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Academics from Universities of Ghana and Sussex shape thinking on science for the Sustainable Development Goals
With the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now entering their implementation phase, academics from Sussex and the University of Ghana convened at an expert workshop in Accra, 25 June, to discuss how science, research and academia can further help to achieve these important goals.
Opening remarks were given by Dr. Fatima Denton, Director of the UN University, Institute for Natural Resources in Africa, and Mr. Eugene Owusu, the Special Advisor to the President of Ghana on the SDGs. Mr. Owusu said that good progress was being made in Ghana on achieving the SDGs for health and education, but slower progress on achieving the environmentally-related goals.
He emphasised that a key ingredient in making better progress was getting input from academics worldwide, and therefore, the importance of the workshop. Lead organisations for the workshop were the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) and the Institute for Environmental and Sanitation Studies at the University of Ghana.
A particular emphasis of discussions was on trade-offs and synergies among the SDGs because of their significant influence on implementation. As an example, participants found that food production in and around cities led to both trade-offs among the goals (because of health risks of polluted crops and competition for water) and synergies (food production close to the city enhanced urban food security while providing employment and poverty reduction). It was agreed that the two Universities would work together on a project to analyse and identify significant trade-offs and synergies in Ghana.
The study will focus either on the national situation or on a particular eco-zone such as the coastal area. Objectives of the project will be to improve the current methodology used to identify important interactions among the goals, to make the improved methodology available for use in other countries in Africa and elsewhere, and to provide input to policy about trade-offs and synergies.
Another major topic of discussion was the contribution of the academic community to achieving the SDGs. Participants agreed that a systematic analysis of how academia could contribute to the SDG policy process (using a “Pathways to Change” or similar approach) would be very worthwhile at this stage.
The group agreed that the universities themselves should set a good example of how to achieve the global goals by sharing experience of best practices for sustainability, and maximising the sustainability of their own campuses and activities. In addition, the participants agreed that the Commonwealth could be an effective platform for encouraging cooperation between universities in the North and South on SDG-related research and teaching.
The workshop also provided an opportunity to solidify cooperation between the two universities on the SDGs. In addition to the above-mentioned plan for a project on SDG trade-offs and synergies, participants also sketched out joint projects on the circular economy, sustainable agriculture, and other themes, as well as initial ideas for faculty and student exchanges.
Reflecting on the meeting, Prof Joseph Alcamo, SSRP Director said, “Achieving the SDGs is going to require all hands on deck; it will require not only a lot of politics and money, but also serious partnerships between academics, North and South. These partnerships are absolutely necessary for providing the know-how for reaching the global goals. This workshop was a very good step in setting up such a partnership between the Universities of Ghana and Sussex.”