Science diplomacy deserves a special attention, as more and more issues of national concern can only be treated at an international level, with the help of science.
We will comment here a box that develops about science diplomacy. Although the authors write about science diplomacy in the Governance lever of transformation, as we have already seen, they also dedicate a long box to the topic, that is worth reading in details.
A broader spectrum
First, it is always good to give a definition of what you are talking about. It is short here, but the authors explains that science diplomacy goes today beyond the general “soft power” vision that probably a lot of scientists have in mind: it can be also very specific to some national interests, that cannot be tackled inside the national borders.
Science diplomacy has become much more than international science collaboration, although that may well have diplomatic benefit. Science diplomacy is primarily the intentional application of sciences, both natural and social, or scientific expertise in furtherance of diplomatic objectives. While science diplomacy emerged in the cold war era as the major actors projected soft power, it is now a concept and a process that can be used by all countries, both developing and developed, to further their direct national interests and those shared with their regional and global communities.
Not enough science within Foreign Ministries
Then, some regrets: science diplomacy is not enough implemented in governements.
But structures for effective science diplomacy are often lacking. Few governments have science deeply embedded within their diplomatic approaches; instead they may see science as something primarily to support trade or security negotiations.
However, good examples of science diplomacy exist at the regional or bilateral level, for example, the transborder protection of the mountain gorilla in Central Africa or regional disaster management in the Caribbean.
An international network
Some hope however: science advisors to governments, especially to Foreign Ministers, have been organizing themselves worldwide for a while. The International Network for Government Science Advice is very active on this topics.
To foster science diplomacy a Network of Science and Technology Advisors to Foreign Ministers was formed, which, in turn, is supported by the rapidly expanding network of academics and practitioners in science diplomacy in the Science Policy in Diplomacy and External Relations division of the International Network for Government Science Advice.
And they don’t lack important topics for discussions. Even the less science prone governments may recognize that they need some science for these pressing issues.
Emerging issues are driving a much-needed enhanced emphasis on the shared global objectives and thus the greater need for science diplomacy. Those issues include new technologies, digital and economic transformation, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change, and the management of ungoverned spaces (for example, the seabed and space).
The global and regional challenges now emerging in the face of fracturing or fractured societies also would benefit from scientific inputs to help find solutions. The paradox is that while globalization is being impaired, the need to address the many issues of the global commons is rising. All have scientific dimensions and indeed science will be at the core of their solutions and should be used to help move past geopolitical debates that compromise progress.
Let’s do more!
Lastly, the authors ask for a larger use of science in governmental decisions, based on the examples of what the IPCC has been doing for a while now about climate. IPBES is another, more recent, example about ecosystems and biodiversity. More could be done.
The international policy system receives high quality scientific advice on specialized topics (such as the reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change), but more could be done to strengthen links broadly between the United Nations system and the science policy community, so that science can consistently feature as a core input. There may be merit in thinking about whether a more formal and systematic set of relationships between the global policy community and the science community could help.
But many other barriers being domestic and new, more effective forms of input within foreign and science ministries are likely also needed. Science can assist with most policy challenges, and that is no different for many diplomatic challenges and those of the global commons in particular.
We hope that IYBSSD 2022 will be seen as an opportunity by scientists, science diplomats and all goodwill people who believe in the power of science to make some progress there.