This paper revisits a series of key moments in the last 50 years of UN debates on science and technology for sustainable development. It reflects on the genealogy of tropes of development and the ways in which these have been equated with science, technology, and innovation. The paper unravels some of the fundamental philosophical assumptions on science and technology for development and reviews the direction in which these assumptions and corresponding practices in the UN have changed over the course of half a century.
These changes do not simply denote chronological eras but represent the shifts in political positions on the struggle between north and south, and rich and poor on the question of distribution and justice. This paper therefore is not a study of the UN impact on development. It is an attempt to engage with the ways in which ‘thinking’ of one of the important global institutions has influenced the current ideas, practices, and imaginations on science, technology, and innovation for sustainable development.