In this ‘nasty‚ tough world’ deal on sustainable development a ‘lifeline’
Claire Keeton | 2017-01-30 14:24:39.0
World-acclaimed economist Dr Jeffrey Sachs said: ‘I regard this (2015-2030) as the breakthrough period to end extreme poverty on the continent and for Africa to become one of the most dynamic centres of the world economy.’ Photo file.
Image by: CHIP EAST
As South African universities gear up for another volatile year‚ parties at the 6th World Sustainability Forum urged African universities to take the lead in achieving the world’s sustainable development goals.
The forum‚ which opened on Friday in Cape Town and wrapped up on the weekend‚ called on universities to solve the challenges of sustainable development through education and inter-disciplinary research.
The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs)‚ such as zero hunger and affordable and clean energy‚ were adopted as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the UN in September 2015.
World-acclaimed economist Dr Jeffrey Sachs said: “I regard this (2015-2030) as the breakthrough period to end extreme poverty on the continent and for Africa to become one of the most dynamic centres of the world economy.
“Achieving the SDGs ‘is the moonshot for our generation’. Like the moonshot [moon landing] of the 1960s‚ these are tough‚ bold and achievable objectives‚” he said.
“This is a nasty‚ tough world we live in‚ and our world agrees on very little. So when 193 governments agree on something‚ that is important. And when they agree on something as important as sustainable development‚ that is really something for us to grab hold of – that is a lifeline.”
Universities‚ business and government must work together to achieve these goals‚ said the international and SA participants at the forum.
Dr Aldo Stroebel‚ an executive director at the National Research Foundation‚ said it was key to strengthen an academic framework that reached into policy and rural environments‚ showing the links and effectiveness of this work.
Only a few African countries have research foundations and historically its universities‚ with some differences in South Africa‚ did not prioritise research said Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng‚ deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation at UCT.
“Apart from the low number of research outputs‚ there have been questions about the quality of research‚” she said‚ also for partnership to build capacity‚ collaborations and to retain the best researchers in Africa.
“Higher education is at a crossroads‚ and there is much polarisation. We need to think carefully about how this sustainable development agenda is owned by all so that it is inclusionary‚” she said.
“Sustainability is not just an African problem‚ it is an international problem‚” Phakeng said‚ encouraging African researchers to set their own agendas instead of these being driven by western funding.
Sachs‚ the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University‚ is a global scholar who has prioritised sustainability in his research.
He and his wife Dr Sonia Sachs‚ director of the Health Centre at the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University‚ were announced as winners of the first World Sustainability Award at the forum.
The joint winners of the first ‘Emerging and Sustainability Leader Award’ were Kenyan agriculture researcher Esther Ngumbi‚ who is studying at Alabama University‚ and automative control systems specialist Xiaosong Hu from Chongqing University in China.
– TMG Digital/The Times