“Science diplomacy gives us the tools, language, and relationships to breakdown silos of expertise and ensure that science can drive global action and global action can drive science.” Margaret Hamburg, AAAS President.
For decades, AAAS has partnered with and supported efforts by Latin American institutions to strengthen science-informed policymaking in the region. The spirit of these relationships, our accomplishments, and the opportunities and challenges ahead, were recently highlighted at Latin America’s key regional science policy event, held on October 22-24 in Panama City.
The Latin America and the Caribbean Open Science Forum (known as Foro CILAC) is a biannual regional gathering for debates and exchanges around the state of the science-policy-society nexus in Latin America and the Caribbean. Panama hosting such an international gathering as Foro CILAC this year was particularly timely as the government is currently preparing its first science diplomacy strategy.
At a high-level session on “Science Diplomacy in the Americas”, AAAS President Margaret Hamburg affirmed the continued commitment by the U.S. scientific community to international collaboration, despite a tumultuous geopolitical time when the United States and many countries are increasingly calling to strengthen borders and decrease collaboration with other nations.
“Being in Panama fills me with optimism for the future. This Forum is an example of why science diplomacy work matters more than ever for the Americas”, Hamburg said. “Partnerships—both formal and informal--that have tried to embrace vital realties of our increasingly globalized world and the benefits of working together—are now under threat.”
Speakers from Panama, Argentina, Chile and multilateral organizations UNESCO and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), joined Hamburg, discussing how diplomats could help advance science, how science can help build trust in situations of political strain, and proposed regional approaches for the pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.
Guido Girardi, vice president of the Chilean Senate and president of the Futures Challenges Commission, and Lino Barañao, Secretary of Science and Technology of Argentina, spoke about the importance of enhancing science diplomacy in the Americas through partnerships not just between governments, but with all stakeholders in the science-policy interface including academia, industry, and non-governmental organizations like AAAS.
AAAS has collaborative agreements with Argentina, Chile, and Mexico to enhance the science-policy interface and help build mechanisms that connect the scientific and policy communities, such as fellowship programs to bring scientists into government structures, and promote better alignment between the scientific and foreign policy priorities. In addition, AAAS has had a long-standing partnership with the Cuban Academy of Sciences, which was recently highlighted at a celebration of scientific cooperation between the United States and Cuba.
Marcella Ohira, deputy director of IAI, an intergovernmental organization of 19 member countries, spoke about science diplomacy from the multilateral perspective, highlighting the role that organizations like the IAI or UNESCO can play to bring countries together when bilateral relations are strained. For example, Cuba and the United States have both been members of the IAI since its founding in 1992, despite not having official diplomatic relations until 2015.
“AAAS has been a resource for the scientists in the U.S and their work with Cuban counterparts for decades, helping them navigate, for example, the complex travel and logistical issues that inevitably arise during scientific cooperation between the two countries”, added Marga Gual Soler, AAAS Senior Project Director and moderator of the session.
In June 2018, AAAS became an associate member of the IAI, after having collaborated for more than a decade on joint science diplomacy training events throughout the Americas. One of these trainings was held on the margins of CILAC in partnership with the National Secretariat of Science and Technology of Panama (SENACYT) and the UNESCO Regional Office for Science in Latin America and the Caribbean. The course brought together 30+ scientists, policymakers and diplomats from 9 countries in Central America and the Caribbean to introduce key science diplomacy concepts and tools and present examples of how science and international affairs intersect, with the goal of building regional collaborative networks.
“We are pleased to join some of our key Latin American partners here at Foro CILAC to build capacity in science diplomacy”, said Gual Soler. “The success of CILAC demonstrates how a growing number of countries in Latin America understand that science can be a powerful asset to a nation; that it can help attract talent and resources, and elevate their standing in the world.”