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Just a few hours after consensus was reached in New York on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outcome document, SDSN Philippines was launched in Manila on Monday, August 3. Over 300 participants from the universities, civil society, the private sector, the Philippine Government, and the international community welcomed the new network which uniquely places universities and other research and knowledge institutions to contribute to the attainment of the SDGs in this rapidly growing Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 million people.

SDSN Director, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, drew attention to the historic agreement of 193 nations earlier that same day in New York. He said that the SDGs will mark “the end of business as usual” and guide a “change in direction” for the world. Professor Sachs noted that the Philippines would be hard hit by climate change, and is especially vulnerable to typhoons, floods, droughts, and sea level rise. He highlighted the special role and responsibilities of universities in leading innovation and problem solving, while preparing a new generation of sustainable development practitioners.

Representing the Philippine Government, Professor Arsenio M. Balisacan, Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning and Director of the National Economic and Development Authority, a former Dean and Professor of Economics at the University of the Philippines at Diliman, drew attention to recent impressive economic growth in the Philippines – averaging 6.2% per annum for the past 5 years. However, Professor Balisacan argued that “economic growth is necessary but not sufficient for sustainable development”. He called on the academe, civil society, and the private sector to work with government “to invest in sustainable solutions through closer partnerships”.

Numerous high-level participants from diverse sectors gave strong vocal support for the mission of SDSN Philippines and the need for the SDGs. Speakers included: Professor Solita Collas-Monsod, convener and former Chair of the Philippine Human Development Network and former Minister of Socio-economic Planning; Secretary Florencio Abad, Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management; Mr. Jose Rocamora, renowned political activist and civil society leader and Lead Convener of the National Anti-Poverty Commission; Professor Leonor Magtolis Briones, head of the Alternative Budget Initiative of Social Watch Philippines; Mr. Metodio Maraguinot, Jr., a youth leader and founder and president of YouthLEAD Philippines; Mr. Ola Almgren, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines; and Mr. Roger Carlson, representing USAID, which provided generous financial support for the launch.

Immediately following the public launch, members of the inaugural SDSN Philippines Leadership Council (LC) signed a Pledge of Commitment and convened. They unanimously elected Professor Emmanuel S. de Dios as the LC Chair. Professor de Dios is Oscar M. Lopez Sterling Professor of Law and Economics and former Dean at the UP School of Economics. The LC further agreed to establish a Secretariat for SDSN Philippines at the UP School of Economics and to convene a multistakeholder planning meeting to develop and prioritize an SDSN action agenda within the next three to four months.

Press coverage:

UN Expert Urges PH Economic Planner: ‘Reorient strategy to sustain development’The Manila Times,  August 3, 2015

Political will, improved planning deemed needed for post-MDG tasksBusiness World Online, August 3, 2015

Jeffrey Sachs: Philippines has much to teach worldThe Rappler, August 3, 2015