On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. The goals cover the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.
Over the next 13 years, with these new goals and the 169 targets that universally apply to all countries, nations are expected to mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. The SDGs recognise that global efforts towards ending poverty need to be supported by strategies that increase economic growth and address a range of social needs in areas as varied as education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
But as previous experiences gathered during the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (which preceded the SDGs) have shown, policymaking and the setting of objectives alone are unlikely to suffice in addressing the sustainability problems seen today, and those expected in the future. In order to increase the likelihood that the SDGs yield the expected benefits, their implementation needs to be supported by high-calibre, high-impact sustainability research on the one hand, and training and technology transfer on the other.
The World Sustainable Development Research and Transfer Centre (WSD-RTC) has been created to address this need. WSD-RTC is a multi-stakeholder, academically based research and transfer centre, which brings together the best available knowledge and technologies on sustainable development in support of the implementation of the SDGs.
As the process of industrialisation progresses and the associated problems such as biodiversity depletion, climate change and a worsening of health and living conditions – especially but not only in developing countries – intensify, there is a need to search for integrated solutions to make development more sustainable. The current model of economic growth used by many countries, which is heavily based on the exploitation of natural resources, is not viable, and there is a great deal of evidence that a more careful – i.e. a more sustainable – approach to the use of our limited resources is needed.
The United Nations has acknowledged the problem. Among other measures, it produced a set of documents at the latest UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012. In September 2015, the UN General Assembly approved the '2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development'. On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. The 17 goals cover the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection:
- Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
- Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
- Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
- Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
- Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
- Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
- Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
- Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
- Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
- Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
- Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
- Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
- Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.*
- Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
- Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
- Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
- Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Over the next 13 years, with these new goals and the 169 targets that universally apply to all countries, nations are expected to mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. The SDGs recognise that global efforts towards ending poverty need to be supported by strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs in areas as varied as education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
But as previous experiences during the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (which preceded the SDGs) have shown, policymaking and the setting of objectives alone are unlikely to suffice in addressing the sustainability problems seen today, and those expected in the future. In order to increase the likelihood that the SDGs yield the expected benefits, their implementation needs to be supported by high-calibre, high-impact sustainability research on the one hand, and training and technology transfer on the other.
In order to address this need, the World Sustainable Development Research and Transfer Centre (WSD-RTC) has been created. WSD-RTC is a multi-stakeholder, academically based research and transfer centre which brings together the best available knowledge and technologies on sustainable development in support of the implementation of the SDGs.
The philosophy of WSD-RTC is that the holistic implementation of sustainability measures requires not only political decision-making, but also concrete research, capacity building and technology transfer, as well as improved collaboration and information and data exchange among institutions.
The establishment of the WSD-RTC will entail the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the cooperating organisations, with which it will act as a cooperation partner in the implementation of the SDGs.
The mission of WSD-RTC is 'to support the implementation of the SDGs by undertaking high-level, high-impact transformative and interdisciplinary research, combined with the execution of projects, the provision of training and the facilitation of technology transfer on matters related to sustainable development, vis-à-vis the implementation of the SDGs'.
This unique mission and the scope of the centre's work mean that it is a qualified, world-class research and transfer institution which can act as a hub linking the theory and practice of sustainable development, and where sustainability science can provide robust support towards achieving the SDGs.
The objectives of the WSD-RTC are as follows:
- Undertake high-level, high-impact transformative and interdisciplinary research and projects which address the many barriers and challenges seen in the implementation of the SDGs and facilitate the pursuit of each of the 17 specific goals
- Offer advice and expertise on matters related to sustainable development and provide technical support in the implementation of the SDGs to government organisations, international agencies, educational institutions, foundations, banks and other stakeholders at the national and international levels
- Test, implement and promote tangible measures and activities to concretely implement the SDGs by means of pilot projects and initiatives in the field
- Provide training (postgraduate and in-service) and facilitate the exchange of ideas and the transfer of technologies by means of symposia, conferences, campaigns, seminars and courses on matters related to sustainable development, vis-à-vis the implementation of the SDGs
The thematic focus of the WSD-RTC is related to each of the 17 SDGs. In addition, since climate change is closely related to sustainable development, and many of the SDGs are addressing the core drivers of climate change, WSD-RTC will give special emphasis to climate change as part of its activities.
In order to meet the above objectives, WSD-RTC combines its own expertise with the know-how of a variety of organisations with proven experience in sustainability research and transfer which are its associate members. In doing so, it ensures that the best available knowledge and technologies are available and can be put to use in both industrialised and – especially – developing countries.
Since national governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 SDGs, and have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in implementing the goals, the work and activities of the WSD-RTC can be instrumental in supporting their work.
The centre is chaired by Professor Walter Leal and a team of two deputy directors, supported by a set of associate directors from across the globe. In addition, the centre has number of associate centres composed of universities, sustainability centres and non-governmental organisations representing the world sustainability community across the world. The main office is managed by two scientific managers who run the day-to-day operations and coordinate the various projects run by and/or performed by the centre in cooperation with its partners.
