The International Association of Universities (IAU) has launched a Global Cluster on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development (HESD) to advocate for the key role that higher education institutions play in achieving Agenda 2030. This global endeavor directly engages universities in addressing all 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The IAU HESD Cluster consists of 16 lead universities, one for each SDG; IAU leads the work on SDG 17 on global partnerships. The lead universities, which are based in all world regions, will work with ‘satellite’ universities to advance a particular SDG, all the while ensuring synergies among all goals.
The Cluster has two main objectives. First, it will serve as a resource and networking hub for universities around the world. Universities that are already engaged in SDGs locally can establish partnerships through the Cluster and scale up their activities. Those who are just starting this line of work will be able to turn to the Cluster for collaboration and guidance on best practices to translate and advance SDGs in local, national and international contexts.
Second, the Cluster aims to be a global voice for higher education in sustainable development debates (including at the UN High Level Political Forum, HLPF), informing international organizations and national governments about the role of universities in achieving the SDGs. It will foster collaboration and exchange among all stakeholders and inform decision-making at local and global policy levels.
As SDG 4 is both a singular goal as well as interrelated with all other SDGs, it is of utmost importance to ensure its successful implementation. Higher education plays a crucial role in these concerted efforts to achieve a more sustainable future. Institutions of higher education in their preparation of future generations have the potential to greatly influence society’s knowledge, values and perspectives on and beyond campus. By engaging their research, teaching and community service capacities, higher education, perceived and valued as a common good, can help in the societal transformations required to successfully address and achieve the 17 Global Goals. As such, institutions of higher education can play major roles as individual or collective entities and within national sustainable development strategies.
Focal Point SDG 4: Katrin Kohl, Executive Chair Coordinator, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability, mailto: kkohl(at)edu.yorku.ca.