UN-SDG: Is “Business-as-Usual” In Higher Education The Solution to Promote Sustainability

The 2030-agenda, goals for sustainable development, call for transforming our world and putting it on effective road for achieving global sustainability (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) has prerequisites for success, one of which is IMPERATIVE. This specially important for less favored regions in general and the developing countries in particular.

“Bussiness-as-Usual” in high-education can never be appropriate if we really would be successful in promoting the UN-SDG, i.e. in terms of the existing constrained frames of time and the effectiveness of the promotion process, i.e. for transforming our world and putting it on an effective and high-speed road for achieving the UN-SDG. There is very little done by global universities, even the top ranked international universities, to promote an effective international collaboration and global engagement in the defined UN-SDG by the Paris-agreement of 2015. Universities around the world still carry-on and run by “Bussiness-as-Usual” policies, i.e. very limited, if not at all, international exchange, education and research programmes in favour of the less-developed-regions and the developing countries to contribute more in sustainable and appropriate socio-economic developments. Everything still go on with the conditions and roles at the western universities and societies in the developed countries where top graduate students, early-stage expertise and innovative professionals and researchers are being drained from the developing countries to assist in western development programmes. Such western programmes are based on the national needs at the developed countries, i.e. to promote their industries, technologies and societies in the western already developed regions. Even the universities and research institutes in the developing are not re-negotiating their conditions and terms of collaboration to protect and maintain their own young talented professionals, early-stage researchers and graduates, benefit from them and engage them in national projects. There are even strong lack and continuity in national policies in the developing countries what regards R&D and education strategies. This have negative long-term and large-scale feed back impacts on world economy including the economies in the developed countries as the larger part of the market exist in the less favored regions and the developing countries at least what regards mitigation of the global negative impacts of climate change.

The question is now with such “Business-as-Usual” policies how would the developing countries and less favored regions be able to implement the UN-SDG for their own socio-economic developments. Is the UN-SDG designed to promote sustainability in the developed world only? Would the UN-organisations ever be able to eradicate global poverty, just to take an example, and to improve quality of living in the developing countries and the less favored regions by the ongoing drainage of qualified labor and resources from the developing and less favored regions to the developed countries in the west? 

When the EU, for example, wanted to reduce the socio-economic gaps between its member of states, the high-education systems and research policies in Europe were revisited, changed and restructured and the less-favored regions were given higher priorities for participation and engagement in all R&D and higher education programmes. Why then the same roles and policies are not applied in this case; here there is clear double-standards. Since at least half century ago the universities that I worked with, and in, (e.g. Sweden, Egypt, UAE, USA, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, France, Germany, Maroccoo, …….) are still following the same traditional policies what regards international collaboration, in particular their engagement in the promotion of life quality and sustainable developments in less favored and developing regions outside Europe and North America.

In the documents of the UN-SDG they come with statements like “To effectively begin the implementation of Agenda 2030, access to knowledge and information will be essential for policy makers and community leaders to design well-informed and effective policies and strategies”. Knowledge for whom? and for which policy-makers? and FOR which community leaders? Other statements in the UN-SDG are “The SDGs Learning, Training and Practice sessions, which will take place from 11 to 15 July 2016, will focus on sessions supporting the HLPF theme: “Ensuring that no one is left behind”. Which is exactly contrary to what is happening on the ground right now, i.e. leaving behind early-stage professionals, expertise and graduates from the developing countries and screening them out of the process to participate in the promotion of UN-SDG for sustainable future in the developing world? Do the UN-SDG aim to provide a strategic vision and practical knowledge to participants on how to find effective sustainable solutions for the developed world only? Existing policies of higher education and R&D in the developed countries illustare clear focus on using UN-SDG as arguments to further promote Business-as-Usual, i.e. to support their national programmes for gaining more control of the world natural resources, e.g. land-, resource- and manpower grabbing. Very little is being done in terms of establishing coordinated and well-funded international education and R&D programmes with effective outcome for the less favored and less developed parts of the world.

Unfortunately the academic sector, i.e. higher education and R&D, around the world has shifted more and more towards economic interests rather than towards balanced interests that fulfill the three main pillars of sustaibility, i.e. social, environment and economic. 

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