The Role of Science Diplomacy for Sustainable Development in Latin America

Science diplomacy goes beyond easing political strains and it can and should be used to generate partnerships that improve international relations as a whole, even when countries already have strong political links. How can science for diplomacy (AAAS, The Royal Society, 2010) promote bilateral and multilateral relations by addressing transboundary issues in Latin America? I showcase here the importance of advocating science for diplomacy policies for sustainable development by providing insights on recent academic literature.

With late industrialisation, Latin America faces an increasing gap in productivity and unequal growth (Hartmann, et al, 2017). The economy relies on exporting commodities, which are susceptible to great price oscillations in the international market. Both characteristics of Latin America's economy reflect unequal social development. For instance, the continent today shows a 10% unemployment rate (The World Bank) and an unequal distribution of income, with Gini Indexes of around 0.4 (SEDLAC). This inequality is particularly pronounced in rural areas where poverty is more present than in urban cities (De Janvry & Sadoulet, 2000; Huber, 2009). The possible solutions for social inequality lie in systems of income distribution given the improbability of developing competitive national industries in the short-term.

Taking into consideration the exploitation of natural resources as the main form of income for Latin America, it is imperative that a climate mitigation strategy (Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13) is included in the national policies of these countries. For that, innovative tools can be used in order to close the productivity gap while limiting the undue use of natural resources as a means for economic growth. For example, the deforestation in the Amazon Forest for the expansion of the agricultural frontier could be mitigated through innovative solutions that allow rural producers to harvest a greater number of crops more efficiently. A similar mechanism has been already developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. It is an innovative harvesting technique that prepares the soil so that soy and corn crops can be planted, interleaved and harvested at the same time.

However, Latin America is a large continent. To achieve a regional mitigation plan, another Sustainable Development Goal must be addressed: Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17). According to the Sustainable Development Report (2019), only Suriname and Belize have made significant advances in this front. In my opinion, this highlights a gap in science diplomacy policies in the continent with respect to coordinating climate mitigation efforts to assure the long-term availability of our natural commodities income source.

Given the common issues faced by Latin American countries, science diplomacy should be shaped towards building a model of sustainable development through cooperation and knowledge exchange. By addressing issues from a global perspective and adapting international solutions to the local reality, Latin American countries can implement successful solutions for climate mitigation, ensuring sustainable economic growth and promoting social equality alike.


AAAS & The Royal Society (2010). New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy: Navigating the changing balance of power.

Castro Diaz, E., Yala Kuna (2007). Environmental Issues in Latin America. International Expert Group Meeting On Indigenous Peoples And Protection Of The Environment.

Carayannis, E. G., & Campbell, D. F. J. (2011). Open innovation diplomacy and a 21st century fractal research, education and innovation (Freie) ecosystem: Building on the quadruple and quintuple helix innovation concepts and the “mode 3” knowledge production system. Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 2(3), 327–372.

CEDLAS, & The World Bank. (2020). Socio-Economic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from

Hartmann, D., Jara-Figueroa, C., Guevara, M., Simoes, A., & Hidalgo, C. A. (2017). The structural constraints of income inequality in Latin America. arXiv preprint arXiv:1701.03770.

Huber, E. (2009). Politics and inequality in latin america. PS: Political Science and Politics, 42(4), 651–655.

Leijten, J. (2017). Exploring the future of innovation diplomacy. European Journal of Futures Research, 5(1), 20.

de Janvry, A., & Sadoulet, E. (2000). Rural poverty in Latin America: Determinants and exit paths. Food Policy, 25(4), 389–409.

Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G. (2019): Sustainable Development Report 2019. New York: Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

Sistema Antecipe diminui riscos de plantio para milho safrinha. Retreived April 11, 2021, from

Sustainable Development Report 2019. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from

The World Bank (2020). Unemployment, total (% of total labor force) (modeled ILO estimate) - Latin America & Caribbean. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2021, from

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