Sustainable Development Goals: Big Words and Even Bigger Challenges

  • 2017/10/20     Dresden, Germany

    Image: UNU-FLORES/Janis Kreiselmeier

    By Janis Kreiselmeier, UNU-FLORES focal point for the tuuwi Environmental Lecture Series

    After a successful start this summer, the Environmental Lecture Series “7 Billion Chances – Sustainable Development Goals Transforming Our World?” co-organised by the Student Environmental Initiative (tuuwi) of Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden) and researchers of the Joint PhD Programme of UNU-FLORES and TU Dresden went into its second round.

    More than 60 participants attended the opening lecture on 19 October 2017 with the title “Introduction to the SDGs, their Historical Development and Meaningfulness to the Member States of the United Nations”. In her talk, Dr Tamara Avellán, Head of Water Resources Management Unit at UNU-FLORES, retraced the long journey of the global goals from the Brundtland Report in 1987 over the Rio Conference in 1992 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to where we are now with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    “Sustainability” and “Sustainable Development” – those were the “big words” participants were asked to talk about with their neighbours at the beginning of the lecture. Lively discussions revolved around the ideas of participatory approaches and responsible consumption. Avellán then went on about how the idea of a sustainable development had arrived in the global community and evolved since the Brundtland Report in 1987 with its three pillars: economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Following the MDGs, the post-2015 development agenda – with the involvement of civil society – was a long and complicated process that resulted in the SDGs.

    Image: UNU-FLORES/Janis Kreiselmeier

    The transition from MDGs to SDGs meant moving from 8 goals, 21 targets, and 60 indicators to 17 goals, 169 targets, and 304 indicators. Avellán stressed that in terms of monitoring this is a huge task, especially for small countries with only limited resources for administration. However, the example of Finland showed how existing sustainability strategies, that sometimes even go beyond the SDGs, can be used in implementation and monitoring.

    When asked about where Germany stands in the monitoring process, some participants were critical. While certainly there are still many problems like nitrogen overload in groundwater and a slow energy transition, in a lot of countries Germany is seen as a role model on many levels on the way to a more sustainable future.

    On 23 November UNU-FLORES will once again shape the lecture series when students of the Joint PhD Programme in Integrated Management of Water, Soil and Waste of UNU-FLORES and TU Dresden will host a Science Café. In this interactive format students will give insight into their research and how it is linked to the SDGs. Another contribution will be the talk of PhD researcher Anika Reetsch on the “Faces behind the SDGs” on 18 January 2018.

    The lecture series on SDGs takes place every Thursday from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Technische Universität Dresden at Hörsaalzentrum (HSZ/301) and is open to anyone interested. Time and venue of individual lectures may be subject to change so check for up-to-date information on the tuuwi website.