I recently returned from the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference where the theme was “Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge”. Adopted by the world’s governments in September 2015, the UN’s 17 Global Goals (known as the Sustainable Development Goals) establish ambitious global targets to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.
As I saw at the conference, there are many university departments that are eager to be champions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Offices of Sustainability are mapping their indicators and strategic planning around the SDGs. Offices for Students with Disabilities are standing up for human rights on their campuses and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. International Student Services and Study Abroad offices have a vested interest in helping their students think and act globally.
There are many ways to integrate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals framework into the framework of your campus communities. Higher education institutions can and should be drivers of momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals in their communities through research, entrepreneurship, facilities, purchasing power, and student leadership development. Higher education cannot wait on the 2030 agenda, it must be build the bridge to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as we walk on it.
My work through the United Nations Association-USA (UNA-USA) campus network connects over 85 college campuses and their student chapter leaders directly to the work of the United Nations. We provides strategies for student leaders on how to engage with the work of the United Nations at their institutions, and elevate student voices to engage with the UN on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Secretary General’s newly launched #Youth2030 strategy.
There are many ways to for connect your campus to the work of the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals:
- Individual students, faculty, and staff can join the United Nations Association of the United States of America for more resources on how to start a campus chapter of UNA-USA (membership is free for any student 26 years or younger)
- Universities can apply to the AASHE Sustainability Awards for recognition of their efforts advancing the Sustainable Development Goals on campus
- Universities can apply for consultative status with the NGO Branch of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
- Join the UN’s Higher Education Sustainability Initiative
- Engage in a voluntary local review of the Sustainable Development Goals on your campus; in 2015, New York City became the first city in the world to launch a review
From my background in higher education (from 2013-2016 I worked at George Washington University in D.C. and received my master’s in higher education administration), I know that universities like most institutions are subject to our own silos and divisions. The Sustainable Development Goals provide us a unique opportunity to work across departments, majors, and community members (faculty, staff, and students) to fulfill our missions to provide knowledge, build skills, and support the cultivation of global citizens.