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International level institutions and mechanisms to strengthen science, technology and innovation

At the international level, countries commit to support the efforts of developing countries to strengthen their scientific, technological and innovative capacity. 

International Cooperation

ODA contributions for research and development in areas such as education, medical, energy, agriculture, forestry, fishery, technology, environmental, as well as research and scientific institutions peaked in 2006. The high amount in 2006 is a result of a strong increase of one-time contributions from some bilateral donors, especially in the areas of education, medical, environmental research and support to research/scientific institutions. A sharp decline set in already before the global financial crisis, during which rates reached another low point. Since then, only a modest growth rate was observed, though ODA to countries in Africa recovered to some extent. The share for SIDS however, which has been constantly at a very low level, declined further.

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Effective international development cooperation is crucial in supporting science, technology innovation and capacity building to address global developmental challenges. For more information, see the 2016 Development Cooperation Forum Policy brief titled “International Development Cooperation to Promote Technology Facilitation and Capacity Building for the 2030 Agenda” . The growing diversity of modalities, instruments and actors engaged in international development cooperation, and innovative partnerships and initiatives, makes it a promising terrain for developing and developed countries alike to address new and increasingly urgent challenges. There is also potential for South-South cooperation to be leveraged in promoting STI development. The suitability of such partnerships - involving developing countries - is underpinned by their similar economic and social contexts as well as preference for mutual learning and the showcasing of best practices.

Research and development of vaccines and medicines

According to the GAVI 2015 Progress Report, by the end of 2015, GAVI had secured full funding for the 2011–2015 strategic period, with all pledges successfully delivered. Cumulative funds received from donor governments, philanthropic organizations and the private sector since the inception of GAVI in 2000 totalled $12 billion. As a result, GAVI exceeded its mission goals (reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015; avert more than 3.9 million future deaths between 2011 and 2015; immunise an additional 243 million children between 2011–2015) for the 2011–2015 period.

A pledging conference in January 2015 resulted in an extension of the donor base and commitments of more than $7.5 billion in additional funding for the 2016–2020 strategic period.

Also, in November 2015, the United Nations Secretary-General announced the appointment of a High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines. UNDP served as the Secretariat for the High-Level Panel in partnership with the UNAIDS Secretariat. Following a process of extensive consultation involving UN Member States, civil society, the private sector and members of academia, the Panel released its report in September 2016. The report has a simple and powerful message: no one should suffer because he or she can’t afford medicines, diagnostics or vaccines. Key recommendations include:

  • Governments must urgently increase their current levels of investment in health technology innovation to meet unmet needs and enter negotiations for a binding research & development treaty that delinks the costs of innovation from the end prices of health technologies in order to address unmet health needs;
  • There must be much greater transparency to ensure that the costs of research and development, production, marketing, and distribution, as well as the end prices of health technologies are clear to consumers and governments;
  • The Secretary-General should establish an independent review body tasked with assessing progress on health technology innovation and access and call for a High-Level meeting on Health Technology Innovation and Access to be convened by 2018.

The report has been welcomed by the Secretary-General, several UN Member States and civil society groups and was included in a resolution of the UNGA in December 2016 as well as a 2016 resolution of the Human Rights Council. The Report’s recommendations are being further discussed at the Human Rights Council, WHO, WTO and WIPO.

Agricultural research and extension services

The productive capacity of agriculture depends on investments from public and private, domestic and foreign sources. Recent trends in government spending have not been favourable. The agriculture orientation index (AOI) — the agriculture share of government expenditures divided by the agriculture share of GDP —fell from 0.37 to 0.33 between 2001 and 2013 in developing countries. The decline was interrupted only during the food price crisis of 2006 to 2008, when governments boosted agricultural spending.

ODA disbursements for agriculture have been relatively stable since 2010. While there has been a very marginal increase from 2010 to 2014 for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS experienced a decline. Overall, since the late 1990s, aid to agriculture in developing countries has languished at around 8 per cent of the total. This is down from a high of 20 per cent in the mid-1980s, when donor priorities shifted to a stronger focus on improving governance, building social capital and bolstering fragile States.

ODA disbursements for medical research and basic health sectors have increased overall since 2000, especially to LDCs and LLDCs. This reflects the strong focus donors set on health for the implementation of the MDGs. However, allocations to SIDS have declined in the last years.