Science and Technology for Community Empowerment



Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 2012

The foundation of human development is our inherent capacity to learn. Science and technology should be accessible to everyone in accordance with their capacity, but they remain largely the preserve of an educated elite with a top-down process of delivery. Most technological development today is driven by market forces that neither reflect nor respond to the basic needs of the world’s peoples. To achieve sustainability, everyone should be empowered with the tools and approaches of science: evidence based reasoning, understanding cause and effect, experimentation, thinking in terms of systems in a long-term perspective, and learning adaptive management in a time of dynamic change. The natural and social sciences, crafts, and local and indigenous knowledge based on similar processes of observation and experimentation, can all contribute to sustainable community development. Institutional capacity and learning processes should be developed within local populations to create and apply knowledge in ways that address the specific needs of that population.

Governments, the scientific community and civil society should build a base for the universal extension of the natural and social sciences and technology through educational and capacity building programmes and regional centres of research and training that are accessible to everyone and ensure widespread participation in the generation and application of knowledge. There is a need to support the development and implementation of curriculum materials that introduce scientific thinking and methods into all levels of education, with particular attention to countries that have fallen behind in scientific and technological development.

A new focus is needed on science at the community level. Civil society organizations should be encouraged to develop community and neighbourhood educational programmes and to stimulate community consultation on the science and ethics of environmental responsibility, climate change, moderation in consumption, sustainable use of energy and resources, environmental migration, and local environmental management. These processes should facilitate the integration of natural and social sciences and indigenous knowledge systems in defining sustainable environmental management adapted to local conditions and cultures and to community needs. In addition, methodologies for environmental impact assessment and monitoring should be adapted to make them accessible to local communities and resource users regardless of their educational level, supported by extension programmes in their use to support local sustainability. These community processes should be supported and encouraged by regional centres of research and training for sustainable development empowered to create technologies addressing locally defined needs and priorities that take into account both the material and moral prosperity of society as a whole.

* The International Environment Forum ( is a Bahá'í-inspired professional organization for environment and sustainability in the science and technology major group, with members in over 50 countries.

Last updated 9 June 2012