First Future Earth Forum: finding ways to accelerate sustainable development through solutions-oriented research

Panelists included Peter Bakker, Johan Rockström, Molly Jahn and Rowan Douglas. Photo: SUNY/Joe Putrock
Thought-leaders from the business, media, policy and research communities attended the 2014 Future Earth Forum, held on September 24th at the State University of New York Global Center in New York City on the heels of the UN Climate Summit.

The first annual Future Earth Forum was designed to foster dialogue among an invited group of scientists and decision-makers to help co-design the Future Earth research agenda.

Frans Berkhout, interim Director of Future Earth, said:

‘Future Earth aims to do more connected science on global change and sustainability challenges, and to work with societal partners in the co-production of actionable knowledge to address these challenges. The Future Earth Forum aims to build awareness of this new global initiative, to foster a dialogue between science, business, government and civil society, and to build relationships that can attract new resources to the table’

This inaugural Forum focused on systemic risk - the idea that in an increasingly connected globalised world, companies and institutions are increasingly vulnerable to a number of unpredictable and aggregated risks that could cause the collapse of the entire system. Discussions highlighted the issue of systemic risk as a 'bridge' between science, business, policy and civil society, and the role of Future Earth in developing solutions-oriented research to tackle these challenges. Participants also identified specific, immediate challenges to which Future Earth can contribute actionable knowledge in the coming years.

Attendees, who were drawn from the business, insurance and reinsurance, media, policy and research communities, discussed the interactions between their respective sectors in addressing the challenges of global environmental change. This included the role of the media, and particularly social media, in catalysing greater engagement with sustainable development.

"One of the principles of Future Earth is 'co-design'. This is a new paradigm in international collaborative research in the area of global change" said Wendy Watson Wright, Assistant Director General and Executive Secretary, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. "This new approach implies that research is designed in a dialogue with multiple stakeholders - youth, civil society, the private sector, and governments. While it is imperative that science remains independent, it is equally important that it be at the service of society and that it delivers societal benefits. The Forum has been a first encounter of stakeholders with different aspirations and expectations. Future Earth will take due stock of these different views in defining the next generation of global change research."

Future Earth is committed to building and connecting global knowledge to intensify the impact of research and find new ways to accelerate sustainable development. The Forum will convene each year to further this commitment by developing a network of partners that share Future Earth’s vision and mission, in order to build the support required to generate actionable research and implementable solutions, thus accelerating our transformations towards sustainability.

The Forum is an initiative of The Science & Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability (The Alliance), a high-level international partnership including UNESCO, the Belmont Forum, the International Council for Science, the International Social Science Council, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations University, as well as the World Meteorological Organization as an observer.

The Alliance is committed to making full use of science and technology to inform equitable, sustainable solutions to the most pressing issues currently confronting humankind. The Alliance is currently co-chaired by the International Social Science Council and UNESCO.