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Future Earth to get globally distributed secretariat

The announcement came today from the International Council for Science, on behalf of the members of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability (the Alliance).

The preferred bidder comprises five global hubs which will function as a single entity, and are located in Canada (Montreal), France (Paris), Japan (Tokyo), Sweden (Stockholm) and the United States (Colorado). 

Yuan-Tseh Lee, President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) said:

Solutions to the major sustainability challenges facing humanity require integrated science and a closer relationship with policy makers and stakeholders than we have seen to date.  Future Earth has been designed to respond to these urgent needs, and I am impressed by the innovative consortium that has come together to drive the programme forward. The consortium will work with tens of thousands of scientists already engaged in excellent global environmental change research, attract new communities, and build new partnerships to achieve the goals of global sustainability

Over 20 expressions of interest were received for the Future Earth secretariat. Following a two-day bidders' conference hosted in Paris, consolidated final bids were reviewed on the basis of their vision, capability, organisational model and management plan and funding. 

Irina Bokova, Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said:

I am delighted that we are now in a position to establish a permanent secretariat for Future Earth, which will facilitate its full implementation. I am particularly satisfied with its excellent geographic representation, which is underpinned by a truly decentralized secretariat. UNESCO looks forward to continuing to support Future Earth and to working with its permanent secretariat, including by helping to connect its various hubs and nodes with UNESCO’s specialized networks and centres throughout the world”.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP said:

I welcome the establishment of a globally distributed permanent secretariat for the Future Earth research initiative. UNEP and its regional offices are looking forward to continued collaboration with the secretariat and its regional centres across the science policy agenda.  Future Earth constitutes a strong asset to the world community of science as well as to support UNEP’s mandate to bring the latest findings from science into the policy agenda in order to keep the global environment under review. Global and regional assessments and engaging with communities of practice are central to building the new process for our Global Environmental outlook, GEO, developing IPBES, contributing to the IPCC and the work of the Global Environment Facility, GEF.

World Meteorological Organization Secretary General, Michel Jarraud, welcomed the decision to establish the globally distributed permanent secretariat for the Future Earth programme.

Distributing the Secretariat among different regions will strengthen the ability of Future Earth to build bridges between communities of researchers and stakeholders worldwide.  WMO looks forward to continued strong engagement with the World Climate Research Programme, the WMO-led Global Framework for Climate Services and other strategic partnerships, so that Future Earth can gain access to some of the best available research for addressing the most pressing needs of society.

The preferred bid includes a series of regional hubs, from which it is expected new regional networks will develop. These cover Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Asia. Discussions to develop an African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.  To assist researchers internationally, the Secretariat will support five core functions: coordination, communication and outreach, research enabling, capacity building, synthesis and foresight.

This is an innovative model for traditional academic approaches to research and engagement, but one increasingly adopted throughout the private sector, because a globalized world demands innovative and collaborative approaches. We believe a globally distributed leadership model will serve the international community best in advancing new knowledge and novel approaches to solve humanity’s most pressing global sustainability challenges” said the international consortium, in a joint statement.

The preferred bidder consortium is currently working with the Alliance to refine details of their proposal ahead of agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding.  Members of the consortium are also in discussion with the Future Earth Interim Secretariat and the Science and Engagement Committees in order to plan a smooth transition with a view to becoming operational by the end of 2014.


Denise Young, International Council for Science (ICSU)

T: +33 1 45 25 57 77

M: +33 6 5115 1952

Lucie Robidoux, Co-ordinator, Consortium for the Future Earth Secretariat

T: +1 514-571-6403


The preferred bidder is the winning consortium from a competitive process to select a secretariat for Future Earth.  The consortium is currently working with members of the Alliance to refine aspects of their proposal and this work is expected to be completed by September 2014. 

The preferred bidder is an international consortium of several lead organisations:  Montreal International (Montreal, Canada), the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (Paris, France), the Science Council of Japan (Tokyo, Japan), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Stockholm, Sweden), and in Colorado, USA, the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Colorado State University (Fort Collins).

These organisations are complemented by regional hubs co-ordinated by: the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (for Latin America), the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (for Asia), the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (for Europe) and The Cyprus Institute (for the Middle East and North Africa).  Discussions to develop an African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.


The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability is an informal international partnership which brings together members from research, funding and the international sectors that sponsor Future Earth.

The core membership of the Alliance includes the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the IGFA/Belmont Forum, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (121 Members, representing 141 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members). The ICSU mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society.


Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has pursued its mission of promoting science at the service of sustainable development and peace. It focuses on policy development and building capacities in science, technology and innovation and promoting and strengthening science education and engineering. UNESCO fosters the sustainable management of freshwater, oceans and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity, and using the power of science to cope with climate change and natural hazards. The Organization also works to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to promote equality between men and women, especially in scientific research.


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP’s participation in the Alliance allows it to promote and implement environmental stewardship initiatives.


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system's authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.