venice and noted "Our city is part of a path in line with the directives of UNESCO at a global level, pursuing a protection of environmental development that is based on science and research. In initiatives that see hydrogen as a protagonist, the focus is on reforestation and the management of water nutrients. In this context, Venice is not alone and, especially on the environmental issue, it is part of a global network.".

The event underlined UNESCO’s contribution to the achievement of the SDGs defined by the 2030 Agenda, reflected in its scientific programmes, which promote science as a key driver for sustainable development. It provided a valuable insight on the effective use of data and recommendation from the report to jointly advance science, technology and innovation in Italy and more broadly in the region.