Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 6

Message from the vice-chancellor
Dr Max Price
Adopted in September 2015, the SDGs replaced the millennium
development goals (MDGs), whose remit ended in that year. The
eight goals of the MDGs were drafted in the basement of the UN
office in New York by a small group appointed by the UN secretary
general, Ban Ki-moon (environmental sustainability was almost
forgotten). By contrast, the more ambitious 17 goals of the SDGs
were the result of a negotiating process between 193 countries and
wide consultation with a host of stakeholders.
The resulting SDGs are wide-ranging, yet it is striking how closely
they speak to critical problems for South Africa and the continent.
Inequality, climate change, food and water insecurity, unemployment,
safe cities – this is a script that could have been written by us.
It is also reassuring to see how closely the SDGs – the result of
such wide and thorough global consultation – match the strategic
priorities of research at the University of Cape Town. It is therefore
no coincidence that UCT researchers were among the world-leading
academics who were involved in the lobbying for and drafting of
the SDGs. Professor Haroon Bhorat, for instance, served as head
of research for the High-level Panel appointed by Ban, to deliver a
proposed SDG agenda to the UN General Assembly. Members of the
African Centre for Cities (ACC) participated in a global campaign to
ensure that sustainable cities were explicitly included in the SDGs (a
fight that had been lost with the MDGs). They were also members
of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, led by Ban’s
advisor Professor Jeffrey D Sachs, which helped to shape the goals.
Similarly, Professor Crick Lund was one of the leaders in the field
of global mental health - #FundaMentalSDG - who lobbied to have
mental health included (it was entirely missing from the MDGs).
We have chosen, as the
theme of this year’s
publication, the United
Nations’ (UN) sustainable
development goals (SDGs).
Research is crucial to
achieving sustainable
development and UCT is
well placed to play its part.
This involvement of academics in the drafting of the SDGs has
meant that the global research community is better placed to
contribute to their implementation. And there is wide acceptance
that they must do so if the SDGs are to succeed. One feature of
the SDGs is the plethora of targets (169), the perhaps predictable
result of the sprawling negotiation process. Each country will
have to choose which targets to prioritise, and academics should
play a role in guiding governments in this decision. The global
community will also need the expertise of researchers to track the
targets, and to help in the training of those who will play a part in
the SDGs’ implementation.
The SDGs are not perfect, and many of our researchers are the
first to point this out. However, this is another key role they have
to play: providing an independent and critical voice to ensure,
not only that the goals are realised as closely as possible, but
that their complexity is not lost in translation. Transforming Our
World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises
the interconnectedness of the goals, and the increasingly
interdisciplinary focus of much research at UCT means that
it is well placed to play its part in finding solutions for a more
sustainable world.
Image by Deborah Posel.

millennium development goalsmillennium development goalsalmost forgottenalmost forgottenHigh-level PanelSustainable Development Solutions Network#FundaMentalSDGTransforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable DevelopmentTransforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentsustainable development goalssustainable development goals

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