by MMC
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In December 2021, the 76th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly marked an important moment in the world of science and sustainable development by establishing the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD).

This global initiative highlights the central role played by the basic sciences – mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology – in advancing many sectors, from medicine and industry to agriculture and energy planning.

These sciences are driving technological innovations, expanding access to information, improving societal well-being and promoting international collaboration aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

South Africa, as a UN Member State, has actively participated in the IYBSSD through the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF), coordinated by the South African Academy of Sciences (ASSAf). Leading this effort was Professor Himla Soodyall, Director General of ASSAf, who represented DSI, NRF and ASSAf as node coordinator.

Throughout the IYBSSD, South Africa has pursued several key objectives in line with the overall themes of the initiative. These goals included promoting inclusive participation in science, strengthening education and training, investing in basic science, and promoting open science practices. These activities were not only in line with the themes of the IYBSSD, but also aimed to increase the visibility of women in science, foster international dialogue, promote science as a global public good, encourage innovation and economic development, to advance education and human development and to respond effectively to global challenges.

ASSAf has taken on significant responsibilities in the South African IYBSSD project. These included stakeholder identification and engagement, launch planning, public awareness campaigns, networking, online visibility efforts, media engagement, progress reporting and event planning. All these efforts were aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing various stakeholders in South Africa.

South Africa’s participation in the IYBSSD has resulted in action through numerous events and activities. These include, among others, the South African Launch, the Annual Young Scientists Conference, National Science Week, Scifest Africa, awards for contributions to basic science and publications such as Quest Science for South Africa review.

Impressively, approximately 74 SA IYBSSD events/activities/initiatives have been included in the UN IYBSSD calendar, and 124 South African organizations, including 79 schools, have officially expressed their support for this initiative. At a meeting of the UN IYBSSD Steering Committee/Advisory Council, South Africa received an accolade for being one of the most active UN Member States in its commitment to IYBSSD.

South Africa’s active engagement in the IYBSSD, its diversity of initiatives and its extensive outreach to stakeholders have collectively made SA IYBSSD a resounding success. It has significantly raised awareness of the essential role of basic sciences in sustainable development.

ASSAf is convinced that it has successfully fulfilled its mandate of raising awareness and mobilizing the South African community. Furthermore, this initiative has expanded the reach and influence of the DSI, NRF and ASSAf, strengthening their footprint in the scientific community and beyond.

As we complete this remarkable journey of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, we extend our sincere thanks to the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) for entrusting ASSAf with this important initiative. Special thanks also go to the UN IYBSSD Secretariat, in particular to Luc Allemand, for their invaluable support throughout this transformative year. And last, but not least, THANK YOU to the South African organizations and individuals who have taken on this challenge with passion and organized IYBSSD events throughout the year. You are the ones who made this year a success!

The official closing of the IYBSSD And launch of an International Decade of Science (including all sciences and all knowledge) for Sustainable Development (IDSSD 2024 – 2033) will take place on December 15, 2023 at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).

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