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Statement by Dr. Frances Colon at the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development
May 4, 2015

Frances Colon

Opening Remarks

 Dr. Frances Colon, Acting Science and Technology Advisor to the
Secretary of State, and U.S. Head of Delegation

Eighteenth Session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development

May 4, 2015, 11:00-13:00, Geneva, Switzerland

 Thank you Ms. Johnson, for your excellent leadership in guiding the Commission through its activities this past year, and to the Secretariat for its hard work preparing the materials for this meeting. It is a pleasure to be here.


  • The Millennium Development Goals set us on a path to remarkable and sustained progress, and gave us a model for the effective and transformative use of the multilateral and multi-stakeholder partnerships to affect global development.
  • The MDGs demonstrated global unity on an unprecedented scope and scale and resulted in substantial progress on a host of development challenges, including education, health, and poverty reduction.
  • Still, a number of the MDGs have not been met and international consensus demands greater emphasis on environmental sustainability, broad applicability and relevance to all countries, and economic growth as key to sustainable development and poverty alleviation efforts.
  • In the coming months as the United Nations continues to focus on the Post-2015 Agenda we must define an inspirational, affirmative, and clear vision for the future – one that citizens the world over can easily understand and grasp; one that is deeply grounded in the best evidence; and one that is practical and drives action. 
  • This Commission has done much to raise the visibility of science, technology and innovation as critical issues in development and the enabling role of information communication technologies – identifying best practices and fostering action.

Post-2015 Development Agenda

  • Over the last two years nations and stakeholders have been engaged in a deliberative process to define the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which will lead to the adoption of a set of Sustainable Development Goals and targets that provide the foundation for future development efforts.  We look forward to completing this process and adopting the new agenda at the UN Summit in September.
  • We envision a Post-2015 Development Agenda that articulates clear, ambitious, and measurable goals and targets to advance four overarching priorities for development:
    • Firstly, to continue the unfinished work of the MDGs – with particular attention to poverty eradication, improved health, food security, water and sanitation, and education that focuses on learning outcomes as well as access.
    • Secondly, nearly 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty, and we believe we should focus on the factors most relevant to lifting them out.
    • Thirdly, we should capitalize on high-impact drivers of development that have long-term transformative consequences, including inclusive, sustained, and sustainable economic growth; gender equality and empowerment of women and girls; sustainable energy for all; healthy oceans; peaceful and safe societies; and open and accountable institutions.
    • Fourthly, we need key environmental sustainability priorities as part of well-crafted targets.
  • To be successful a new era of global public/private partnerships is needed.  We must go beyond traditional aid and appeal to a diverse set of actors to mobilize a full spectrum of actions and investments from public, private, and domestic resources.

Science, Technology and Innovation for Development

  • We believe that science, technology and innovation are cross-cutting tools that underpin the actions we need to take to address the global challenges of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
  • These challenges include, inter alia, expanding access to health services and quality education; improving food security; building transparent, accountable, and stable institutions; empowering women and minorities; and promoting sustainable management and use of energy and natural resources.
  • Combined with the enabling power of information and communication technologies, science and technology are driving a new industrial revolution and fostering innovation in developed and developing countries.
  • Affordable and reliable internet connectivity is key to bringing STI to bear on the Post-2015 Agenda.  Connectivity empowers individuals and communities to share information, collect and analyze data, mobilize resources, educate themselves, and find collaborators and create new markets for goods and services.
  • This must be a 100% inclusive effort.  Women, girls and underrepresented groups need access to quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, technical and vocational training, and access to the networks and resources that allow full and effective participation in knowledge-based economies.
    • We need to break down the silos in STEM education and create teaching and learning environments where students are able to weave disciplines together to understand the world.  Multi-disciplinary teams that bring together students studying biology, engineering, philosophy, finance, and policy are critical for teaching our young people the skills needed to integrate and thrive in complex economies.
  • We know that many talented people are already hard at work around the world growing new ideas and technologies that can help solve global challenges, and that this talent is eager to work in networked, interdisciplinary teams.
  • Whether it’s the FabLab in Togo where local innovators are manufacturing 3-D printers from waste landfills and open-sourcing the hardware, or the Agroforestry Center in Nairobi where scientists, engineers, biologists, and farmers from across Africa, the United States, and China are collaborating to end human stunting — we are seeing uncommon collaboration at its best.
  • These innovators need to be connected with other innovators, funders, policy makers, and the citizens who will benefit from their ideas—to further develop and test their proposals, secure financial support, and scale up the ideas that are sustainable and transformative.
  • Within the US government, USAID’s new U.S. Global Development Lab is one place where we are taking exactly this approach.
  • The Lab works with over 30 cornerstone partners such as the Coca Cola Company, University of California at Berkeley, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the government of Sweden and many others —who bring cutting-edge technologies, deep expertise, advanced research and development capabilities, far-reaching networks of customers, suppliers and community organizations to USAID’s work to use STI as a transformative development tool.
  • Another important initiative of the Global Development Lab is the Higher Education Solutions Network, a multidisciplinary research and development effort between USAID and seven universities, including Makerere University in Uganda. The Network was established to find new modalities of cooperation and research to address the challenges of the 21st century.
  • It engages cutting-edge academic and scientific thinking and resources, as well as harnesses the future leaders of our societies – the students – to engage early in their careers to grow up a new generation of development problem-solvers.
  • Such vibrant public-private partnerships are key to mobilizing the resources needed to implement the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and to bring science, technology and innovation into their central role in sustainable development and addressing extreme poverty.


  • Honored delegates and colleagues,  it is an exciting time to work on the challenging development issues of the 21st century that confront us all and for which no single country or community has all the necessary resources at its disposal.
  • The United States is committed to rolling up its sleeves, to strengthening current, and seeking new, public/private partnerships and to supporting the Post-2015 Development Agenda to make a substantive, practical contribution to the world’s development needs.
  • We are deeply engaged in the negotiations under way on Post-2015 Development Agenda and look forward to concluding that process and getting started on our shared objectives.
  • As we move toward that conclusion, the United States encourages this Commission and all its member to continue emphasizing the unprecedented opportunities before us to harness science, technology, and information and communication technologies, to foster innovation, improve people’s lives, livelihoods, and prospects in every country, and at the same time protect and preserve our air, water, oceans and all the planet’s precious natural resources.