The United Nations has been concerned with the effects of advances in science and technology to world peace and social development since its inception in 1945 at the dawn of the nuclear era. In 1963 the first United Nations Conference on the Application of Science and Technology for the Benefit of the Less Developed Countries met in Geneva and began to form an agenda for international action. This was followed in 1979 by the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD), held in Vienna from 20 to 31 August, which produced the Vienna Programme of Action on Science and Technology for Development.
In affirmation of the conference's program, the General Assembly established an Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development, open to all states, to draw up policy guidelines, monitor activities within the United Nations system, promote implementation of the Vienna Programme, identify priorities, and mobilize resources. In 1989, on the tenth anniversary of the 1979 Conference, the General Assembly expressed its disappointment with the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and eventually decided to transform the Intergovernmental Committee and its subsidiary body, the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development, into a functional commission of ECOSOC (General Assembly Resolution 46/235).
The UNCSTD marked a conceptual shift in the views of both industrialized and developing nations. The meeting brought into the open many of the key issues, and it forced many in developed countries to confront seriously the valid aspirations of developing country scientists and governments. However, even serious consideration did not in most cases lead to agreement, and many imaginative UNCSTD creations, such as a financing system for science and technology for development, did not endure. UNCSTD sharpened the conviction in industrialized nations and developing nations alike that the building of endogenous scientific and technology capabilities in developing nations was central to their future prosperity.
Growing recognition in the industrializing nations of the importance of market forces and the role of the private sector also heightened interest in the contributions of science and technology.