By Jenny Larsen
One of the major outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic could be a permanent change in how and where many people work.
The restrictions imposed by governments to contain the virus have sent millions of workers into “home office”, resulting in a surge in the use of online platforms and technologies to help employees stay connected, both to each other and to their clients or customers. Curbs on travel have also seen an explosion in the number of online meetings and conferences held by companies, institutions and organizations around the globe.
The United Nations is no exception. The pandemic is motivating UN agencies to work together to find alternative ways to engage with Member States and deliver their services, including the extensive use of online tools and webinars.
In one of the latest examples, in November and early December the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) contributed to a series of pilot online training workshops to build national capacity on science, technology and innovation (STI) in developing countries in order to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The training was carried out by officials from more than 10 UN agencies, who joined forces under Work Stream 6 of the UN Interagency Task Team (IATT) on STI for the SDGs, an operational arm of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM).
The three sessions, which attracted over 70 participants from 28 countries and 40 representatives from different UN bodies, show what can be done through innovative approaches to training in the current circumstances of restricted international mobility.
The strength of the IATT, according to Ludovico Alcorta, UNU Merit professorial fellow, is the conceptual and practical knowledge accumulated in the different organizations that make it up and IATT’s ability to bring together all these entities into a unique training programme.
Participating policymakers said that the sessions provided them with useful information to help them review, design and implement STI policy and to conduct STI for SDG case studies. They also showed enthusiasm in cooperating with other stakeholders to share relevant lessons learned.
Participants were keen to take part in further sessions, suggesting a number of future topics, including training on STI policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, multi-stakeholder engagement, technology transfer, intellectual property, STI roadmaps, R&D and innovation for sustainable development.
UNIDO Industrial Policy Officer, Fernando Santiago, who contributed to the organization of the different sessions, said that the training offered an opportunity to strengthen understanding among Member States of the close relationship between SDG 9 on industrialization, innovation and infrastructure and the other SDGs.
As a founding member of TFM and IATT, UNIDO is actively engaged in promoting STI as a key driver of industrialization as part of its mandate to push forward inclusive and sustainable industrial development, in particular to help least developed countries advance.
Santiago and fellow participant from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Tamara Nanayakkara, said that the creative use of digital platforms facilitated interaction and knowledge-sharing, reaching out to a diverse set of participants across different time zones.
This view was echoed by Clovis Freire from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), who described the webinars as “very engaging, interactive, and with excellent discussions and exchanges of ideas between government officials and UN experts on how to design and implement STI policies for the SDGs”, adding that it was “now clear webinars can become a regular and essential tool to engage and expand the network of trainees and experts on STI for SDGs.”
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Assistant Programme Specialist, Kornelia Tzinova, added that the interactive exchange provided an opportunity both to highlight the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships in STI and to deliver clear direction on inclusive, open and socially equitable STI policy to meet the SDGs.
Looking ahead, the training illustrates the possible use of hybrid models for capacity development, starting with brief awareness sessions online, and engaging in deeper, more interactive in-person sessions at a later stage. The positive feedback received from participants will be used as a guide for future webinars on the topic in 2021.
The IATT is currently composed of diverse entities, including among others UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNESCO, UNU MERIT, WIPO, UNDESA, UNEP, WB, ITU, UNESCWA, UNECA, UNECLAC, UNECE, UNESCAP and others. The IATT's Work Stream 6 (WS6), jointly convened by UNESCO and UNCTAD, is responsible for capacity building on STI for the SDGs, designing and delivering training courses and workshops on STI policy that target policymakers and key STI managers from developing countries.
For more information on STI please contact:
Industrial Policy Officer
Division of Research & Industrial Policy Advice, UNIDO