The SDGs are 5 years old – congratulations!
"The SDGs are 5 years old, and I’d like to invite you to join the SDG Week."
How time flies. Looking back, it seems absurd that the Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago; that the Storebælt Bridge opened 22 years ago; that a devastating earthquake hit Haiti over 10 years ago; and a scientific breakthrough in Switzerland discovered the Higgs particle 8 years ago. The past feels like yesterday, while the future seems infinitely distant. Those who have children may know the feeling: Where did the years go?
We need to view events in a larger context
Five years ago, on 25 September 2015, 193 heads of state and government joined the UN and adopted a common ambition to create sustainable development for life on our planet by 2030.
Many citizens, companies and public organisations have since incorporated sustainable development into their work. In that respect, the SDGs are coming along just fine. However, there are also a number of challenges.
The SDGs don’t have the same news worthiness as short-term or spectacular events. The SDGs are rarely in focus as 'Breaking News'. The SDGs aren’t about individual events, but about continuous, complex massive challenges for life on the planet.
Global challenges are often invisible to us. And yet not quite. For example, they come to light during virus pandemics, which suddenly and with great force spread disease and death throughout the world. Or by large forest fires, which destroy areas the size of Zealand, ruining the lives of millions of people and animals.
Sustainable development calls for us to see the individual events in a larger context. Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic is due to the fact that we do not have adequate food safety and that our virus preparedness plans were too poor? Maybe the cataclysmic forest fires are the result of climate change and global warming?
The preventive work must not happen only when we go into breaking news. By then, it’s too late for preventive measures. Instead, we end up with stopgaps and quick-fix solutions. What we need is new knowledge, new solutions and new competencies to understand what sustainable development is and what it requires of us. We need the long-haul to deal with the massive global challenges. From now on to 2030!
Sustainable development at the University
As you know, at SDU we have announced that working ambitiously with the UN’s SDGs is a strategic priority of the University.
We’ve seen many reactions to this announcement.
Many employees and students have thrown themselves into the work with great enthusiasm. For instance, we’ve implemented SDGs events that have spawned specific ideas; we’ve established a strong Gender Equality Team that extends beyond the country's borders; we’re working on increased biodiversity, green transport, improved waste sorting and climate gardens – and on top of this, we’re working on highlighting the pros and cons of various types of vaccines. The list of initiatives is of course much longer!
Conversely, SDU's strategy has also met with astonishment. Can researchers really do critical and free research at SDU? Yes, of course! All of SDU's researchers and students are completely free to express themselves and are entitled to have their own opinions on the SDGs – or not have an opinion at all. The University's task is to disseminate research-based knowledge and provide research-based education so that communities, companies and decision-makers can apply this knowledge for the benefit of sustainable development. Research-based criticism and facts about the dead ends and pitfalls of the SDGs also constitute useful and relevant knowledge from SDU to our society. Free, independent and critical research has always been the foundation of our work on the SDGs.
When all is said and done: We always welcome any debate on SDU's work with the SDGs and the University's role in society. However, we must not forget to act while debating. Check the calendar: If 2010 feels like yesterday in 2020, by 2030 we'll probably be saying: Where did the years go?
Your invitation to the SDG Week from 22-25 September
The 5th anniversary of the UN's World Goals will be marked by the SDG Week, which takes place from 22 to 25 September 2020. Here you can gain new knowledge about the global challenges and possible solutions. I would also like to invite you to the SDG Week, where SDU is a partner.
The programme is impressive. You can meet decision-makers, business leaders, NGOs and researchers who provide their perspectives on sustainable development. For example, you can meet: Sebastian H. Mernild, Professor and (as of 1 October) Vice-rector of SDU – Kathrine Richardson, Professor at the University of Copenhagen – Kristian Jensen, Chairman of the Folketing's 2030 network – Ajit Gupte, India's Ambassador to Denmark – Thomas Thune Andersen, Chairman of the Board of Ørsted – Pia Yasuko Rask, Director of Safe Water, Grundfos.
Please allow me to highlight two events during the SDG Week, in which SDU plays an important role:
- On Thursday, 24 September at 9:15 AM you can watch a discussion on how COVID-19 affects the SDG efforts. The panelists are Ane Qvortrup, Dannie Kjeldgaard, Morten Sodemann and Kjeld Jensen, all of whom are from SDU. The moderator is Peter Bro, also from SDU.
- On Friday, 25 September at 2:45 PM, you can watch SDU's future Vice-rector, Professor Sebastian H. Mernild, give a presentation on climate efforts and the need for immediate action.
You can participate online. And it's free!
Read more and see the programme here (in Danish): https://www.altinget.dk/arena/verdensmaalsugen/
A sustainable world requires a sustainable effort. Thank you for your efforts, SDU! I am so proud that we have jointly taken responsibility for acting. Let’s continue to do so.
And congratulations to all of us on the SDGs!