developing countries, as well as the development of endogenous capacity, for the purpose of being able to deal with the added dimension of integrating engineering, economic, environmental and social aspects of water resources management and predicting the effects in terms of human impact.”

Similarly, Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 for oceans calls upon states to “cooperate in the development of necessary coastal systematic observation, research, and information management systems. They should provide access to and transfer environmentally safe technologies and methodologies for sustainable development of coastal and marine areas to developing countries. They should also develop technologies and endogenous scientific and technological capacities.” The pervasiveness of the role of science and technology in Agenda 21 is accentuated in a call in Chapter 31 of Agenda 21 on governments to strengthen “science and technology advice to the highest levels of the United Nations, and other international institutions, in order to ensure the inclusion of science and technology know-how in sustainable development policies and strategies.” This call is consistent with efforts to provide science and technology advice to the highest levels of governments (Golden, 1991).

This background provides the basis against which to relate the functions of the UN system to the role of science advice in sustainable development. The rest of this chapter describes a selected number of functions (norm setting; research and development; monitoring, assessing, and reporting; and operations, technical assistance, and technology transfer) and explores the extent to which scientific and technical information and advice are relevant to their effective execution.

Norm setting

A number of United Nations agencies are engaged in generating prescriptive statements or norms (guidelines, principles, standards, and rules) (Chayes and Chayes, 1995). This is one of the most important functions of the United Nations system. The norms are aimed at influencing the behavior of states, although the ultimate target is often to influence the behavior of institutions or individuals (Braithway and Drahos, 2000). The norms generated by the United Nations vary considerably in specificity. For example, the United Nations General Assembly and conferences focusing on specific themes usually generate guidelines that are general in nature and nonbinding in character, whereas some specialized agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), produce technical guidelines and standards that are more specific than the decisions of the United Nations General Assembly.1

A number of international conventions set specific rules on issues related to sustainable development. For example, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has specific rules and procedures for regulating international trade and is supported through scientific and technical input provided by the


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a non-UN agency that is devoted to standards setting in a wide range of activities that have direct implications for sustainable development activities in the fields of water, energy, fisheries, and oceans.

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