Juen saw an interview in Science X on how the science community has engaged in the UN processes over time.
Could you tell us about the history of the Major Group for Science and Technology? Why was it created and what was it supposed to do? Was this a first in the UN system?
In the runup to the Rio Earth Summit (1992), Maurice Strong, who was the Secretary-General for the Summit, recognized that it was important to have ‘different stakeholder’ views – not only in developing Agenda 21, but also in helping to deliver it. This approach was a departure from the default model of grouping all NGOs together as “civil society”.
The Earth Summit recognized nine stakeholders, including the Science and Technology Community. For the first time, science and technology were given a seat at the table to ensure that member states could hear the latest scientific evidence. But the new system also enabled women to have a chance to explain the gender aspect of policies. It ensured that the next generation – youth and children – and Indigenous Peoples would have a voice. It also brought in local government as a stakeholder, recognizing that in many cases they would be important partners in delivering the outcomes.
Most of these ‘stakeholder groups’ organized global conferences to develop input for the Earth Summit’s main outcome document. In particular, the scientific community gathered in November 1991 to develop input for the Earth Summit at the Vienna International Conference on an Agenda of Science for Environment and Development into the Twenty-first Century (ASCEND 21). The conference was organized by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).
After the Earth Summit, as governments established their Councils of Commissions for Sustainable Development, nearly all of these started by engaging the national leaders of each of the Major Groups. These bodies then played a key role in the years after the Rio 92 conference in ensuring effective follow-up at the national level. The interview continues here.