UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) was established in 1992 to provide the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with high-quality advice on relevant issues to enable these bodies to guide the future work of the United Nations, develop common policies, and agree on appropriate action. The CSTD was set up following a decision by the General Assembly to abolish the ‘Vienna institutions’ – the Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development, its subsidiary body, the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development, and the Interagency Task Force, after expressing disappointment with the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action. (UNCTAD, 1997:10)

The first meeting of CSTD was in 1993, and since then the UNCTAD Secretariat has been responsible for the servicing of the Commission. (UNCTAD, 1997:10) In this context, CSTD acts as a forum for:

  • The examination of science and technology (S&T) questions and their implications for development;
  • The advancement of understanding on S&T policies, particularly with respect to developing countries; and
  • The formulation of recommendations and guidelines on S&T matters in the United Nations system.

At its first meeting, the Commission, made a number of decisions regarding its future work and established panels of its own members to focus on specific substantive themes that it had identified for the 1993-95 intersessional period:

  • Technology for small-scale economic activities to address the basic needs of low-income populations;
  • The gender implications of S&T; and
  • The contributions of S&T to an integrated approach to land management.

CSTD also decided that it would continue its examination of the role of research and development institutes (RDIs) in the industrialization process of developing countries. In addition, CSTD decided to consider, in a preliminary fashion, the question of information technologies (ITs) and their role in S&T for the needs of developing countries, with a view to selecting this issue as a substantive theme for the 1995-97 intersessional period.

CSTD, at its first session, emphasized that an important criterion for choosing the substantive themes was that the themes and the work on them should be timely and directed to meeting the broad interests of the organizations of the United Nations system. Accordingly, the questions of basic needs, gender, and land management were intended as contributions to the processes leading to, respectively, the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen), the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing), and the deliberations of the Commission on Sustainable Development at its third session in relation to chapter 10 of Agenda 21.

“In 1993 the Advisory Committee was replaced by a new UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development . At its first session it decided to address the issue of gender, science and development. A working group consisting of eight men (all National Delegates to the Commission) and eight women (all experts in the topic) worked together over an eighteen month period to prepare a diagnosis of the problems and to make suggestions on how the problems could be overcome. Their recommendations were endorsed by the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC) and were fed into the deliberations at the Beijing Women’s Conference. Their report (published in Missing Links) identified seven areas where greater gender equity would make a big difference to both the generation of new knowledge and to its application to benefit the lives of women and men throughout the developing world. The report also identified specific measures which could be taken to achieve gender equity.

“It recognised however that each country needed to make its own decisions based on its own local circumstances. It therefore recommended that each country should establish a National Committee on Gender and Science and Technology which would come up with its own national plan of action. To help with this task the Commission established a Gender Advisory Board to help National Committees, and to provide advice to the Commission on the gender dimensions of all of its work. The UN Commission on S&T for Development has addressed many other important science, technology and development issues over its 15 year existence. But its work on gender issues has had a particularly significant impact.” (Oldham, forthcoming)



UNCTAD (1997) ‘Note by the UNCTAD Secretariat for Consideration of Ways and Means of Commemorating in 1999 of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Vienna Conference on Science and Technology for Development’.  Economic and Social Council. Commission on Science and Technology for Development.  Third Session. Geneva, 12 May 1997.  E/CN.16/1997/7.  Accessed online at: http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/ecn16_97d7.en.pdf

Oldham, G., forthcoming. ‘45 Years On’ in M. Carr and T. Marjoram (eds) Minding the Gap: Technology, Policy and Poverty Reduction, UNESCO

Comments are closed.