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Future Earth’s globally distributed Secretariat designed to be flexible and diverse

Responding to a recent SciDevNet article that highlighted concerns about Northern bias in the Future Earth Secretariat, members of the Alliance (who are the organisational sponsors of Future Earth), together with the Secretariat consortium, said that work is ongoing to address this important issue, particularly in terms of the development of strong regional hubs that will become part of the Secretariat.

The proposal from a consortium of organisations that will fund and implement the Future Earth Secretariat was selected by the Alliance following an open and international competitive process, and is viewed as a robust structure which will meet the regional needs of developing countries as well as the many diverse communities engaging with Future Earth.

Dr Heide Hackmann, Executive Director of the International Social Science Council and Co-Chair of the Alliance, stated that “there clearly is a need for the Secretariat structure to develop past the initial framework that emerged from the competitive process, and the consortium has ensured that there is space to bring in a wider set of regional partners.  This is building on the extensive and ongoing commitment to consultation and engagement in the South on the development of Future Earth.”

The distributed Secretariat is based on a dynamic, networked structure with a diversity of perspectives, stakeholders and geographical locations. At its core is a commitment to inclusivity to foster the creativity and innovation urgently required to address the challenges of global environmental change. It will operate as a single entity, with its distributed structure creating a platform for dialogue between scholars and stakeholders at regional, national and local levels. The structure has been designed to ‘build-in’ flexibility and collaboration, allowing for the inclusion of new actors and perspectives that will be necessary over the 10-year lifespan of the Future Earth research platform.

The Secretariat global hubs are located in Canada (Montreal), France (Paris), Japan (Tokyo), Sweden (Stockholm) and the United States (Colorado). They will be complemented by a set of regional hubs which today cover the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Developing these regional structures is central to ensuring broader geographical representation and global diversity in the running of Future Earth and the Alliance welcomes news of ongoing discussions with partners in new regions.  The implementation of the Secretariat will be challenging, and establishing a formal structure that is regionally representative should not be rushed and must be developed through a process of real engagement to incorporate leadership from all communities.

Future Earth strategy will be set by the programme committees. The first of these to be fully established – the Science Committee – is regionally representative, as well as gender and discipline balanced.

About the consortium

The consortium put forward the winning bid in 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; additional details of the organization of the secretariat will be announced between September and December 2014. The consortium has several lead organisations: Montreal International and partners (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) and other regional South American partners, 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 a sub-Saharan African hub are underway, with plans in other regions also under consideration.

About The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability

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).