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Early Career Social Scientists at Rio+20

The ISSC’s World Social Science Fellows Programme invited six early-career social scientists to come to Rio de Janeiro to participate in Rio+20 events and ask questions that matter.

From left to right: Jing Liu, Julio Postigo, Herbert Docena, Dominik Reusser, Diana Sanchez, Stephanie Dos Santos, Mathieu Denis (ISSC Secretariat)

The six social scientists, specialists on issues around social transformation and global change, participated in the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development and observed the negotiations at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”), which took place from 11 to 22 June. The grants for their participation were generously supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

The Forum and the UN Conference underscored the critical need for a strong involvement of social sciences in shaping responses to the challenges of changing global environments. We think we will hear a lot more from our grantees as they continue to rise to this challenge.

Here is what they had to say about their time in Rio:

Herbert Docena, Philippines, University of California at Berkeley:

“The ISSC and its delegates often challenged the technocratic predilections of the “natural scientists” in the room by insisting on the historical or systemic roots of today’s environmental crises [at the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development].”

Jing Liu, China, University of Maastricht:

“As a lawyer, it is very helpful to understand the environmental problems from a scientific and sociological perspective. This helps me to understand the linkage between scientific basis and the former legal regimes and institutional arrangements. To watch the negotiation also helped me to understand how the international agreements reached and the difficulties to compromise.”

Julio Postigo, United States, Peruvian Center of Social Studies:

“Since 1992 [the year of the original UN Conference on Sustainable Development], unsustainability on earth has become worse, and science has developed tools to monitor, estimate and project the effects of global environmental changes. The Future We Want [the outcome document of Rio+20] is not only absolutely incapable of responding to the grave problems facing humanity, but ignores the scientific advances that could have guided its actions.”

Dominik Reusser, Switzerland, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

“The time spent in Rio gave me the opportunity to develop lots of new ideas and make new contacts. It has brought me new collaborations with interesting people.”

Diana Sanchez, Colombia, Human Sciences Research Council South Africa:

“It was amazing to have the opportunity to participate in the Summit and to do so in the company of a great group of great researchers and minds. The mix of backgrounds, cultures and languages made us a strong group of delegates. We were able to learn, share ideas, establish contacts and also challenge and contribute to important global debates around issue of sustainability. While the results of the Summit were far from satisfactory, I came back to South Africa inspired after learning so much from people around the world and after seeing the excellent and relevant work   of many institutions.”

Related articles:

Taking Sides: Science at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Herbert Docena

El Fracaso de Rio+20, Julio Postigo

Are we heading for extinction? Diana Sanchez, Sunday Argus Cape Town, 24 June 2021

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