Committal on the Decade of Action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
by Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr. 15th PRESIDENT-UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA
E. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of the Republic of Liberia
Amb. Marjon V. Kamara, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon. Samuel Tweah, Minister of Finance and Development Planning
United Nations Country Team
World Bank Country Director
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Madam Laymah Gbowee, Gbowee Peace Foundation
Prof. David Dahn, National Commission of Higher Education
Our Distinguished Panelists
Prof. Weade Kobbah-Boley
Mr. Bobby Musa
Asst. Prof. Thomas Kaydor
Association of Liberian Universities & Colleges
Members of the fourth Estate
Other Platform Guests
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Greetings of Shalom from the University of Liberia
Since 1999, Liberia continues to be classified as a Least Developed Country (LDC)/Low Human Development (LHD) under the United Nations Human Development Report, an annual publication by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). However, in 2012, as a country through a National Vision, led by Prof. Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh, a renowned Liberian Economist, we finalized in Gbarnga, Bong County, and committed to graduating from the status of a Least Development Country (LDC) to a Middle Income Country (MIC) by 2030, requiring a Decade of Action between 2020 -2030. The 2019 HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT-“Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century”. This report places Liberia at 176/189 among United Nations Member States, in the category of Medium Human Development (Middle Income Country), which we envision by 2030 ranges between 117 -153. (http://report.hdr.undp.org/)
Coincidentally, and interestingly on 25 September 2015, world leaders at the Sustainable Development Summit held in New York, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals along with their 169 associated targets and 232 indicators. As we are all aware, sustainable development is an economic development that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
This global development agenda, unlike the Millennium Development Goals has the Declaration by the world leaders; the Goals & targets; a Means of Implementation; and a Monitoring Framework.
Several stakeholders including the Civil Society, Academia, Private Sector, Media and National Governments jointly negotiated, agreed, and adopted a document titled: Transforming Our World: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development , which include the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including their 169 targets and 232 indicators. The agenda is anchored on 5Ps: People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity and Partnerships, with an underlying principle of “Leave No One Behind”
September 25th 2020 marked the 5th Anniversary of this global development agenda, the need to greatly expand society’s capacity to solve complex challenges has never been more important or more urgent, with just ten years remaining to the 2030 deadline of achieving the SDGs, the growing understanding of the urgency of addressing climate change, and now the added challenges of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout. This need is strongly recognized in SDG 4.7, which calls for ensuring that “all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development…”
As the providers of general, professional, and lifelong education to hundreds of millions of learners around the world, universities have a unique and critical role in meeting this need. Universities have been providing some aspects of Education for the SDGs to some of their students through their traditional learning and teaching activities. However, there is a need to both scale up existing activities, as well as implement and mainstream new types of transformative learning activities, which employ interdisciplinary, action-based learning, and multi-actor involvement, and which go beyond usual operations.
Mainstreaming Education for the SDGs can be difficult within existing university structures, and deeper transformations in how universities operate will be needed to ensure this happens fast enough and deep enough.
On July 9th & 10, 2020, the University of Liberia, through my personal interaction joined over 100 Universities from around 60 countries and participated in a virtual meeting with the United Nations Secretary General and Deputy Secretary-General, in response to a global call for University Support to the United Nations Secretary General’s Decade of Action on the SDGs.
From this meeting, the University of Liberia has since been inspired to take action and support the implementation of the SDGs, regardless of our context, capacity or starting point. As an institution, we are bend on offering practical approaches and guidance, including the case for action, the different ways Education for the SDGs can be implemented in a university, the outline of a strategic implementation process, the roles of different stakeholders, how to overcome common barriers, and in-depth analysis of transformative examples.
Liberia as a country has specific challenges of sustainable development which should now guide the methods of reorganizing our activities at the University of Liberia, including the curriculum and research program.
As pointed out in my Inaugural Address of November 2019, the University of Liberia’s programs around sustainable development will be best organized according to the problems they seek to address locally. The major sustainable development challenges, those highlighted by the 17 SDGs as mainstreamed in our national development agenda: the Pro Poor Agenda for Development & Prosperity, include: ending poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2); universal access to key services such as health (SDG 3), education (SDG 4), water and sanitation (SDG 6), renewable energy (SDG 7), decent work (SDG 8); environmental sustainability (SDG 11 – 15); and inclusive societies with reduced inequalities of life conditions and lifetime opportunities (SDGs 5, 9, 10, 16, 17).
