Can science help resolve the biggest challenges of our time?
For an inclusive sustainable planet, we need to address the big challenges of our time -- challenges about eradicating poverty, enhancing food security, promoting sustainable energy, managing water and environmental resources, controlling disease, mitigating natural and man-induced disasters, and fostering sustainable cities. Science, technology and innovation are vital for devising new approaches that are inclusive, rights-based and founded on solid scientific ground. Unfortunately, global development agendas such the Millennium Development Goals did not articulate a specific role for science. The new 2030 Agenda and associated Sustainable Development Goals provide universal agenda, for all countries, and emphasizes the need for transformational shifts to achieve the dual objective of poverty eradication and sustainable development. Such transformational shifts are urgently needed in a number of sectors, such as energy, food production, water management, and others. A complicating factor is that these different shifts need to be made almost simultaneously, adding further to the complexities in dealing with these transitions.
The role of STI should be positioned at three levels: First, it should help develop a thorough understanding of the key global challenges, their complexities and inter-relations. Second, it should guide the agenda towards addressing these challenges, and to develop the scientific understanding, technologies and innovations needed to build sustainable solutions, and third, Science should help to apply a more forward looking analysis and scenarios to maximize the benefits and minimize possible externalities of new approaches/solutions. Any rational review of the past 200 years of human development will show us that actually many of the big problems of today have resulted from yesterday’s ‘solutions’. Our science has to be cleverer this time. Science, technology and innovation has to provide answers to key questions we must address –- about equitable and inclusive growth, about poverty eradication, about sustainable development. As the primary UN agency with a mandate in the sciences, UNESCO’s role is to help Member States answer these questions, together. UNESCO is helping member states in finding sustainable solutions through the integration of multiple disciplines of the natural, social, medical and engineering sciences, from the professions, and from practical field experience in business, government, and civil society.
Professor Shahbaz Khan is currently Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. He holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Civil Engineering (1990) from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore (Pakistan); a Master of Science in Water Resources Technology and Management (1992) and a Doctorate in Civil Engineering (1995) from the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom); Graduate Diploma in Applied Geographic Information Science (2001) and a Grad Certificate in Information Technology (2003) from the Charles Stuart University in Wagga Wagga (Australia). In 2005, Shahbaz obtained a Master’s Degree in International Environmental Law from the Macquarie University (Australia) and in 2007 a Master’s Degree in Applied Environmental Economics from the Imperial College London (United Kingdom). In 2016 he was awarded Honorary Doctorate in Environment and Development by the National University of Malaysia. Shahbaz is currently Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra, Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Sydney and Distinguished Professor at the National University of Science and Technology, Pakistan.
Shahbaz is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, Fellow of Institution Engineer Malaysia, Hon Fellow of the Myanmar Engineering Society and Fellow of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand. Shahbaz is also a Chartered Engineer and Engineering Executive of Engineers Australia. He received Federation of Engineering Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (FEIAP) Engineer of the Year Award for 2016. In 2017, he received 2014-2016 Great Wall Friendship Award from the People's Government of Beijing Municipality.
Shahbaz has worked in Australia, France, Indonesia and Pakistan in various research, consultancy and policy positions. Before joining UNESCO in 2008, Shahbaz was Professor and Director (International Centre for Food Security) at the Charles Sturt University, Research Director at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Programme Leader, System Harmonisation for Regional Irrigation Business Partnerships at the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures, Australia. His work has been widely recognised, for example, through receipt of UNESCO Team Award for Managing Hydro Hazards 2009, Land and Water Australia’s Eureka Prize 2007, CSIRO Medal 2007, Biennial Medal of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, Charles Sturt University’s Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award 2006, CSIRO Partner or Perish Award 2004, CSIRO Environmental Prize 2005 and CSIRO Land and Water “Exceptional Achievements Award” 2000. He has widely published in the area of water, environment and sustainable development and received several publications awards. From 2008-2012 as UNESCO’s Chief of Water and Sustainable Development, he was credited for stakeholder driven environmental policies that is now recognised as the world’s best practice through the UNESCO Hydrology for Environment, Life and Policy (HELP) Program.