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The South African government has announced that a forum on the contributions of science, technology and innovation to sustainable development will take place in parallel with the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September.

The forum will be made up of a series of workshops, seminars and exhibitions, and its co-ordination is being supported by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the World Federation of Engineering Organisations.

According to the South African government, the forum will bring together not only members of the scientific and technological communities, but also policy- and decision-makers — including representatives of civil society and industry — “to debate and consider effective mechanisms to harness the immense potential of science, technology and innovation to contribute to sustainable development”.

Some of the meetings are being run by the main organizing bodies.Others will be organized by other institutions, such as the European Commission, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), and the Government of Sweden.

The announcement of the science forum was made in a statement issued by the country’s Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DCAST) during the fourth preparatory committee meeting for WSSD, which has been taking place in Bali, Indonesia.

Provisional plans for a separate forum to be held in Pretoria, the national capital, are reported to have been dropped in favour of holding all the meetings at a single location.

The Johannesburg forum will take place at venues described as being “within the official WSSD perimeter” at the Ubuntu Village, located in the suburbs of Sandton.

According to the South African statement, themes that have been proposed for discussion at the science forum include:
  • The conclusion of a new ‘social contract' between science and society;

  • Capacity building for narrowing the knowledge and technology divides between the developed and developing worlds;

  • Promoting interdisciplinary fields of science for sustainable development;

  • Promoting greater dialogue between scientists and policymakers;

  • Developments in monitoring and early-warning systems for sustainable development; and

  • Highlighting success stories where science and technology projects have markedly enhanced sustainable development.

“The forum is an excellent idea," says Mohamed Hassan, the executive director of the Third World Academy of Sciences. "What is really important is to get policy makers - and perhaps even some of the heads of state — who will be present in Johannesburg for the WSSD to attend.”

Organisations wishing to plan science and technology ‘side-events’ during the WSSD are being asked to register through the local Johannesburg World Summit Organisation (JOWSCO), which has been given responsibility by the South African government to manage and coordinate the logistical activities for the WSSD.

Such organisations are being “strongly encouraged” to request that their event take place as part of the science forum.

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