I wish to gladly inform you all that the University of Liberia, through the Department of Institutional Development & Planning, we have already applied for membership to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), to forge global networks and partnerships of universities in order to strengthen both national and global problems solving. As part of our commitment made through our application to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network Secretariat, the University of Liberia is well-positioned to mobilize and coordinate the academic community in Liberia in the setup of a National United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. (National Network of Universities on the SDGs). We have already started preparations in this direction alongside our application process.
As an institution, we have also embarked on the process of establishing institutional link with the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi), an international network created in 1999 by UNESCO, the United Nations University (UNU) and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech (UPC) after UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE). It is important to mention that GUNi is currently composed of more than 230 members from 80 countries, and includes the UNESCO Chairs on Higher Education, higher education institutions, research centers, and networks related to innovation and the social commitment of higher education. The main mission of this network is to strengthen the role of higher education in society, and help to renew its goals and policies worldwide from the perspective of public service, relevance and social responsibility. In 2015, after the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals as a global call for action in defense of the environment, peace and justice, GUNi set up a parallel line of strategic action focused on sustainable development, knowledge, research and partnerships. Within this strategy, GUNi´s most important actions include: — the organization and holding of the International Conferences on Sustainable Development Goals. — The establishment of the GUNi Group of Experts on SDGs and Higher Education, made up of representatives of some of the leading networks working on sustainable development and higher education. It was created to offer a platform for debate, collaboration and sharing of expertise from different regions, cultures and perspectives from around the world, in order to advance the 2030 Agenda and we are committed to this process
Each of these challenges requires academic knowledge from a range of disciplines and types of analysis and with this, I, Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr. with the power vested as the 15th President of the University of Liberia do hereby make the below committal for and on behalf of the Administration, Faculty, Staff and Student Body of the University of Liberia in support of the Decade of Action on the Implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the national level:
- First, as we have already started, evidenced by the creation of new academic programs, for the undergraduate colleges, graduate and professional schools, Biodiversity, Climate Change & Environmental Science, Public Health, Nursing and midwifery, the Honors College of Research & Gender Studies and our Enterpreneurship program. The University of Liberia will continue to create new organizational units (departments, schools, faculties, institutes or some other means of organization) to house many or most of the university’s programs of sustainable development. Our new educational programs will enable students to be trained in sustainable development, ideally at each level of higher education (including undergraduate degree, Masters, Executive Masters, PhD, and senior executive training). These education programs will train students to think systematically about the major challenges (poverty alleviation, access to public services, environmental sustainability) from a number of disciplinary perspectives, and with a solution orientation (e.g. practical problem solving).
Often these programs will include policy-related projects working directly with a “client” such as the local government or a ministry at the national level. Such “capstone” projects (or theses, practicums, senior essays, etc.) are a powerful way to mentor students in practical policy design based on rigorous science, engineering, and policy analytics.
- Second, these education programs will offer the powerful analytical tools needed and used in sustainable development, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistics and econometrics, simulation modeling, and other analytical skills.
- Third, the University of Liberia will turn its sights towards high-level policy advising and analysis, and will reward such work by faculty and students. The University of Liberia recognizes that on any of our pressing challenges today – fighting Covid-19, ending extreme poverty, reducing youth unemployment, decarbonizing the energy system, protecting endangered species – governments are typically out of their depth of expertise in the needed sciences, engineering, and policy design.
As the nation’s premier institution of learning with the highest enrollment of students, we have highly specialized talented and motivated students ready to help design solutions, but are often not organized for such efforts, or offer no institutional support (e.g. faculty time, office space, legal and administrative support, etc.). This kind of practical policy work is not only hugely rewarding, and with a high social benefit, but is itself the spur for deeper and more agile research activities as well.
To achieve all of the above, the University will seek out both national and international university partnerships to amplify the work in sustainable development. We face severe and urgent national challenges, many of which require both national and global cooperation to address, whether it is the control of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the transformation of the world’s energy systems, or the redesign of agriculture and mining supply chains to encourage their environmental and social sustainability and reducing youth unemployment in our society.
Finally, we will establish, networks, linking the SDSN, the United Nations Academic Impact, the United Nations University, the International Association of Universities, the World University Network, and others, partnering together to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.
Amidst all of these commitments, and in consideration of SDG Goal No. 17, we will be looking forward to partnerships from both bilateral and multilaterals as well as from our traditional development partners in areas of finance, technology, capacity building, trade, and systemic issues (policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholders partnerships, data, monitoring and accountability) in the achievement of our many commitments towards the implementation of the Decade of Action on the SDGs which also coincides with our national version of a becoming a Middle Income Country by 2030.
Thank you very much
In Mission with a Vision