Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator

Solution idea:
Global Curriculum for Science and Diplomacy

Transboundary challenges such as Covid-19 or the climate crises can only be addressed through global collaboration, yet nations are retreating from multilateralism, while barriers to international scientific cooperation and challenges to evidence-informed policymaking are on the rise. Strengthening the relationship between science and diplomacy at the international and multilateral level is more urgent that ever to get get back on track towards achieving the SDGs.

When looking to equip multilateral actors in science and in diplomacy to effectively tackle global challenges, training in Science Diplomacy is recognized today as a key solution. Yet a landscape analysis looking at capacity building approaches globally reveals that training in Science Diplomacy has developed in a fragmented and patchwork fashion, tailored to specific countries, regions or topics, or serving particular constituencies and values. It is also largely focused on current science and technology innovations and challenges, lacking a future-oriented approach that also takes into account non-state actors and the evolution of multilateral cooperation.  


As a result, there is no commonly agreed training framework which can ensure positive impact in the international system and help to establish a clear career path for the alumni who choose to become Science Diplomacy professionals. This consequently hinders the preparation of current and future leaders to effectively navigate the multilateral system. 


To respond to these gaps, GESDA’s Solution idea on Science Diplomacy capacity building proposes the development of a Global Curriculum for Science and Diplomacy (GCSD) – global by consolidating and curating all Science Diplomacy curricula answering the needs of the multilateral actors, promoting a commonly recognized competence framework, innovative teaching methodologies and delivery mechanisms to be able to provide globally recognized “Science Diplomacy for Effective Multilateralism” credentials.  


As the operational hub of the international system, Geneva’s proximity to key multilateral actors – UN organisations, governments, multinational corporations – provides the perfect enabling environment to ensure the training offerings meet the demands of the employers shaping international cooperation.

1. What is science diplomacy?

The first two decades of the 21st century saw Science Diplomacy gain traction on the global agenda both as a practice in international policy and as an academic discipline. The 2010 report by the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) titled New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy led to an evolving definition of the field, where the value is reflected along three pillars:

1. Science for Diplomacy: science as a soft power and “track II” diplomatic tool to improve international relations (e.g., coral reef research in the Red Sea) 

2. Science in Diplomacy: using scientific evidence to inform foreign policy and diplomatic processes (e.g., IPCC scientific assessments for climate change negotiations)

3. Diplomacy for Science: using the diplomatic apparatus to support international scientific collaboration (e.g., CERN members coming together around nuclear research).

Learn more about Advances in Science Diplomacy on our Science Breakthrough Radar ® website.

2. Why should we care?

The world is experiencing breakthrough science and technological advances at unprecedented speed and scale. These discoveries will reshape how we view ourselves as humans, how we relate to each other in society and how we care for our environment. At the same time, Science Diplomacy is at a crossroads,  facing new obstacles and paradigm shifts as science and technology are increasingly intertwined with economic, political, and ideological agendas and interests. The complexity of scientific advancements, shifting geopolitical dynamics and reconfiguration of geo-strategic groups call for an evolved framework, including anticipation, honest brokering, and global action, designed to serve the current and anticipated needs of a renewed and more effective multilateral system.

·   Anticipating: by making diplomacy aware of game-changing scientific breakthroughs, so that policymakers can set          up governance frameworks in time to maximize their opportunities and minimize their risks.

·   Honest brokering: by facilitating access to and understanding of the best scientific anticipation available to all actors,        to increase the range of options and decision space for action.

·   Acting Globally: by positioning science as a stakeholder of the common multilateral agenda.

To establish Science Diplomacy as an effective field for multilateralism, a mindset and new professional pathway, we must start with the way we train our current and future leaders across all sectors: in STEM and social science fields, in national governments and parliaments, in multilateral institutions, NGOs and in the private sector – to empower the current and next generation with a «multilingual» mindset and transversal competences in Science and Diplomacy.

3. What are we doing about it?

GESDA’s vision for the Global Curriculum for Science and Diplomacy (GCSD) is to establish Science Diplomacy as a key tool for a more effective multilateralism through capacity building and training, ensuring the leaders of today and tomorrow are equipped with the knowledge, skills and networks to devise collective solutions to global challenges.

To reach global scale and impact, the GCSD and its Science Diplomacy for Effective Multilateralism credentials need to be massively accepted and adopted by academic and diplomatic training circles around the world as well as by future employers. The knowledge, skills, and capacities defined by the GCSD’s competence framework should be offered broadly and inclusively. Therefore, in developing the GCSD, GESDA bases its effort on the needs of the international system, extensively engaging with multilateral institutions and government actors – ultimately, the employers – as well as a community of globally recognized research, education and training entities to guarantee the quality and continuous evolution of the accepted credentials.

The GCSD competence framework will be structured along three axes:

1. Content Knowledge: focusing on the scientific fields and frontier technologies needing attention by the policy community, and what scientists should know about diplomacy

2. Skills: focusing on the competencies, tools and methods needed to effectively navigate the science-diplomacy interface in a multilateral context

3. Networking, leadership development and capacity to act: focusing on the methodology for science and diplomacy actors to develop a shared mindset and common ground to work together to tackle global challenges.

The GCSD is supported by Wellcome through a grant. Read more in this press release

    4. What is the expected impact?

    The GCSD’s long-term impact will be measured by its ability to have:

    ·  Developed a global capacity building platform, honestly brokering between science, technology, and diplomacy actors, harmonizing existing curricula, mainstreaming its implementation, and securing coordinated global action and recognition of Science Diplomacy as a professional field.

    ·  Infused an anticipatory dimension to the global governance of emerging science and technology, for 21st century science and diplomacy, ensuring anticipation is recognized as an essential pillar for a renewed and effective multilateralism.

    · Created a global ‘community of practice’ of people working at the science and diplomacy interface who are empowered to act on emerging challenges, through development and delivery of a range of capacity building offers and associated alumni engagement strategy.

    ·  Increased participation of underrepresented regions as historically, countries with Science Diplomacy strategies, institutions and/or instruments are in the US and Europe.

    · Strengthened the multilateral system and international cooperation by ensuring that science becomes a key stakeholder at the table, and professionals and institutions are equipped with the knowledge, skills and networks required to devise collective solutions to global challenges.