As the world continues to face global environmental emergencies, lives and livelihoods have become increasingly threatened and vulnerable to major challenges such as biodiversity loss, crises in health, water and climate, pollution, and food insecurity, among others.
These challenges have not only transcended national borders and state sovereignty, but have also shed light on the chronic social, economic, and institutional inequalities, inequities, and injustices that many countries in the Global South face, particularly those in Latin America and the Caribbean. Therefore, solutions to tackle these challenges must also be scientific, transboundary, evolutionary, anticipatory and transdisciplinary.
Over the years, science diplomacy has been identified as a tool to strengthen the science-policy interface, tapping into national research capacities to expand transboundary collaboration; commonly referred to as science in diplomacy, diplomacy for science and science for diplomacy. The Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region has been engaged in a variety of science diplomacy capacity-building efforts, national strategies and international agreements. However, despite this cooperation, science-policy instruments, institutional and individual capacities, as well as governance mechanisms remain weak, redundant, and fragmented.
Hence, a context-specific regional platform is needed to promote, and facilitate sustained collaboration among science diplomacy champions in the Americas to forge innovative new alliances that will advance evidence-based policies, and more effectively respond to the complex issues facing the region. As a regional intergovernmental organization at the intersection of science, policy, and diplomacy, the IAI is uniquely positioned in the heart of the Americas to foster international cooperation, scientific excellence, and integrity in order to address the major challenges of global environmental change and achieve the vision of a sustainable Americas.
With this in mind, the IAI is launching the Science Diplomacy Center (SDC) as a pioneer initiative in the Americas. The Center will seek to develop, connect, strengthen and mobilize current science diplomacy efforts, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, through international collaboration. According to the Center’s advisor, Dr. Marga Gual Soler “the IAI Science Diplomacy Center arrives to meet a crucial need in this moment of interconnected environmental, health, energy, social and geopolitical crises. Now more than ever, science can play a unifying role between countries sharing similar challenges, but to achieve this we need to enhance the capacities of professionals and institutions across the Americas - particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, to better understand and practice science diplomacy concepts, tools and processes related to Global Environmental Change.”
In leveraging three decades of knowledge and experience held by the IAI, the SDC will create a platform to engage various science advisory ecosystems and promote the inclusion of diverse voices from across the region. Keeping pace with the evolving diplomatic landscape of science-policy relations, the SDC will become an important regional reference point and resource for scientists, governments, policymakers and civil society to strengthen science diplomacy strategies and develop governance mechanisms to address global environmental change of national and regional priority. Early career researchers from the region will also have a central role in the SDC with IAI Science Technology and Policy (STeP) Fellowship program alumni serving as trainers and ambassadors.
Planning of the vision, mission and activities for the Science Diplomacy Center will be co-developed with the IAI Directorate and an advisory board, meeting for the first time in Punta de Este, Uruguay in November. Members of this inaugural body include member countries and SAC/SPAC representatives, and science diplomacy experts within the Americas and abroad:
· Carlos Matsumoto (International Cooperation, Ministry of Science and Technology, Brazil)
· Dr. Marcelo Mena (former Minister of the Environment of Chile)
· Dr. Maria Uhle (Program Director for International Activities Directorate for Geosciences National Science Foundation, IAI Executive Council Chair and Co-chair of the Belmont Forum, USA)
· Ambassador Carmen Claramunt (Deputy Director of the Diplomatic School at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Costa Rica)
· Dr. Frances Colón (Senior Director, International Climate Policy Center for American Progress, member of President Biden's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology)
· Professor Janina Onuki (Department of Political Science, University of São Paulo, Brazil)
· Dr. Kim Montgomery (Director, International Affairs and Science Diplomacy American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
· Dr. Nathan Hotaling (Senior Data Scientist, National Institutes of Health & Senior Vice President of Data Science Axle Informatics, USA)
· Dr. Carol Franco (IAI SPAC, Senior Research Associate, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, climate advisor to the Ministry of the Environment of the Dominican Republic)
- Marga Gual Soler, Head of Science Diplomacy Capacity Building, Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) Switzerland, and Senior Advisor for the IAI Science Diplomacy Center
· Dr. Javier Gracia-Garza (IAI SPAC & Senior Advisor Climate Change, Agriculture, Environment and Forestry)