WORLD SCIENCE FORUM JORDAN, Special Session No 22: 11h30 – 13h00, Friday 10th November, Venue: Petra 2, Sea Floor.

Session Summary:

Adopted by the UN just a year before Donald Trump’s election and the rise of ‘America First’, the subsequent collapse of the planned US-Asia trade bloc, the UK Brexit Referendum and the call for reform of NAFTA, NATO and the UN system, this session examines whether the 17 Sustainable Development Goals underpinned by 169 targets were always based on ideology and unrealistic promises or might, in fact, deliver action and results. Concrete case-studies spotlighting future health-care and how climate is literally ‘changing us’ are given, alongside a technical demonstration of upcycled mobile technology monitoring and protecting remote forests, enabling real-time interventions.

With speakers from the US, Europe and Asia working very much at the heart of efforts to tackle climate change, poverty, public health and much else, we examine if achieving the SDGs is wishful thinking, perhaps the dying embers of a bygone era of global cooperation? We will question if artificial intelligence and technological disruption, geopolitical rivalry, widening social inequality and growing populist calls for nationalist policies, including trade protectionism, fed by rising contempt for international cooperation, are too strong a headwind for the SDGs to succeed. In particular, the role of STI as a leveler of the playing field and global-good-enabler versus as a catalyst for winner-take-all competition whereby hubs seize access to knowledge and power, leaving less-privileged groups, classes, sectors, and regions struggling to compete, will be spotlighted.

Against the backdrop of fiscal restraints in the richer countries, coupled with emerging markets weakened by lower commodity prices making paying for such public goods all the more unappealing, the panel will equally signpost where the SDGs are, in fact, already making an important difference. They will argue that in a world of 65 million refugees compared to 1.6 million in 1960, the SDGs provide a necessary blueprint for tackling destructive politics in water-stressed and conflict-affected countries where governments are fragile and failing. In addition, multilateral institutions need to be upgraded and restructured, with effective decision-making and implementation mechanisms for managing global development and social peace challenges such as infrastructure gaps, migration, climate change, and financial instability.

Japanese Organiser:
Osamu Kobayashi (JP):
Director, Department of International Affairs, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).
German Flag
Co-organizer:

Thomas Hartung, MD PhD (DE):
Doerenkamp-Zbinden Professor & Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, The Johns Hopkins University.
UK Flag Moderator:
Tim Willcox (UK):
BBC News. Anchoring in the studio and on location Tim presents on BBC1, BBC World, News Channel and BBC 4 along with BBC radio outlets, and has covered most of the big breaking news stories of the past 20 years.


Presentation Title: Goals or own-goals? The back-story to setting the SDG’s and progress to-date

Japanese Speaker 1:
Osamu Kobayashi (JP):
Director, Department of International Affairs, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

Talk Description:

In 2015, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unanimously adopted by 193 UN Members. These lock in the coordinates for the direction the entire world should take with 169 universally binding targets for all nations and for all stakeholders. My talk unravels the politics, the science and the economics underpinning the SDGs, reviewing how they came about as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals. I will identify the tortoises and the hares in the race to successfully implement them, while pointing to those best practices we can already credit certain actors with on the road to 2030. Above all, I will champion the pivotal role of science, technology and innovation as the bedrock of any eventual full or partial success.


Presentation Title: New technologies driving the future of healthcare and public health

German Flag Speaker 2:
Thomas Hartung, MD PhD (DE):
Doerenkamp-Zbinden Professor & Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, The Johns Hopkins University.

Talk Description:

Health – well-being and longevity – costs countries world-wide an average of 10% of their GDP. In the US, it stands at 17%, rising to 20% by 2025. As try to reach the many SDG targets, my talk will examine the sustainability of the status quo. I will demonstrate how new technologies and their implementation will be the deciding factor in our successes and failures in harvesting the societal benefits of these massive investments. In particular, I will spotlight new test and prevention strategies for toxic exposures to illustrate the tremendous changes we are facing. While the West moves onto 21st century solutions and beats the drum for the 4th industrial revolution, is it acceptable to share with other poorer regions only the 20th century health-care technologies we are leaving behind?


Presentation Title: Environmental SDGs through the eyes of an insider

Canadian Flag Speaker 3:
Prof. Jacqueline McGlade (CDN):
University College London Earth Sciences, former Chief Scientist to the UN Environment Programme; former Executive Director, European Environment Agency 2003 – 2013.

Talk Description:

Solving many of the today’s challenges addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals will rely on how well the interconnectedness of the natural world and society is reflected in global, regional and national socio-economic policies and agreements. One area of particular concern is the link between environment and health.

It has been recently estimated that approximately 19 million premature deaths occur annually because of the way that natural resources are used to support human society, economic production and consumption patterns. The impacts include widespread environmental pollution, poor soil productivity, antimicrobial contamination, and long-term exposures to persistent organic pollutants, hazardous chemicals, radionuclides and heavy metals in our food, clothing and buildings. This behind the scenes look at the SDGs shows how the interlinkages between a healthy environment and human health developed within the global framework of indicators and highlights how making use of the synergies between many differing aims and objectives still remains elusive.


Future Tech Video Demonstration: Trees that can talk: how upcycled mobile technology can monitor and protect remote forests, enabling real-time interventions.

USA Flag Presenter:
Topher White (USA):
Founder, Rainforest Connection, California.

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9 – 14 July, 2018
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