28 June 2018

Pathways to the Global Goals Symposium

On Friday 25 May 2018 over 140 Utrecht University students came together to present pathways to achieving the Global Goals at a symposium at Seats2Meet in Utrecht. Organized in collaboration with Utrecht4GlobalGoals, Utrecht City Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the event was attended by over 40 sustainability practitioners and academics.

The 17 Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed by the United Nations in collaboration with governments and citizens from 70 countries. The goals are a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.

How do we achieve the Global Goals?

These Global Goals pose a massive societal challenge. Policy makers, practitioners and researchers from around the world, from local to global levels, are wondering how to actually achieve these ambitious goals. What are the steps and actions, the institutional changes and the roles of people involved? As part of a second year course, students from the international Bachelor’s programme Global Sustainability Science responded to this global challenge. They developed global pathways towards achieving the SDGs - investigating the ‘how do we actually do this?’ question. At the symposium, these pathways were presented to over 40 practitioners and researchers, who gave concrete and practice-based feedback to students.

Local, national and international practitioners

Attendees included representatives from local (VOKO Voedselcollectief Utrecht) national (Schone Kleren Campagne) and international (Red Cross) NGOs, members of the local council (Party for the Animals, D66) and local social enterprises (Green House Restaurant).

Utrecht and the Global Goals

The symposium was opened by Desirée van de Ven from Utrecht City Council and Janneke Langelaan from Utrecht4GlobalGoals. They explained how the Global Goals should not be just a feature of national level policy. With its ambitious collaborations with citizens, businesses and organizations, Utrecht has been recognized as the most active Dutch city with respect to the SDGs.

A pathways marketplace

After an introduction by course coordinator Joost Vervoort, the student-created pathways were presented in a marketplace format. Students and practitioners engaged in interesting and enthusiastic discussions, and the diverse range of expertise led to helpful and important insights and feedback.

Hugo von Meijenfeldt, the Dutch SDG coordinator from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, closed the symposium. Dressed in a sustainably produced suit lined with the SDG logo, he expressed his positive impression of the student work and emphasized the importance of integrating all aspects of the SDGs.

From education to local, national and global action

The results of the project and the lively discussions at the symposium are used actively in important work on the SDGs. This includes UN-level analyses, collaboration with the Dutch government, and with the City Council. Students, teachers and practitioners are collaborating in synthesizing these insights.

Utrecht University and the Global Goals

Utrecht University is increasingly aligning itself to sustainability and the SDGs. Pathways to Sustainability is one of four strategic themes of Utrecht University. Professor Frank Biermann (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development) has just won a European Research Council Advanced Grant for his project ‘Global Goals’. The project will look at the effectiveness of the Global Goals as a steering mechanism towards sustainability.