On September 7, SDSN Australia/Pacific Network co-hosted the Australian SDGs Summit, the country’s first high-level forum to advance the national implementation of the SDGs. SDSN Australia/Pacific used the occasion to announce its new landmark initiative, the University Commitment to the SDGs, which has already been signed by the heads of five of Australia’s leading universities.
In the first such event in Australia since the SDGs came into effect, close to 150 leaders and decision-makers from government, business, civil society, academia and youth organizations came together to advance Australian action on the SDGs.
The Australian SDGs Summit, which took place in Sydney, was a joint initiative of SDSN Australia/Pacific, the Australian Council of Social Service, the Australian Council for International Development and the Global Compact Network Australia.
At the Summit, leaders discussed the opportunities and challenges of the SDGs for Australia, showcased best-practice examples of implementation, and identified what steps need to be taken collaboratively by different sectors in order to achieve the SDGs. Because of its carefully designed program, the event succeeded in cross-pollinating learnings and experiences of participants across sectors.
The Australian Government played a key role in the Summit. Specifically, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, as well as Angus Taylor, the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, set the scene by explaining the relevance of the SDGs both domestically and abroad. In addition, Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed the Summit and announced the following:
the Australian Government would be setting up an Interdepartmental Committee jointly headed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to coordinate government action on the SDGs.
This is a significant step forward in the implementation of the SDGs in Australia.
One of the key objectives of the Summit was to highlight the existing momentum and support for the SDGs across all sectors in Australia. The SDSN Australia/Pacific announced an exciting new initiative, the University Commitment to the SDGs, to showcase Australian university leadership on the SDGs and to emphasize the important ways the academic sector can contribute to their implementation.
Five leading Australian universities and SDSN members have become the first signatories of this landmark commitment: The University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of Technology – Sydney, and James Cook University.
In doing so, they agreed to:
- Equip the next generation of leaders, innovators and decision makers with the knowledge and skills to address sustainable development challenges;
- Promote research and technical expertise towards developing practical solutions to the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the SDGs; and
- Set an example to others by supporting the goals through their own operations, governance and community leadership.
In addition to the University Commitment, business, civil society and youth organizations also presented statements of support for the SDGs. Notably, the CEOs of over 30 major Australian businesses, including BHP Billiton and the major banks, signed a business statement.
In the coming months, SDSN Australia/Pacific plans to work with other members and universities to increase the number of signatories. Currently, the network is drafting an outcome document including a plan for next steps in supporting Australia’s action on the SDGs.