Sustainable Development Goals: your inspiration to make a change

Sustainable Development Goals: your inspiration to make a change

What do no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and quality education have in common? Along with twelve other key objectives, these issues feature among the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are laudable and, of course, important for the challenging times in which we live, but why should the SDGs matter to you or the EAIE? The current issue of EAIE’s Forum magazine aims to explore that very question!

Released this week, the Winter 2017 installment of Forum brings a selection of articles to our doorstep that give us valuable food for thought about the variety of ways that matters of human development, environmental health and economic stability intersect with our work in the field of international education. The perspectives offered by the various authors included in this issue are thought-provoking and exciting.

Fostering sustainability – an evolving concept

Consider the information provided in the piece by Hilligje van‘t Land, who serves as secretary general for the International Association of Universities (IAU). She reminds us that, as far back as 1993, IAU adopted the Kyoto Declaration on sustainable development, “urging higher education leaders to foster sustainable development locally and globally.” Over the years, IAU has developed a series of relevant action plans focused on higher education for sustainable development (HESD), produced the IAU Global Survey on HESD, and today hosts the “IAU Global HESD Portal”, with a searchable database of examples of sustainable development actions being taken by universities in approximately 80 countries around the world.

Partnerships from every corner of the world

It is fascinating and encouraging to discover that a great deal of work related to the SDGs is being tackled by institutions – individually and in collaborative arrangements with partners – across Europe and beyond. The partnership approach seems particularly relevant, in light of the scope of the issues that the SDGs endeavour to address. Examples of such partnerships can be seen in Canada-based Caroline Voisine’s article presenting the work of the U21 Health Sciences Group. It is evident in Christopher Tremewan’s consideration, from his perch in Hong Kong, of how a coalition of universities across the Pacific region is working to “save the Pacific Ocean”. It will again come through later this week on the Forum Week blog post on the U4 Network, involving universities based in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, with a shared focus on “environmental, ecological, and social sustainability”.

Where the EAIE community fits in

The issue’s featured interview with Alexander Betts, who was a keynote speaker at the EAIE Conference in Seville earlier this year, highlights ways in which we all might consider how our institutions can contribute to more sustainable and inclusive modes of internationalisation. Such approaches to our work represent the powerful proverbial “tide that lifts all ships” – a notion that makes all the sense in a world in which our interconnectedness is profound and, despite political and social movements aimed at separating and closing us off from one another, likely irrevocable. Han Aarts’ musings on the fundamental place of sustainable development as a driver of internationalisation places much of this conversation in context for us. Indeed, the EAIE is, ultimately, an association that promotes good practice among international education professionals for a reason: quite simply, to play our part in making the world a better place.
Yet, even the EAIE can unwittingly inflict harm on the planet, despite working with tremendous passion to do good in the world. A key example of this is the way that the EAIE’s own annual conference can be seen as a major source of CO2 emissions. It’s gratifying to see the EAIE’s growing self-awareness in this area and the Association’s willingness to take real action to address such concerns – for example, with the move late this year to establish an EAIE Education Forest via tree-planting initiatives in several locations around the world.
The Sustainable Development Goals may, at first glance, seem abstract and distant from our daily lives as international education professionals. But, I find that the articles presented in the current Forum issue on this topic give me a genuinely personal and thoroughly practical sense of connection to these vitally important action areas. I hope many others can find some inspiration in this discussion, as well. Our work and our institutions can make a difference, and there are many exciting ways to do so. Hopefully you will not only enjoy this issue of Forum, but can also find ways to carry its timely message forward in the new year and beyond. The future – our future – quite literally depends on it.
Laura is Chair of the EAIE Publications Committee and Associate Director at the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, USA.
Today is the start of Forum Week on the EAIE blog, where we will be posting three additional articles not included in the magazine. Be sure to check in the rest of the week for more great content on the Sustainable Development Goals. Download your magazine now and be on the lookout for your printed copy in the mail soon. Not yet a member but want to see what the magazine is all about? Download the editor’s pick then join us today!

Laura E. Rumbley
EAIE, the NetherlandsLaura is Director, Knowledge Development and Research, at the EAIE.