Allam Ahmed, President of the World Association for Sustainable Development (WASD) and a Senior Lecturer at SPRU, recently organised the 16th WASD international annual conference and the 5th Diaspora international annual conference. This year, for the first time since its inception, both conferences were co-organised and hosted in conjunction with the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), an independent oversight body of the UN.
Multi-stakeholder forums are occasionally convened by the UN in order to discuss issues such as human rights and environmental matters, however, rarely has the academic world been invited to share ideas with the UN in such close debate on issues of sustainable development and the role of the private sector. The joint organisation of the two conferences reflects the participatory, multi-stakeholder approach that underlies the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN summit.
The four-day event, from 10 – 13 April, was held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva and was attended by over 300 participants. The thematic focus of this year’s conferences was ‘Public-private partnerships for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, and a wide-range of topics were discussed from renewable energy and blockchain technology to Public-Private Partnerships in the domestic education sector. You can watch the opening ceremony here.
Dr Ahmed was one of 10 Keynote Speakers, from a varied line-up of academics, UN senior officials, policy-makers and CEOs. Other speakers included Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and Lise Kingo, Executive Director and CEO of the United Nations Global compact. Many other notable figures were also in attendance and participated in panel discussions, including representatives from the International Finance Corporation, the International Organisation of Employers, the Global Policy Forum and numerous private companies and non-governmental organisations.
Three flagship publications were launched during the conference:
The United Nations System – Private sector partnership arrangements in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, JIU/REP/2017/8
Petru Dumitriu, Inspector, Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations system
World Sustainable Development Outlook 2018
Allam Ahmed, President, World Association for Sustainable Development
Global Compact International Yearbook: Sustainability in Troubled Times
Elmer Lenzen, Chair, Macondo Foundation
The interactions between the academic world, the private sector and the UN which took place have already inspired a number of initiatives. Several projects were born as a result, among them an initiative for ‘17 hours per year education on Sustainable Development Goals’ and another project based around ‘port cities and their hinterlands for sustainable development’.
In terms of the future, what can be expected from the relationship between WASD and the JIU? As part of their 2018 Programme of work, the JIU intends to begin undertaking a review on policy research uptake in service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The review seeks to improve the existing mechanisms and policies in the production and use of policy research and to foster coordination, understanding and cooperation between the UN and the academic community. In order to do this, the JIU will once again collaborate with WASD, and will seek views from the University of Sussex and other academic institutions with an interest and expertise in the UN and sustainable development. You can watch the opening ceremony here.