28 January 2016

Flying start for UN Sustainability Development Goals with Gothenburg as platform

In February the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a UN initiative, will initiate its Northern European platform in Gothenburg, with open activities and a management group meeting. The purpose is to implement the UN’s new Sustainability Development Goals. Mistra’s Chief Executive Åke Iverfeldt and Chair Lena Treschow Torell have leading roles to play.

The United Nations has drawn up new sustainability objectives, which must be interpreted and implemented. This is generating feverish activity among researchers, business leaders and decision-makers worldwide. All the member countries are now expected to make a concerted effort to achieve the 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).

As part of the work of both defining the SDGs and helping to implementing them, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was created. This comprehensive initiative engages leading employees from universities, businesses and public-sector stakeholders in all the UN member countries. The SDSN is headed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Colombia University in New York, but there are also leading functions in New Delhi and Paris.

Nordic cooperation

Mistra’s Chair Lena Treschow Torell and CE Åke Iverfeldt belong to the SDSN’s global Leadership Council. Other Swedish members are Johan Rockström and top business leaders like Carl Henrik Svanberg and Hans Vestberg. Tarja Halonen, Finland’s former president, is also in the Council.

‘The way the new SDSN platform in Gothenburg is going to work tallies closely with Mistra’s approach, but here it’s taking place at a Nordic level. It’s in Sweden’s and also Mistra’s interest to contribute what we know,’ Torell says.

This autumn, it was decided that the Northern European platform would have its secretariat centred on Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg. It is an initiative involving most of the universities in the Nordic and also the Baltic countries. The task is to develop scalable solutions on the basis of existing research-based knowledge, in collaboration with the business sector. So it is not a research initiative, explains Darko Manakovski, coordinator for SDSN Northern Europe.

‘One concern of the SDSN is to distinguish roles. The academic community understands the complexity of the task and can contribute innovative knowledge to tackle various challenges. The governments’ role is to create a framework that everyone can work within. And then it will be the business sector’s role to implement the various solutions on a large scale,’ Manakovski says.

Sweden in the vanguard

According to a recent report (Sustainability Development Goals: Are the rich countries ready?) with a foreword by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Sweden has the best prospects of all the OECD countries of realising all 17 of the SDGs. This is one reason why Sweden has been given the mandate of coordinating the SDSN’s work in Northern Europe.

‘We’re in a good starting position that the new SDSN hub can take up,’ Lena Treschow Torell says.

On 25 February SDSN Northern Europe will kick off and there will be a management group meeting. The day is open for researchers and research funders. On the following day, a high-level event will be held, attended by politicians, research leaders and management representatives of major Swedish companies.

Text: Thomas Heldmark

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