Edition 207 - July 2018

GUNi conference and report on sustainable development

The Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi) and the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP) organised the 1st Edition of the International Conference on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) : Actors and Implementation that took place in Barcelona on September 18-19, 2017. The conference was attended by many local and international participants, among which there were academics, researchers, policy makers, managers etc. The purpose of the conference was to discuss and share knowledge on the implementation of SDGs and the 2030 Agenda from different fields of knowledge and geographical areas.  

On the 7th of June this year, a report including an overview of the conference’s main discussions was published in Barcelona. The report also includes higher education’s (HE) role in the 2030 Agenda and GUNi’s commitment to the SDG’s. 

Since 2015 when the international community first agreed on a set of 17 SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, there have been skeptics arguing that these goals would be hard if not impossible to achieve. Some critics have suggested that sustainability cannot be achieved without first tackling the uncontrolled capitalist growth. Others argue that the SDGs are too broad and therefore way too ambitious. Last but not least, since the agreement is not legally binding, it isn’t mandatory, signifying there is no real guarantee that the international community that agreed on these 17 goals in the first place, will actually honour the agreement.

That said, GUNi believes that the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda present a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of taking worldwide action.

One of the goals that GUNi paid particular attention to is SDG4, namely Ensure Inclusive and Quality Education for All and Promote Lifelong Learning. A reason for this is the unique position HEIs are in. They are neutral and that gives them the change to promote dialogue and spaces for collaboration between types of stakeholders and promote certain issues and values without being influenced by corporate interest. 

Since the achievement of SDGs would be impossible without the active participation of all citizens, they would have to be able to actively participate in the implementation of the SDGs, which means they need to possess a set of skills and values. Here is where the concept of lifelong learning steps in. Educating and making sure that people develop skills and values is imperative. Universities have the capacities and therefore ought to teach people relevant skills.  

As stated in the report, here is how universities can contribute to the SDGs:

  • Education needs to be meaningful and address sustainable development;
  • Universities must include the concept of responsible research and innovation (RRi) in all their research activities;
  • University governance structures should be in line with the principles of sustainability, and all actions within the university should be directed towards the sustainable goals;
  • Universities should advocate sustainable development.

GUNi has also demonstrated its commitment to SDGs by opening spaces for debate and collaboration. This is a starting point for all the work that GUNi will do in relation to the 2030 Agenda.

You can read the whole report by clicking on this link.

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