On 29 April, 2019, SDSN Indonesia co-hosted a symposium at the National Library of Science of Indonesia to explore the role of science to support the SDGs, and to launch the SDG Hub at the University of Indonesia. This Hub was created to encourage a collaborative approach to implementing the SDGs. As one of the world’s largest economies, Indonesia has a critical role to play in the implementation of the SDGs. Not only does Indonesia host some of the most biodiverse-rich forests in the world, but it also maintains a massive greenhouse gas emission stock in its underground peat swamp forests, alongside a growing palm oil industry. Like most countries, Indonesia has much to gain in strategically implementing the SDGs. In order to support this work, many researchers and Universities are coming together to emphasize the role of science and research to support national planning for a sustainable future.

In addition to launching the SDG Hub, the Symposium offered a day of discussion on the implementation of the SDGs. Three keynote addresses framed the day’s discussions on the role of government and planning; the importance of evidence-based decision making; and the impact of the landscape approach for local problem-solving.

The from the Indonesia Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), Prof. Bambang Brodjonegoro, the Minister of Planning, provided a thorough history of how Indonesia has integrated the SDGs into its National Planning strategies. He discussed the macroeconomics at play and the traditional role of capital and labor as inputs to increase the gross domestic product of an economy. In his remarks, the Minister emphasized the need for Indonesia’s industrial sector to be innovative and to retain more of the product development and manufacturing processes within the country. Put simply, he emphasized a need to move to higher value commodity products and to grow local labor markets within the country, limiting the export of raw natural resources. Looking ahead, the Minister emphasized the role of industry in Indonesia’s future (SDG 9) and showed how the SDGs could be used to ensure that growth within the industrial and manufacturing sectors can be achieved more sustainably when all the SDGs are considered in that planning.

Rob Hales from the Griffith Center for Sustainable Enterprise at Griffith University discussed various evidence based approaches to the SDGs. In his presentation, Professor Hales highlighted the possible roles of different stakeholders and the unique landscape we currently reside in with “Post Truth” media, where many times our emotional and personal beliefs are taking precedence over factual statements. Professor Hales also discussed the challenges of our global political environment and noted the U.S. and Australia as specific examples. He duly emphasized the fact that politically speaking, we cannot simply assume that all of our leaders are in support of the SDGs and for that reason, academia has a major role to play in elevating and showcasing the importance of integrated long-term planning and the critical role of the SDGs.

In conclusion, Professor Jeff Sayer of University British Colombia Canada presented his work on the “landscape approach” and shared several case studies of innovative development projects he has participated in across Indonesia. In his work, Professor Sayer studies the interface between people and nature, and uses a “landscape approach” to reconcile environmental conservation and economic development goals. He defined the “landscape approach” as a long term collaborative process bringing together diverse stakeholders aiming to achieve a balance between multiple and sometimes conflicting objectives in a landscape or seascape – SDG16. As demonstrated by the various conservation projects Professor Sayer presented, we simply cannot attempt to conserve our natural environment without also ensuring the sustainable future of the local people. But while “industry is needed, and investment is needed, we also need care.”  The “landscape approach” which Professor Sayer has developed over the course of his career and has had published in numerous scientific journals, can be used to achieve progress toward what may seem like competing goals between our natural and human ecosystems.

The three presentations showed the incredible progress to date made in Indonesia to implement the SDGs. In the summer of 2019, Indonesia will voluntarily participate in its second SDG Voluntary National Review (VNR) process at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York. SDSN Indonesia Chair, Jatna Suprinata has been a key consultant in that process and has helped the country to map its development metrics to the relevant SDG indicators. Indonesia’s submission to the VNR process will serve as an exemplary case study for SDG integration from which other countries can learn.

The symposium was made possible by the following partners and co-organizers: the Institute for Sustainable Earth and Resources FMIPA University of Indonesia, the Indonesian Science Fund (DIPI), the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI), the Indonesia Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia (Bappenas), and Perwaku (Association of Environmental Scholars).