Consistent with the philosophy of the '2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development', the work of the WSD-RTC is based on multi-stakeholder partnerships – i.e. it seeks to mobilise all stakeholders concerned with and interested in supporting the implementation of the SDGs.
The operational schedule is as follows :
- Announcement of creation of WSD-RTC: 7 April 2017 in Manchester
- Establishment of offices and cooperation agreements with associated offices and partners: April to June 2017
- Official opening: September 2017
Operationally, from 2017 to 2030, WSD-RTC will perform the following activities:
a) Organisation of the biennial World Symposium on Sustainability in Higher Education (WSSD-U-series), the world's premier event for researchers/ practitioners on sustainability in higher education:
- 2018 (Malaysia, in September 2018)
- 2020 (to be held in Africa in September 2020)
- 2022 (to be held in Asia in September 2022)
- 2024 (to be held in the Pacific Region in September 2024)
- 2026 (to be held in Latin America in September 2026)
- 2028 (to be held in Europe in September 2028)
- 2030 (to be held in North America in September 2030)
b) Organisation of the biennial Symposium on Sustainability Science and Research. Following the pioneering World Symposium on Sustainability Science and Research: Implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, held in Manchester, UK on 5–7th April, subsequent events will be planned on a biennial basis:
- 2019 (to be held in North America in September 2019)
- 2021 (to be held in Asia in September 2021)
- 2023 (to be held in the Pacific Region in September 2023)
- 2025 (to be held in Africa in September 2025)
- 2027 (to be held in Latin America in September 2027)
- 2029 (to be held in Europe in September 2029)
- 2030 (to be held in North America in September 2030 to close 'Agenda 2030')
The biennial symposia will cater to the monitoring of progress in the implementation of the SDGs, with a focus on research and technology transfer aspects.
c) Execution of sustainability projects submitted to national and international bodies. The projects will be prepared by WSD-RTC staff and by its various partners. Because they are donor-driven, the themes of the projects will be related to the themes set by the funding bodies, bearing connections with one or more of the SDGs.
d) Provision of advice to government and non-governmental agencies interested in the implementation of the SDGs. Support to national governments and international organisations will be provided in implementing the SDGs.
e) Organisation of courses and training events on the SDGs. In order to build capacity and place staff at government and non-government agencies, as well as those in the private sector, in a better position to implement the SDGs, specific training courses and seminars will be organised. These will be held in the countries which offer to host them.
f) Publication and dissemination of experiences. In order to ensure that experiences regarding the implementation of the SDGs are documented and disseminated, the World Sustainable Development Research and Transfer website will be established. The site will be used to promote both the activities of the WSD-RTF and the work performed by other organisations interested in supporting the implementation of the SDGs. The WSD-RTC staff will also actively engage with publishers and identify suitable outlets for the promotion of experiences.
The staff at WSD-RTC will be present at key events and will interact as much as possible with the user community, always keen to gather ideas, suggestions or advice on how to continuously improve RTC activities.
The founding director of WSD-RTC is Professor Walter Leal (BSc, PhD, DSc, DPhil, DEd, DL, DLitt), a well-known authority and leader on sustainability research, with the relevant management experience, networking and communication skills. Thousands of academics have contributed to his publications – which include the book series 'Environmental Education, Communication and Sustainability', which ran from 1996 to 2014 (published by Peter Lang Scientific Publishers), and the 'World Sustainable Development Series' (published by Springer) – or attended the events he regularly organises.
He is also the founding editor of the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, which is published by Emerald (since 2000), founding editor of the International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development, published by Inderscience (since 2001), founding editor of the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, published by Emerald (since 2008), founding editor of the 'Climate Change Management Series' with Springer (since 2008), founding editor of the 'World Sustainability Series' with Springer (launched in 2015), editor of the International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development (since 2010) with Inderscience, and editor of the World Review on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development (since 2016) with Inderscience.
He is also the founding editor of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (IUSDRP), launched in 2015, and initiator of the World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities (the WSSD-U series), the leading sustainability event, organised every two years at different locations. Professor Leal has 27 years of post-doctoral experience and a solid track record in attracting and managing research projects, having been a coordinator or partner in dozens of international projects, whose total sum to date exceeds €70 million.
The director's tasks are as follows:
- Provide intellectual leadership and strategic direction for the work of WSD-RTC, including on new projects, publications, events and fundraising
- Lead the operative management and implementation of the centre's activities and work plan
- Coordinate the inputs and work of the centre's staff and partners
- Manage relations with internal and external partners in the execution of the centre's activities
In addition to undertaking the operative management of the centre, the director maintains and aims to enlarge the centre's international network in academia, at the UN/government level, and in the corporate and voluntary sectors, which are essential to the activities of WSD-RTC.
Professor Walter Leal
World Sustainable Development Research and Transfer Centre (WSD-RTC)
Hamburg University of Applied Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences