Science, Engineering & Medicine - Working Toward a Better World
International Activities of the U.S. National Academies

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Advising the U.S. Government

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Home - Global Challenges

Global Challenges

Many of the world’s greatest health, environmental, and security threats are beyond the ability of any one nation to confront by itself. The Academies address critical global challenges by working with their scientific partners to coordinate responses to the problems that affect the lives and well-being of countless people—from finding a way to get a life-saving drug to an ailing African child to protecting an entire population from the risks of nuclear proliferation.

Energy and the Environment
Recognizing both the increasing global demand for energy and the importance of addressing that need without irrevocable harm to the environment, the Academies investigate a wide range of topics in the energy and environment field.

Global Health
Every year, the mosquito-borne disease malaria kills nearly one million Africans—most of them under the age of five. Deeply concerned about this and other diseases, the Academies address a variety of global health issues.

Water Resources
The rapidly growing human population, combined with heightened urbanization and poor water management, has led to a global water crisis where more than six million people lack access to clean drinking water. Thus, water is a crucial challenge of the 21st century. The Academies offer independent advice on many water-related issues in the United States and abroad.

Agriculture and Food Security
Farmers around the world, particularly in developing countries, face many challenges—from poor soil to lack of high-quality seeds to inefficient water use or fuel—which contribute to reduced agriculture output and increased food insecurity. In response, the Academies have analyzed emerging farming technologies, indigenous seeds, and transgenic plants among other solutions.

International Security
Dual-use technologies in the life sciences and nuclear fields can dramatically improve lives but can also be used in the manufacture of weapons. The Academies address nuclear, chemical, and biological threats in collaboration with their partners around the world.

Approaching 7 billion people and a growth of roughly 80 million people every year, the world faces many demographic challenges. The Academies cover major issues in international population policy including global population growth, aging, and urban population dynamics in developing countries.  

G Science/G8 Statements
National science academies issue joint statements calling on world leaders at annual G8 Summits to address some of the world's greatest challenges through the use of science and technology.

Human Rights
Repressive governments across the globe pose a unique threat to the free exchange of ideas and scientific collaboration across borders. In an ever-more complex world, the Academies (working with some 80 counterpart national academies) uses its influence and prestige to advocate in behalf of scientists, engineers, and health professionals anywhere in the world who are unjustly detained or imprisoned for exercising those basic human rights promulgated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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