Science and the Sustainable Development Goals

THE CONCEPT of Science Diplomacy is becoming widely used by policy-makers, scientists and scholars of International Relations. Though this is a new concept, it refers to an old practice as scientists always have been at the forefront of international collaboration. Science Diplomacy can be regarded as a tool for states to use science and scientists to pursue their Foreign Policy goals. This can be done to promote the national interests or to solve problems faced by the state. Several states have their own Science Diplomacy programs. Even if no national Science Diplomacy program is available, many states have long deployed scientific attachés in their embassies. The rise of scientific diplomacy in different parts of the world is an interesting trend to watch. It poses the question “for what purposes will states and scientists work together?”. The answer might lie in the Global Goals or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Perhaps the most salient development for the future of Science Diplomacy is indeed the growing awareness of global problems that sovereign states are faced with. Not only are they all of a planetary nature; they also are all connected to scientific and technological issues, both for monitoring them and for finding solutions to them. For the SDGs to be reached, different actors (governments, the private sector, civil society as well as the scientific communities) need to do their part. Science Diplomacy might therefore just be the tool we need to realize these goals. One can say that the UN and the SandT community have already embarked upon an increased involvement of SandT in global policy making. But here in Pakistan, the collaboration between scientists and policymakers is a distant dream. Everyone in governance body recognizes the importance of science to achieve SDGs, but how this is best achieved is yet to be answered. It is thus self-evident that effective science advisory mechanisms are much needed at the domestic level for the SDGs to be achievable. A comprehensive SDGs policymaking ecosystem includes both the scientific community and the state. However, in our country this combination is absolutely missing. Bringing SandT to achieve the SDGs is therefore not a simple endeavor and in order to be effective, it needs to be further professionalized and developed as a practice. This can be done through localizing the Science Diplomacy concept, and moving science diplomacy away from the soft power rhetoric and self-interests of scientific organizations towards the national level where it can be used as tool to achieve better national governance. Adopting the triple approach of Science Diplomacy at the national level, one can see three areas: Science in National Diplomacy; Diplomacy for National Science; and National Science for National Diplomacy, where such a National Science Diplomacy effort can be further developed for achieving the SDGs. Together, these areas can be regarded as the building blocks of a National and then Global Science Diplomacy agenda. Further developing such an agenda could be a joint effort of SandT organisation, such as Pakistan Council for Science and Technology (PCST), Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Planning Commission (PC). The stakes are high given that dealing with all SDGs. Obviously, this does not mean that government will (or even should) hand over its sovereign powers to scientists. But the multilateral policy-makers need the SandT input very much to understand the problems and challenges, to draft effective policies, to monitor what is happening and to develop innovative solutions for SDGs. This implies not only that scientists and governing bodies need to step up their interactions, It also means that federal, provincial, NGOs as well as the SandT community all need to take actions to further advance their dialogue and collaboration. Developing a National as well as Global Science Diplomacy agenda should therefore be a priority for all those concerned about the achievement of SDGs.

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