It won’t come easy: Seven obstacles to a science diplomacy renaissance – Part I

There is a question which should be on everyone’s mind, but isn’t.

Is the world careening towards some unknowable — but not too far distant — tipping point beyond which remedial solutions and recovery will be impossible?


Consider, for instance, these vexing challenges, any one of which could take down the planet if allowed to fester:
• Climate change;
• Diminishing biodiversity;
• Public health and pandemics;
• Species extinction and habitat destruction;
• Management of the global commons; and
• Emergency preparedness and disaster response.
This is a small but representative sampling drawn from the ever-expanding list of global issues which share as a defining characteristic the centrality of a major science and technology (S&T) dimension. The urgent need for effective action is clear, and science diplomacy (SD) is the international policy instrument best suited to treating these wicked problems. Unfortunately, the demand for science diplomacy far outstrips the available supply.

How can this capacity gap be explained?

What lies behind the SD shortage?

I propose to address those questions by summarizing the concept of science diplomacy and presenting the arguments in favour of governments and international organizations undertaking more and better SD practice. The balance of the analysis will focus on identifying and elaborating the constraints which are inhibiting progress. That troubling combination of factors — the “Malignificent Seven”? — must be better understood and effectively broached if performance is to improve.

A summary assessment will begin in the next post.