Future Earth's Global Hub Alliance

New Delhi, 23 July 2014. The announcement of the “globally distributed” secretariat for Future Earth, a research platform aiming to provide scientific knowledge and support for sustainable development, has drawn the ire of South Asian policy analysts who say it is heavily skewed in favour of developed countries.

By T V Padma

Future Earth alliance announced this month (2 July) the winners of an open bidding process to host their five ‘global hubs’ that will function as a single entity — the secretariat of Future Earth. The winners were research institutions in Canada, France, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

These will be joined by four regional hubs in Cyprus, Japan, the United Kingdom — and just one in a developing country, the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research in Uruguay.

Sharachchandra Lele, convenor at the Centre for Environment and Development, part of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, says the distributed secretariat will bring some degree of diversity.

But he says it is “unfortunate” that it contains only one hub in developing countries.

Lele says that the challenges of environmentally sound development faced by developing countries “are more acute and more context-specific” than in developed countries, and often relate to use of local resources.

Because of this, programmes like Future Earth should have full participation of scientists from developing countries and operate in a context-specific manner, he adds.

“It is disturbing that the mission of Future Earth is framed simply in terms of ‘accelerating our transformations to a sustainable world’ when the need is clearly for ‘sustainable and equitable and alternative development’ in the South and ‘de-growth’ in the North,” says Lele.

International Council for Science (ICSU) has responded to criticisms on behalf of the alliance behind the Future Earth in a statement to SciDev.Netsaying they “very much recognise the need for the Secretariat to have strong participation from the North and South and from all regions”.

It adds that the institutional sponsors of Future Earth include UN organisations and ICSU, who “are global organisations, many of whom have a global membership, leadership, regional offices and networks from the South, capacity building initiatives, and who have already made a major commitment to consultation and engagement in the South on the development of Future Earth”.

Read the full article at SciDev.net.

Future Earth is a 10-year international research initiative aimed at developing knowledge for effective response to global environmental change. It coordinates interdisciplinary approaches to research on three themes: Dynamic Planet, Global Development and Transformations towards Sustainability. Find out more about the Future Earth initiative here.