UN to explore how science and technology policies can aid Covid-19 recovery

The world body will host a virtual meeting this month to analyse how the sectors can tackle the virus and address sustainable development concerns

(FILES) In this file photo The United Nations flag is seen is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall September 23, 2019 in New York City. The United Nations on March 10, 2020 closed its New York headquarters to the general public to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said. The move comes one week after a similar measure was taken at the main UN building in Geneva."As of now, we have not been advised of any COVID-19 cases amongst UN staff in New York," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
 / AFP / Ludovic MARIN
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The United Nations is looking to explore how science and technology can help countries navigate and recover from the coronavirus pandemic and boost sustainable goals.

“Science, technology and innovation (STI) provide a shining light to help us navigate and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Shamika N Sirimanne, head of the United Nation’s Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD).

The world body will be hosting a virtual meeting involving ministerial and high-level discussions to analyse how science, technology and innovation can tackle coronavirus pandemic challenges and other concerns from June 10 to 12.

“We’ll use this meeting to discuss how we can foster international collaboration in science and technology, not only to tackle and recover from the virus, but also to address other pressing sustainable development concerns, which range from climate change to inequality,” she added.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the global economy, which is set to slide into a deep recession this year. It has forced governments to close borders, enforce movement restrictions and shut all but essential businesses. Governments and central banks have poured in more than $8 trillion (Dh29.3tn) in economic stimulus to ease the pressure on businesses and to stem job losses.

"The STI-related activities should be incorporated in recovery packages to spur economic activity as well as to enhance the resilience of countries to cope with future crises," Ms Sirimanne added.

The United Nations also said international collaboration is urgently needed in three areas including “research co-operation, capacity building and official development assistance (ODA), to ensure that emerging technologies are developed with inclusiveness and sustainability in mind".

“Scaling technologies so that everyone, including the most vulnerable in our global community, can benefit from affordable and unrestricted access, requires a co-ordinated approach to initiating global co-operation for scientific advancement and resource mobilisation,” the UN said.

STI-related ODA to developing countries has stagnated over the last decade. In 2010, it was $4.7 billion (Dh17.26bn), compared with $4.8bn in 2017. Less than 4 per cent of the ODA commitments to developing countries were reported under sectors associated with STI in 2017.

“The levels of ODA dedicated to these sectors must increase for developing countries and particularly least developed countries to build the STI capacities for achieving the SDGs (sustainable development goals),” the UN said.

The meeting will also tackle the issue of space technologies and the question of international collaboration to address STI capacity constraints.

“Emerging space programmes in many developing countries require long-term policy thinking to deliver their full potential development impact,” the organisation said. “For example, the tide of raw data that flows from satellites requires filtration, refinement and modelling to translate it into usable information.”

Forecasting models require huge computing capacities and appropriate skills in machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to the UN.