The journey

For a long time now, the world has been on a journey towards the best course of action towards the realization of sustainable development. At the beginning of the millennium, the world made the first attempt to define this pathway with the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

In 2000, the MDGs set development priorities in an eight-point action plan that would span 15 years. It was from these MDGs that the world would learn how the next development agenda to take over would best be comprehensive and inclusive.

The attempt to set the next development agenda succeed MDGs was initiated in 2010 at the MDGs summit (the last review of the MDGs). It was evident that a consultative and an all-encompassing development agenda was needed, taking into account the various complexities of development and the needs of all peoples.

Various parallel processes were set rolling and in September 2015, world leaders at the United Nations headquarters in New York adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The agenda is mostly known by its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) component characterized by 17 goals and 169 targets forming the blueprint of what nations across the world will have to implement for the next 15 years.

Academia and Scientific Community, Volkswagen Foundation sets the ball rolling

The role of academia and the scientific community cannot be overstated, especially in facilitating and providing guidance to nations as they internalize the agenda, set up institutions, policies and structures nationally towards implementation. It is also crucial that academia provide insights on how governments can align the agenda strategically with on-going national & regional development agendas so that there is no duplication of efforts and that reporting, tracking and evaluation is properly coordinated and structured.

In December 2015, the Volkswagen Foundation hosted a symposium titled The Sustainable Development Goals and The Role of Research; A Focus on Coastal Regions. Over the years, we have heard the voices of many actors, but in my opinion, not enough from academia.

Having engaged extensively with the process, before adoption and post, it was refreshing to participate in the symposium. You might wonder why (you are good company!). My answer is simple, the symposium was devoid of the usual development jargon, especially the buzz words that have come to define conferences hence it provided a sober platform for knowledge sharing, information exchange and learning.

The sober conversations ranging on issues of migration, sociology, population and development, governance, forestry, gender and development communicated clearly the convergence and interface between global challenges and sustainability.

This plugin brings out the unique insights and it clearly carved out academia’s niche in the journey towards the realization of sustainable development. Extrapolating the role of research science in other global development arenas; it is evident that science and research have a role to play in sustainable development goals. This especially rings true given the complexity presented by the universal nature of the goals together with the different contexts and capacities of each country from across the globe.

sdg fetaure pic

Participants discuss migration and its place in the SDGs, drawing examples and contexts presented from research projects in Ghana

The moment is here with us, we must act!!

The global goals have been introduced to the world, a 17-point plan to end poverty, combat climate change, fight injustice and inequalities.  They are the most ambitious attempt by the human race to make the world a better place and they represent a bold plan towards the realization of sustainable development.

These are plans that 193 governments agreed to; a plan representing the input and voices of governments, United Nations agencies, academia, civil society, businesses, imminent persons, youth, women, and citizens of the world. This is a to-do list for the planet that will only be achieved if everyone plays their part, everyone including academia.

As the saying goes, #LeaveNoOneBehind, and as we pledge to work together, the seat at the table for academia must always be filled, otherwise the popularly sung on data for development and evidence based approaches will remain just that: a song!

What was evident from the conference was the need for a holistic and broader approach to implementing the SDGs. The solitary approach by the affected parties has clearly created pockets of action, but the full picture remains elusive.

You can easily find the report from the conference here


Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1

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