United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Issue 3: Facilitating a Sustainability Transition in Developing Countries

Publication Year: 2014 Publisher: UN-DESA


Related Goals


Proposal for a global Advanced Research Project Agency for Sustainable Development

Ambuj Sagar and Arun Majumdar

While the world as a whole has made enormous strides in the past decades in
advancing human and economic development, the challenges of sustainability
are recognized as being increasingly central to continued progress in human
well-being and prosperity. These challenges are enormous in scale, complex in
nature, and there also is some urgency in addressing them, partly because of the
significant human costs that they already entail and partly because of the
potential of future enormous costs (as in the case of many environmental

While there is no simple way to address these major sustainability challenges,
give their scale and the interweaving of the drivers with the very fabric of our
economic, social, and human existence, technology has the potential to play a
major role in this process (see, for example, UNMP 2005). This is particularly
important for developing countries, given that these challenges are pressing and
urgent there. Yet leveraging the potential of technology for addressing
sustainability challenges in developing countries is not a trivial exercise, given
the uncertainties and the complexities of the technology innovation process in
general and in relation to the sustainability transition, especially in the
developing-country context.

The next section will discuss some of these issues that are salient to facilitating a
sustainability transition in developing countries. Following that, we discuss
some emerging institutional models and approaches that have been developed to
accelerate and make more effective technological innovation. And then we
outline a specific proposal for an international technology facilitation mechanism
that can help developing countries in addressing sustainability goals by
enhancing the development and dissemination of suitable technologies.