UN Body Appoints First African Woman

un body appoints first african womanDr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), has been appointed to the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board.This public entity is tasked with leading biodiversity research, knowledge management and policy support in South Africa.

 “We are very proud indeed that SANBI’s CEO sits on this inaugural scientific advisory board for the UN,” said acting SANBI board chairperson Nana Magomola.“This shows that the work we do at SANBI and in South Africa has global value. Dr Abrahamse will be one of 26 scientists will work to ensure that public policies are informed by the most up-to-date scientific information and research.” Abrahamse said she hopes to contribute to forge stronger links between science and policy towards human well-being and sustainable development.

The new Board will provide advice on science, technology and innovation (STI) for sustainable development to the UN Secretary-General and to Executive Heads of UN organizations. UNESCO will host the Secretariat for the Board.

“The creation of the Scientific Advisory Board follows on a wide-ranging consultation work entrusted to UNESCO by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.  “It brings together scientists of international stature, and will serve as a global reference point to improve links between science and public policies.”

The Board is the first such body set up by the UN Secretary-General to influence and shape action by the international community to advance sustainable development and eradicate poverty. The initiative derives from the report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future worth choosing (January, 2012). This report recommended the launch of a “major global scientific initiative to strengthen the interface between policy and science. This should include the preparation of regular assessments and digests of the science around such concepts as “planetary boundaries”, “tipping points” and “environmental thresholds” in the context of sustainable development”.

The fields covered by the Board range from the basic sciences, through engineering and technology, social sciences and humanities, ethics, health, economic, behavioral, and agricultural sciences, in addition to the environmental sciences.

It aims to ensure that up-to-date and rigorous science is appropriately reflected in high-level policy discussions within the UN system, offering recommendations on priorities related to science for sustainable development that should be supported or encouraged; providing advice on up-to-date scientific issues relevant to sustainable development; identifying knowledge gaps that could be addressed outside the UN system by either national or international research programs; identifying specific needs that could be addressed by on-going assessments (e.g., IPCC or the IPBES); and advising on issues related to the public visibility and understanding of science.

Board members will act in their personal capacity and will provide advice on a strictly independent basis. They will serve pro bono for two years, with the possibility of renewal for one further two-year term, upon the decision of the Secretary-General. The first session of the Board will be held at the beginning of 2014.

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