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Chemical Sciences in Development
The Chemical Sciences and Development
IOCD was founded at UNESCO in 1981 and promotes the pursuit and application of the chemical sciences for sustainable development and economic growth.
IOCD's current priority focus is on promoting the chemical sciences for development and especially for global sustainability.
News and Views
Transgressing planetary boundaries: A crisis wake-up call for chemistry. The IOCD group Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) has published a paper in the journal Chemical Science, calling for urgent attention to the crucial role that chemistry must play in tackling the multiple crises that are now unfolding due to the transgression of Planetary Boundaries. The nine boundaries define safe operating spaces within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come and many of them are now being crossed, in part by the large and rapidly growing scale of biogeochemical flows. The deepening and accelerating crises in Earth systems cannot be ignored and there is a once-in-a-century opportunity for chemistry to make a critical difference to the future of people and planet. The C4S paper, which has been designated ‘pick-of-the-week’ by Chemical Science, proposes three crucial steps for chemists to respond to the wake-up call.

Earth Day, 22 April 2022, this year has the theme ‘Invest in our Planet’: IOCD envisions a world in which the chemical sciences invest their energy and ingenuity to play an optimal role in improving the quality of life and wellbeing for people everywhere and ensuring a sustainable future for the planet. Current activities by IOCD scientists include:

Chemistry and resilience: The IOCD group Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) has published an article in which chemistry’s roles in resilience (the capacity to withstand shock without permanent deformation or rupture, or to tend to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change) are explored for the first time. The roles are framed by chemistry’s contributions to the sustainability of people and planet, examined via the human security framework’s four material aspects of food, health, economic and environmental security. As the science of transformation of matter, chemistry is deeply involved in these material aspects and in their interfacing with human security’s three societal and governance aspects of personal, community and political security. Ultimately, strengthening resilience requires making choices about the present use of resources as a hedge against future hazards and adverse events, with these choices being co-determined by technical capacities and social and political will.

Vivian Wing-Wah YAM is IOCD’s new President: She is Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy and Interim Dean of Science at the University of Hong Kong, China. Her work in inorganic/organometallic syntheses, supramolecular chemistry, photophysics and photochemistry, and metal-based molecular functional materials has been recognised by many awards and prizes and she is a Laureate of the UNESCO-L’Oréal Award for Women in Science. Professor Yam was elected as IOCD’s third President in the December 2021 meeting of IOCD’s General Assembly. She follows she follows Nobel Laureates Glenn T. Seaborg, the founding President, who served 1981-1992, and Jean-Marie Lehn, who served 1992-2021.
Professor Yam said she felt humbled and honoured to be elected and looks forward to working with the members of IOCD to further promote the central role of the chemical sciences in meeting the great challenges that the world faces in the 21st Century – in particular, in achieving a sustainable and equitable future for all.

IOCD’s 40th Anniversary: 2021 was the 40th anniversary of the founding of IOCD, which was launched at a meeting hosted at UNESCO in Paris in 1981 as the first international non-governmental organization specifically devoted to enhancing the role of the chemical sciences in the development process. Marking the anniversary, IOCD’s Executive Director, Federico Rosei, and Secretary, Stephen Matlin, published an article in IUPAC’s Chemistry International, in which they reflected on IOCD’s achievements and the current evolutionary changes that are being made in the organization as it focuses its future role in promoting chemistry for sustainable development.

Chemistry and human securit: The IOCD group Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) has published an article providing the first-ever framing of the role of chemistry in human security, which is defined by the UN as freedom from want and fear and freedom to live in dignity. Human security includes seven main dimensions that are mutually interdependent: health security, food security, environmental security, economic security, personal security, community security and political security. The concept incorporates the SDGs and Planetary Boundaries frameworks and the ‘one-health’ principle which affirms the fundamental interconnectedness among the health of people, animals and the environment.
Working for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: At a high-level meeting of governments at the UN in New York on 25 September 2015, the Millennium Development Goals which have guided international efforts to address the problems of poorer countries since 2000 were succeeded by new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs embrace a global vision of development for all and with responsibility shared by all countries.
IOCD's organizational strategy for focuses on promoting the chemical sciences for development and especially for global sustainability. For details, click here.
Chemistry and the SDGs: Chemistry's contribution is essential to meeting most, if not all, of the SDGs. Importantly, many of these contributions require that chemistry works in close concert with other disciplines to identify solutions that are practical, affordable and sustainable. IOCD is committed to working in partnership with others to ensure that chemistry fulfils its potential of contributing to sustainable development.
IOCD has formed an action group — ‘Chemists for Sustainability’ — focusing on the roles of chemistry in sustainable development. The group has published extensively on aspects of the role and future of the chemical sciences.
The 2020s is a critical decade for sustainability. Intensified efforts will be needed in the decade now begun to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals — 17 Goals and 169 targets associated with the UN's Agenda 2030. At the same time, a widening set of planetary environmental crises and emergencies is unfolding that urgently need attention — amidst warnings that actions taken in this decade are likely to impact on the state of the planet's environment for thousands of years to come.
Meetings, Conferences and Special Events
Despite many international conferences and meetings scheduled during 2020-21 being cancelled or postponed, IOCD’s work has continued and has made extensive use of videoconferencing, including during the twice-yearly meetings of its General Assembly. Virtual workshops of the IOCD group Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) were held and members of the C4S group participated in a number of national and international events, including giving lectures in India and Germany and contributing to several collaborative publications.
IOCD Working Groups and Projects

Chemists for Sustainability (C4S)

IOCD action group C4S was formed in 2014 by an international group of chemists who believe that chemistry and related sciences have indispensable roles to play in helping the world to achieve sustainable development. The core group, which includes Alain Krief, Henning Hopf, Stephen Matlin and Goverdhan Mehta as core members, has served advocacy and think-tank roles through written articles, lectures at various fora and web materials.

‘One-World’ Chemistry

Among its contributions, the C4S group has developed the concept of ‘one-world’ chemistry as a new orientation for the discipline.

Systems Thinking in Chemistry

The C4S group has emphasised the importance of incorporating systems thinking into chemistry. In 2017-2019, IOCD collaborated with IUPAC in a global project to infuse systems thinking in chemistry education (STICE), co-led by Peter Mahaffy and Stephen Matlin. They are now, along with others, heading a new IUPAC project, Systems Thinking in Chemistry for Sustainability: Toward 2030 and Beyond (STCS 2030+), in 2020-2023.