Keynote Abstracts | Print |


The Agenda 2030 – claims, challenges and imperatives

Georg Gratzer, Professor, Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, University for Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, AT

The challenges the world is facing are severe and urgent: more than 800 million people globally live in extreme poverty and are facing hunger. Poor nutrition causes almost half of the deaths of children younger than five years. Extreme poverty is largely a rural phenomenon: globally, almost 80% of extremely poor people live in rural areas, most of whom work in agriculture. Over half of the world's arable land is degraded, thus weakening livelihoods for 1.5 billion people globally. Climate change affects livelihoods all over the world and puts severe threats to survival in many areas. Inequity increases and causes losses of social coherence leading to an increase in conflicts and contributing to multiple crisis of democracy and governance. Disparities of opportunity, wealth and power are stark and amplified by effects of climate change.

In responding to the multitude of these challenges, the resolution "Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2015. The 17 SDGs and their 169 targets intend to build "peaceful, just and inclusive societies" (UN General Assembly 2015) and provide livelihoods free of poverty and hunger in sound and safe environments, where global threats like climate change are successfully combated. They envisage sustainable production patterns and inclusive, effective economies and institutions. The Agenda 2030 is ambitious, broad, and as the UN puts it, ''indivisible''. In my talk, I will outline the SDGs and discuss implications of their indivisibility claim. I will discuss issues of coherence of goals and targets and will explore if there are potentially unifying imperatives in the SDGs. The envisaged global transformation will require a widely shared narrative on how to live. I will argue in my talk that the SDGs carry that narrative inherently in the entirety of their goals and that developing such narrative will be crucial for successful implementation.


Sustainable Intensification: a great idea, what's stopping it?

Allan Buckwell, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) Brussels and London, & Emeritus Professor, Imperial College London, UK.

The concept of sustainable intensification has emerged from the consideration of the global challenge of feeding an expanding global population without destroying even more natural ecosystems by bringing more land into agriculture. This means that to meet the SDGs we have to find ways to continue to intensify the food and conservation outputs from the existing (or smaller) agricultural area. The challenge is that whilst intensity is well defined and measured it is generally reviled, whilst sustainability is universally loved but not defined nor measured consistently or robustly. This, in itself, is a research and communication challenge, particularly to identify, at appropriate scales, the thresholds and tipping points in our agricultural systems.


Education for the Sustainable Development Goals

Aaron Benavot, Professor of global education policy at the University at Albany-SUNY and former Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, published by UNESCO.

The new 2030 development agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, views education and lifelong learning as critical drivers of transformative social, economic and environmental change. Specific targets introduce higher education as instrumental for achieving inclusive, equitable and quality education for all. They include, for example, ensuring equitable access to higher education; expanding scholarships to underserved populations, especially in STEM fields; supporting the training of qualified primary and secondary educators; and enabling students and faculty to acquire knowledge and skills relevant to sustainability and global citizenship. This presentation will briefly introduce the multiplicity of forms and pathways through which higher education is instantiated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the emergent opportunities and challenges for higher education institutions and systems.

Engendering sustainable values in our graduates

Peter Högberg, Vice-Chancellor, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, SE

SLU was formed 40 years ago through the amalgamation of three classic polytechnics, the Royal Colleges for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. All three had mainly focused on productivity and economic viability. During the short history of SLU, environmental aspects on agriculture and forestry and ethical aspects on human relations to animals have become equally important. This development has been driven by our increasing awareness of the huge impact humans have on the environment and by changed attitudes linked to urbanization, amongst other things. Today, few young people have insights into activities in rural areas like agriculture and forestry, but many want to become a veterinary or a landscape architect. However, the notion that we need to develop a sustainable use of natural resources is widespread.

Hence, SLU´s modern motto is "Science and Education for Sustainable Life". Our teachers include aspects on sustainability from their research experiences. To this we add specific courses on how to encompass sustainability in courses. There are many challenges, for example, how do we attract more urban students, how can we best combine strong theory with practical realism, how do we transform traditional professional study programmes to better include aspects on sustainability, etc. I will discuss how we view and deal with these challenges.


The civic university: combining global, regional and local responsibilities

John Goddard, Emeritus Professor & Special Advisor to the Vice Chancellor and President, Centre for Urban & Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University, UK)

The sustainable development goals challenge publicly funded science based universities to consider their responsibility to society both globally and locally - to be clear not only what they are 'good at' in terms of the quality of research and teaching but also what they are 'good for'. This challenge points to the need for institutional change in the way such universities are led and managed. Addressing societal grand challenges requires a trans-disciplinary response and new approaches to working with society that embraces business, public authorities and citizens in 'quadruple helix' partnerships. But the currently dominant translational research /linear model assumes that the problem to be solved is well defined and can be broken down into manageable pieces before being re-assembled, scaled up and shipped out and undervalues the role of education in knowledge exchange. However today's global challenges are not well understood or well defined and require a deep understanding and a responsiveness to the contexts wherein those problems exist and therefore a different approach. Such problems exhibit features of complex systems and need to be dealt with differently, embracing a model of research and education, which puts engagement, participation, and co-production of knowledge with society at its centre. The talk will therefore introduce the normative model of the 'civic university' responding to global challenges with a local dimension through the way it seeks to embed engagement with society into its teaching and research and not as a separate and by implication inferior 'third' mission. It will discuss the tensions between social responsibility and participation in the global higher education market place and between contributing to local economic competiveness and societal challenges. The discussion will be grounded in a case study of Newcastle University in the North East of England.


Strategic action to develop a sustainable university – Case Study Wageningen University and Research

Joris Fortuin, Deputy Director Facilities and Services, Wageningen University and Research, NL

Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important pillar of research and education of Wageningen University & Research (WUR). It is expressed in the mission - 'To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life' - and in the ambition of WUR. Within the domain of 'healthy food and living conditions', WUR wants to further expand her leading position.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has actively integrated sustainability into the organisation since 2008, first by bringing the facility services (operations) in line with WUR's ambition to lead in sustainability in education and research. Next, by developing adoptive policy on sustainable operations with the necessary ambition, followed by focussing further on the necessary actions to imprint sustainability into the organisation. Almost parallel WUR has put effort in informing own staff and students as well as the world in a clear and transparent way (by adopting GRI reporting guidelines) on these actions. From 2014, WUR has increasingly phased in Cooperate Social Responsibility. In addition to the institutional accreditation in 2018, the aim now is to be granted the special 'sustainability' quality mark.