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The 72nd Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) opened at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, September 13, 2017. The General Debate of UNGA 72 opened on September 19, 2017. SDSN and our partners hosted the following events in and around the UNGA:

Meet the Networks

September 17, 2017

In advance of the UN General Assembly in New York, SDSN hosted a special event at Columbia University for Permanent Representatives from the UN in New York to showcase the work undertaken by SDSN’s National and Regional Networks. SDSN Chairs and Network Managers presented the work of the networks, including SDG localization efforts, publications, solution initiatives, and SDG training. A lively discussion ensued with the Permanent Representatives on how universities can best support the implementation of the SDGs. Following this event, the National and Regional SDSNs will deepen their collaboration with their countries’ missions at the UN.

SDG Advocates Meeting

September 17, 2017

Professor Jeffrey Sachs participated in a meeting of the SDG Advocates, hosted by the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. The SDG Advocates are a group of 17 eminent persons, who support the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General in their leadership on SDG implementation. During the meeting, the SDG Advocates presented their ongoing work and ideas for future activities in support of their mission. The group also discussed the vision and future role for the SDG Advocates.

SDSN Network Coaching Program

September 17- 20, 2017

SDSN hosted a Coaching Program for National and Regional SDSN Managers at Columbia University. This workshop was made possible with the generous support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Facilitated by GIZ, the group reviewed strategies for fundraising, outreach, member engagement, community building, and solution initiatives for sustainable development. We were very pleased that over 18 National and Regional SDSNs participated in the meeting.

International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD)

September 18-19, 2017

The SDSN and the Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Programs (MDP) held the Fifth Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD) on September 18 & 19, 2017. The aim of the conference was to identify and share practical, evidence-based solutions and research that can support the SDGs. This year’s conference theme was The World in 2050: Looking Ahead for Sustainable Development. Over 1,300 participants attended the first day where we heard from several stellar speakers including two heads of state, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. SDG Global Advocate Dr. Alaa Murabit and UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim also provided keynote remarks along with several panels focused on SDG implementation. The second day was filled with over 100 presentations from professors, researchers, students, and practitioners. Fifteen “Best Paper” awards were given and a poster session was held with over 40 posters present.

Concert for a Sustainable Planet

September 18, 2017

As part of the 2017 International Conference for Sustainable Development (ICSD), on September 18th at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, SDSN and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) presented a “Concert for a Sustainable Planet.” This multicultural and interdisciplinary performance focuses on the essential role of the arts in achieving the SDGs.

Some of the world’s most outstanding artists participated in the performance: cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Revital Hachamoff, composers Ronen Shapira and Merlijn Twaalfhoven, choreographer Mimmo Miccolis partnering with Gloria Benedikt, and string players Gilad Hildesheim, Tali Kravitz, Alexander Osipenko, Maya Belsitzman, and Cesare Zanfini. The scientist, singer, and entrepreneur Ehud Shapiro emceed the evening and performed works by Mahler, Shapira, and Ulmann.

Navigating the Data Revolution: SDSN TReNDS Learning Session

September 19, 2017

SDSN’s Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) launched a new report Counting on the World. TReNDS also held an annual learning session in conjunction with ICSD where students and practitioners engaged with leading experts on how to build modern, fit for purpose, national data systems for sustainable development. The three-part event tackled key challenges highlighted in the new report, including data sharing and interoperability, increased use of geospatial data for disaggregated monitoring, and subnational monitoring of the SDGs.

World Leaders Discuss a Global Pact for the Environment

September 20, 2017

UN officials, policymakers, civil society leaders, and academics converged at Columbia University to discuss efforts to promote a Global Pact for the Environment. The day prior, French President Emmanuel Macron formally introduced the Pact at the UN, with the support of leaders from Bolivia, China, Egypt, Fiji, Gabon, India, Mali and Poland, among others. The Global Pact for the Environment aims to create a legally binding “umbrella text” for international environmental law that would establish a universal right to a healthy environment. 

Amazon Solutions Day

September 20, 2017

Amazon Solutions Day took place on 19 September during ICSD with participants joining virtually from Manaus (Brazil), Leticia (Colombia), Moyobamba (Peru), and New York (USA). The event used web conferencing to connect an array of stakeholders to debate and share knowledge on achieving the SDGs in the Amazon. Discussions focused on solutions that were low cost, had a low carbon footprint, were open access, and supported the broad involvement of the public and a wider exchange of experiences. The event was hosted by SDSN Amazonia and supported by UN-Environment, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Organization of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACTO), Instituto de Investigacíon de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP), Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones Científicas SINCHI, and Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Amazônicas (INPA).

Make SDGs Happen Through Integrated Thinking

September 20, 2017

As a side event to ICSD 2017, SDSN co-hosted the Make SDGs Happen Through Integrated Thinking Workshop alongside SDSN Italia partner Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli (LUISS) which took place on 20 September at Columbia University. Professionals, academia, and members of civil society gathered to discuss the sustainable strategies that the private sector can adopt that contribute to SDG implementation. Speakers from a variety of industries presented on the ways in which businesses can rethink their organizational structure in a manner that allows for competitiveness and growth while also contributing to SDG achievement. Building on the emerging concept of Integrated Thinking, the issues discussed included:

  • alignment among business objectives, SDGs and the value chain;
  • collaboration between finance and sustainability units;
  • identifications of performance, KPIs and trade-offs;
  • difference between strategies of sustainability and sustainable strategies;
  • communication of the performance achieved through business reporting;
  • connections among SDGs and business model processes of innovation;
  • impact of the SDGs on materiality, connectivity, and stakeholder engagement;
  • the role of the board in the implementation of integrated thinking; and
  • partnerships for the SDGs.

Low-Emissions Solutions Conference

September 20-21, 2017

 Under the Paris Agreement, every country has committed to prepare a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) by 2018, running to 2030 and a Low-Emission Development Strategy (LEDs) by 2020, running to 2050.

In order to assist nations in the technical preparation of their NDCs and LEDSs and operationalize the Paris Agreement, the Low-Emissions Solutions Conference convened professionals, technical experts, and world-leading scientists and engineers alongside ICSD and Climate Week in New York. This event was specifically designed to collect cutting edge research that will be critical to helping the world stay within the 2-degree limit, as defined in the Paris Agreement. The outcomes from this event will feed into a special LESC event at COP23 coming up in November 2017.

This LESC had five sessions focusing on issues of “scale”, including the quantitative scale of the emissions problem; the geographical scale of policy action; and the physical, financial, and time scales of technical solutions:

  • Deep Decarbonization Pathways: Where Do They Lead?
  • Renewable Electricity Systems: How High Can You Go?
  • Demand Side Solutions to Renewable Integration: Do They Scale?
  • Autonomous and Electric Vehicles: On the Road to Deep Decarbonization?
  • Alternative Energy, Nuclear and CCS: What are the Prospects?