Parliament must use science to provide solutions to wicked problems

In Blog, Science, Science by Denis Naughten

This week I attended the 146th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly where I addressed the issue of practical problem solving.

Here is what I said:

Report of the IPU Working Group on Science and Technology to the Governing Council

146th IPU Assembly– Item 14 (j) of the 211th session of the Governing Council

15 March

watch it here:

Thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of all members of the IPU Working Group on Science and Technology, I am pleased to report on our meeting held on the 13th of March 2023 in Manama, Bahrain. I will also report on our project of the Science for Peace Schools held in December 2022 at CERN, in Switzerland and France.


Before I go into my report, I would like to make a critical point – here at our assembly we have passed resolutions that if delivered upon will make a real difference for the people whom we represent. These complement Global commitments on topics such as climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals.


But as we hear in response from every corner of the world we as parliamentarians must focus on the delivery of these commitments and resolutions.


We are facing unprecedented challenges or as the scientific journal Nature put it “wicked problems” in our world today:

o Climate Change

o Energy security

o Digital/green transition

o AI


The Implementation of the actions to address these challenges is through

o Policy change

o Legislative change

and we as parliamentarians are instrumental to this change delivery!


The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the greatest reservoir in the world of the practical solutions that work; and also, of those which have failed (and we can learn as much from what does not work, sometimes more, than from what actually works).


We need as parliamentarians to be sharing this with each other not just informally outside of this room but here in the assembly itself. There is a no more powerful argument for new legislation or a policy change on the floor of each of our parliaments than practical examples of what has actually worked in other countries – let us learn to share that knowledge!


And the role of our working group on science & technology is to build on that sharing of knowledge, to help us all as parliamentarians to access the vast reservoir of new potential solutions that science holds to emerging problems (as well as the existing ones) that we have already paid for through vast government grants, not just in our own countries but internationally.


In Manama, we agreed on our Work Programme for 2023, which reflects our engagement in the dialogue between science and politics:


  • We agreed to participate as observers in the 26th session of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, which will be held from 27 to 31 March 2023 in Geneva, and we will be actively contributing to the discussions when the floor is opened for interaction among panelists and participants.


  • We received a briefing by Mr. Declan Kirrane, the Chair of the 9th Science Summit in the context of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, on the theme and activities of the Summit. Following on from that presentation we agreed to


  • officially participate in the Science Summit in New York, which will be held from 13 to 29 September 2023. We will be able to identify ways in which science can contribute to global challenges and to ensure a continuous dialogue between parliamentarians and the scientific community, while developing and launching science collaborations to support the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


  • collaborate with the IPU Standing Committee on Sustainable Development to develop and present a key report at the Science Summit, reinforcing the role of parliamentarians in setting the global agenda. We also agreed to organize an IPU Day as part of the Summit, with a focus on the contribution of the IPU in general, and parliamentarians in particular, to achieving the SDGs, with the goal of facilitating direct parliamentary engagement with scientists to ensure a more policy-focused approach to the delivery of the SDGs.



  • The “Science for Peace Schools” was the first joint activity between the IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions and the Working Group on Science and Technology. The aim of these Schools is to bridge the worlds of science and politics by initiating dialogue and to help create a community of parliamentary experts to address challenges together under the neutral umbrella of science.


  • Twenty-four participants from all six Geopolitical Groups attended five days of lectures, workshops, and visits relating to CERN on the theme of “Dealing with water scarcity: an opportunity to rebuild peace with Science”. Focusing on water management and the exploration of new and renewable sources of water, the School aimed to contribute to a positive technical cooperation environment for negotiations by proposing alternative technologies and modalities to lessen tensions related to water scarcity, thus encouraging coexistence between nations.


  • The first session provided a space for participants to exchange experiences of evidence-based decision-making and to learn about methods of scientific collaboration. Notably, participants agreed on the importance of implementing two regional projects on water, in the Sahel region and in Palestine. Participating parliamentary staff in the Schools now form a group of alumni making up a community of parliamentary experts, alongside parliamentarians, to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the Schools and the community of parliamentary experts’ peace objectives.


  • The Working Group agreed to


  • hold a follow-up conference for parliamentarians with focus on water and food security in June 2023 at the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and Education (ICISE) in Quy Nhon, Viet Nam.


  • hold the second session of the Science for Peace Schools in July 2023 on the theme of climate change, in order to set the tone for a follow-up conference for parliamentarians on the sidelines of COP28, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates in December 2023.


  • We also agreed to pursue several pilot projects on the engagement of the scientific community with parliaments. We discussed a proposed process aimed at improving awareness of the need for scientific engagement in the legislative process. Conclusions and recommendations from each parliament participating in the process will be used to develop a practical parliamentary toolkit on the importance of scientific engagement in parliamentary decision-making. Our plan is to develop, review and approve the toolkit at our meeting during the 147th IPU Assembly in Angola in October 2023.


  • The working group noted and welcomed the agreement secured by the Committee on Peace and International Security on its Cyber Crime Report. However, they did express concerns with regard to the establishment of a cybersecurity working group. We would respectfully suggest that the Committee instead work with our working group so that we can together achieve the goals set out in this report.


  • Before ending our meeting, we re-elected our vice-chair, Ms. Sahar Attia, from Egypt, wishing her a productive mandate


Finally, I would like to leave you with this thought – our constituents do not care about the theories or resolutions – they are only interested in results!


As we all know the SDGs are about breaking down policy silos to deliver a set of cross cutting objectives for the people of our individual countries as well as the countries of the world – to make it a better place for all.


Using science & our own practical knowledge, let’s use it to break out of these policy silos to benefit all our people.


I will end this report by thanking the Government of Bahrain, and the parliament for hosting our meeting.


Thank you.