NERC joins forces with the US's Rockefeller Foundation to achieve the UN's Global Goals

20 September 2016

NERC and the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) have joined forces with the US's Rockefeller Foundation to support the United Nation's 17 Global Goals, which aim to eliminate poverty and hunger and help fight climate change over the next 15 years.

Cyclist in park

The three organisations will come together today in New York, USA for their first steering group meeting.

The collaboration will identify gaps in knowledge and research necessary to fulfil the ambitious Global Goals, which build on the progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDGs expired at the end of 2015.

A primary objective will be to prioritise research and innovation for sustainable, resilient human development, and mobilise resources and actions to support this, with the overall outcome that responsible management of the planet is recognised as a core requirement for advancing the global economy and improving the well-being of humanity.

Chief executive of NERC, Professor Duncan Wingham, said:

The inspiration for our collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation is the idea that the environment-human relationship must be central to our sustainable development solutions. The resilience of our ecosystems, the security of natural resources, and the stability of Earth's life-support systems are necessary for everyone to thrive. Independent science and innovation are essential to support global prosperity and well-being and are at the forefront of the drive and commitment to informed evidence to support sustainable international change.

One of the first steps for the organisations will be to identify a wide-ranging research agenda that will pinpoint what we still need to understand to plan a sound transition to sustainable development. They will use the Rockefeller's proven Bellagio process to:

  • identify a research, innovation and research translation agenda in support of the UN Global Goals - focusing on gaps in knowledge and inter-disciplinary science that cut across multiple goals
  • mobilise international commitments to funding and action to enable execution of the agenda
  • initiate collaboration between and among international actors.

The head of the Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin, said:

The Rockefeller Foundation is encouraged by the interconnectedness of the Global Goals. They are ambitious, yet achievable – if we have the information we need to direct resources wisely. Asking the right questions has never been more important for finding answers that signal how best to build resilience, protect and promote health, and preserve our planet.

Chief executive of ESRC, Professor Jane Elliott, said:

Environmental sustainability and resilience are crucial issues facing humanity, needing insights from interdisciplinary research. Successfully implementing the UN Global Goals will require a holistic approach and an understanding of the interdependencies, co-benefits and trade-offs across complex environment-human systems. I am therefore delighted that this new collaboration fully recognises the important contribution that can be made by world-leading social science.

During the joint initiative, 'Towards a Sustainable Earth: Environment-human systems and the UN Global Goals', NERC, the Rockefeller Foundation and ESRC will encourage other key players to join them in supporting the necessary research to achieve the UN Global Goals.

US industrialist John D Rockefeller set up the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913 "to promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world".

The first international expert convening will be held in November 2016, with the resulting report published in early 2017.

Further information

Tamera Jones
NERC media office
01793 411561


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. ESRC is the UK's largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK's future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the government.