WHAT IS SCIENCE DIPLOMACY? AN INTRODUCTION

Science Diplomacy, Innovation Diplomacy, Techplomacy, STI Diplomacy and SciTech Diplomacy are all different ways of referring to the same thing: the use of scientific, technological and academic collaborations among countries, regions and societies to address common issues and to build sound international partnerships. Experts use a wide variety of definitions for this concept, nevertheless, science diplomacy has become an umbrella term that includes several kinds of research-based, scientific, academic and engineering exchanges among nations and societies.

The most extended definition, set by the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010, refers to science diplomacy as consisting of three linked strands:

  • Science in Diplomacy: where scientific know-how and evidence is used to inform and support foreign policy objectives.
  • Diplomacy for Science: where diplomatic efforts and resources are aimed at facilitating international scientific and technical cooperation.
  • Science for Diplomacy: where scientific cooperation is used as a source of soft power to strengthen or foster foreign relations.

Science diplomacy is not new, but it is more important than ever due to the scientific dimension of the current global challenges. No nation-state can tackle any of these challenges alone, thus their foreign policy needs to integrate new tools for a world of increasing scientific and technical complexity.

Humanity’s greatest challenges – and some of its most promising opportunities – are regional and global. Increasingly, the world requires effective partnerships between scientists, engineers, policymakers and diplomats.

At the same time, scientific values of rationality, transparency, impartiality and universality provide a non-ideological environment that contributes to the free exchange of ideas, helps to underpin a better global governance and build trust between nations. The soft power of science enables participation and diffusion of tensions, thus contributing to innovation, alliances, and peace.

Major diplomatic corps have relatively well-structured networks of science advisors and counselors in their embassies and consulates abroad, working in advancing their internets in science, technology, innovation and higher education.

TOWARDS A CITY-LED SCIENCE DIPLOMACY

A new global order is emerging around cities rather than nation-states and their borders. Big cities are economic, political and innovation powerhouses discreetly transforming the international scene and increasingly bypassing nation-states to create city-centered global policies.

Cities are increasingly interacting with other major global actors and participating ever more in multilateral processes. City diplomacy has become an essential element of urban policy and major networks of cities have a growing relevance on the international stage.

Big cities are economic, political and innovation powerhouses discreetly transforming the international scene and increasingly bypassing nation-states to create city-centered global policies

The global challenges faced by cities raise fundamental issues as to the future of public policy and global governance. Therefore, science and technology diplomacy has emerged as a crucial tool for many ministries of foreign affairs when tackling challenges shared with other nations.  However, most global cities, despite becoming increasingly important geopolitical players and being at the forefront of scientific development, are falling back from this global trend and risking losing influence.

If cities are already pursuing their own diplomacy, are home of most of the scientific progress and many of them are already the size, in terms of population and economic weight, of many medium-sized countries, it is just about time that they become leading actors in science diplomacy.

BARCELONA: THE WORLD’S FIRST CITY TO IMPLEMENT A SCIENCE DIPLOMACY STRATEGY

In this exciting context, Barcelona has taken the lead. The Catalan capital, hosts a hundred foreign consulates, being the world’s 4th non-state capital city in terms of consular representation. It also hosts the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean, that gathers 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, and it is home of regional offices of relevant international organizations such as WHO Office for Health Systems Strengthening (WHO/Europe), UN-HABITAT City Resilience Profiling Programme (UN-HABITAT/CRPP), Global Water Operator’s Partnerships Alliance (UN-HABITAT/GWOPA), United Nations University Institute on Globalisation, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM), and hosts the global headquarters of Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI), European Forest Institute (EFI), and the headquarters of the main international networks of cities and regions such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Metropolis and MedCities, as well as home of numerous global NGOs and institutes working in international affairs.

SciTech DiploHub, the Barcelona Science and Technology Diplomacy Hub, is a pioneering initiative aiming at designing and implementing an effective, comprehensive and positive science and technology diplomacy strategy for Barcelona. SciTech DiploHub brings together scientists, engineers and foreign affairs practitioners to raise the role of science and technology in geopolitics and make Barcelona an influential global player in tackling humanity’s grand challenges through science and technology. Becoming the most compelling example of city-led science and technology diplomacy.

SciTech DiploHub is a pioneering initiative aiming at designing and implementing an effective, comprehensive and positive science and technology diplomacy strategy for Barcelona.

The content of this page is based on excerpts from the following research paper originally produced for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research:
Roig, Alexis (2018). Towards a city-led Science Diplomacy: The rise of cities in a multilateral world and their role in a science-driven global governance. UNITAR.

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