Notes #2

The second post in a series of notes on research management, science-policy, governance of and for sustainable development, or any other topic of interest to me. These notes are an attempt to close the gap between brief tweets (@RZondervan) and longer reports, articles, or opinions.

The new European Commission

Yesterday, the designated new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, presented the nominees for the next European Commission. Short summaries of all candidates in Politico.

My first immediate reaction was the worried question where in this awkwardly designed “Brussels Bubble” organigram is Research and Education? Under Innovation and Youth as it turned out. Maybe not the best label as it implicates a certain understanding of science. See the Mission Letter for the designated commissioner which is more nuanced than the label.

On the positive side, there is now a single commissioner in charge for research, innovation and education (the knowledge-triangle), and sustainability is at the center of the organigram with the First Vice President tasked with the European Green Deal. This might help advancing the SDGs within Europe and globally (see also a policy paper I co-authored for Think2030 on the lack of progress in the previous commission). So overall not too bad for research and sustainability.

Interesting Science for the SDG events

HLPF et al.

Released: Summary by the President of the Economic and Social Council of the high-level political forum on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Council at its 2019 session. The key messages include a reference to the GSDR and the importance of science:

Science can guide Governments in shaping policies that address the interactions among the Goals – the co-benefits and the difficult trade-offs – in a way that will spur positive systemic transformations. The Global Sustainable Development Report is an important tool to inform policymakers;

E/HLPF/2019/8 Para. 8 (o)

It is good to see how the work by inter alia the International Science Council and the Stockholm Environment Institute on stressing the importance of the interconnections between all goals and targets has found its way into the policy arena. The summary also includes a long section on the Report of the fourth multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (para 73-79) and one on the Science policy interface, including the briefing by the independent group of scientists on the Global Sustainable Development Report (para 65-72). More on this in a later post on the GSDR.

The substantive section on Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions (para 36-40), is just the to be expected collection of lofty boilerplate phrases. The substantive section on Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals (para 41-45), is dominated by financing the SDGs. Its language is that of the MDG – rather than the SDG paradigm. This sticky MDG-thinking was also prevalent at the HLPF, both in government and civil society communities. It would be nice to also see issues like (perverse) subsidies for fossil fuel1 or the role of financial institutions2 addressed at an HLPF.

1 Reading recommendation on this: Skovgaard, Jakob, Harro van Asselt (editors). 2018. The Politics of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Their Reform. Cambridge University Press. 2 An interesting and exciting project related to this is the Sleeping Financial Giants Project by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and partners.

The Perspectives of society (para 61-64) section is not unexpectedly including a lot of calls for more involvement of civil society and its importance in achieving the SDGs. Interesting is that here the need for regional level processes (and thus inclusion of regional fora) is highlighted, adding to an emerging more broader momentum.

And finally:

The creation of regional civil society hubs can enhance the participation of all stakeholders, both at regional forums and at the global level.

E/HLPF/2019/8 Para. 64

On 8 July 2019, the day before the 2019 HLPF, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, on behalf of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), and co-sponsored by UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), convened a one-day workshop for representatives from established National Councils for Sustainable Development and other types of multi-stakeholder platforms at global, national and sub-national levels. The conclusions from that workshop neatly dovetail this language in the summary. Currently, in my role as executive director of Stakeholder Forum, I am involved in some developing some concrete follow-up on this. Follow @stakeholders for updates!

Reading recommendations


#2030 Sustainable Development Agenda#Belarus#European Commission#Finance#German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE)#German Development Institute (DIE)#Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)#Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR)#Globe EU#HLPF#Institute for European Environmental Policies (IEEP)#International Science Council (ISC)#National SDG Advisory Bodies#Paris Agreement#Post-Normal Science#Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)#Science-Policy#Stakeholder Forum#Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)#UNDESA#UNFCCC#Voluntary National Reviews (VNR)

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