SDG Conference Bergen

SDG Conference 2018

Knowledge for our common future – plenary programme

From a global perspective, this conference addresses Norwegian universities and their roles in the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, officially known as “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.



The University of Bergen (UiB) is organising a major conference on the role of Norwegian universities and their international networks in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The ambition is to engage Norway’s research and higher education communities, politicians, government officials, NGOs, and business sector in a collective effort to take responsibility for the implementation of the SDGs. The objective is to discuss how universities can carry out research to inform the implementation of the goals, and to explore transformations of higher education to meet the needs of future generations.

In this conference, we will discuss what actions universities can take to reach the SDGs: How do the SDGs call for the transformation of research and research dissemination? How do we transform our higher education institutions in line with these goals?

Five plenary panels and several parallel workshops with researchers, politicians, UN officials, representatives of civil society and the business sector, will illuminate opportunities for innovation in research practice, collaboration, and the design of higher education curricula.


Registration and welcome

09:00 –09:50 Registration

10:00 – 10:30

Welcome: Professor Annelin Eriksen, Vice-Rector for Global Relations, University of Bergen.

Introductory remarks by:

Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Government of Norway.

Professor Dag Rune Olsen, Rector, University of Bergen.

Panel 1: Universities and the role of knowledge in shaping and implementing the SDGs

10:30 – 12:00

Dr. Katherine Richardson
Professor of Biological Oceanography, University of Copenhagen, and member of the group of eminent scientists and experts who will prepare the UN Global Sustainable Development Report.

Dr. Shantanu Mukherjee
Chief, Policy and Analysis Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA).

Dr. Elma Montaña
Professor, National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, and Director of Science Programs at the InterAmerican Institute for Global Change Research, Uruguay.

Dr. Tore Furevik
Professor, Geophysical Institute, and Director of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, University of Bergen (UiB).

Moderator: Professor Inga Berre, Department of Mathematics, University of Bergen (UiB).

In his letter of May 2017 to Leaders of Universities and other higher education institutions around the World, then President of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson, emphasized the importance of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs: “Their universality, their integrated nature, and most importantly, the logic behind them”. His request was to “make these goals an integral part of research, teaching and study”. The 17 SDGs and how they interact as a whole ask for a new kind of knowledge. Interlinking the goals challenges established disciplinary borders, and opens avenues for creative and innovative interdisciplinary cooperation. How should universities use and channel research and education for best to promote relevant knowledge in approaching and implementing the SDGs?

Panel 2: The social, economic and ecological dimensions of development and their relevance for the SDGs

13:00 – 14:30

Dr. David C. Smith
Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development, University of the West Indies, and member of the group of eminent scientists and experts to prepare the United Nations Global Sustainable Development Report.

Dr. Katja Hujo
Senior Research Coordinator, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).

Dr. Peter M. Haugan
Professor, Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen (UiB), and Chair of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO).

Dr. Helge Brattebø
Professor of Industrial Ecology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and Acting Director of NTNU Sustainability.

Dr. Henrik Österblom
Associate Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden.

Moderator: Professor Amund Måge, Marine Director, University of Bergen (UiB).

An UNRISD report from 2016 concluded that “by bringing together the social, economic and ecological dimensions of development, the 2030 Agenda seeks to lay the foundation for a new twenty-first century compact, one that overcomes the mid-twentieth century arrangement that guided development theory”. How is this “new compact” to be developed? To what degree will environmentally friendly technology also lead to less inequality, more jobs, and redistribution of wealth and to a separation from energy growth? How can universities, shaped by disciplines, develop new interconnections among disparate fields of knowledge towards the transformations needed for this new compact?

Panel 3: Transformation from within: creating SDG-reformed universities

14:45 – 16:15

Dr. Pam Fredman
Professor and former Rector, Gothenburg University, and Chair of International Association of Universities (IAU).

Dr. Ingerid S. Straume
Senior Academic Librarian, University of Oslo (UiO).

Ms. Liz Helgesen
International Secretary for global activities at Unio (Confederation of Unions for Professionals), Norway.

Dr. Victoria W. Thoresen
Associate Professor and UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.

Dr. Edward K. Kirumira
Professor and Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda.

Moderator: Mr. Jakob Grandin, PhD candidate, Department of Geography, University of Bergen (UiB).

Many universities are transforming themselves to accommodate the SDGs as part of their education and research, be it through curriculum changes, revision of learning outcomes, or through the ways disciplines and faculties connect to promote new shared understandings of how the SDGs are linked. Universities have a unique position for mediating knowledge to society as a whole, from the educational system, via state governance and to the general public. How do we best educate students for the jobs of the future — for professions that naturally integrate the universal scope of the SDGs in their operations? Can this be achieved without first using our own knowledge on ourselves, in terms of becoming role models for general employee behaviour, energy use, and procurement, and in terms of how we interact with other universities, in research networks and a diversity of partners across borders?

Parallel workshops

16:30 – 18:00

Conference dinner


Dinner hosted by the University of Bergen Rectorate.


Panel 4: Knowledge and politics: the science-policy interface

09:00 – 10:30

Dr. John Hearn
Professor of Physiology, University of Sydney, and Chief Executive of the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN).

Dr. Desmond McNeill
Professor, Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo (UiO).

Dr. Hilligje van’t Land
Secretary-General and Executive Director, International Association of Universities (IAU).

Dr. Anna Nordén
Project Manager, SDSN Northern Europe, Centre for Environment and Sustainability (GMV), Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Mr. Samuel Malinga
Managing Director, Sanitation Africa, and one of the 17 Young Leaders for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working with the Office of the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.

Moderator: Professor Kikki Kleiven, Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen (UiB).

The design and agreement by the United Nations on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was an intense process involving delegations, politicians, civil society and scientific experts. The global academic community and its networks engaged in both advising and informing politics and in acting politically on behalf of knowledge. The United Nations 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report noted that more than 500 independent scientists, as well as experts from a number of UN agencies and affiliated organisations from all over the globe, contributed to the report’s debates on the science-policy interface. How can universities as a global network contribute with, and engage knowledge in interaction with, politics in the implementation of the SDGs?

Prime minister Erna Solberg, Government of Norway

10:45 – 11:15

Parallel workshops

11:30 – 13:00

Panel 5: The way forward for the SDGs: How can universities make a difference?

13:30 – 15:15

Dr. Dag Rune Olsen
Rector, University of Bergen (UiB).

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi
Secretary-General, United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Ms. Borghild Tønnesen-Krokan
Senior adviser on UN Sustainable Development Goals, The Norwegian ForUM for Development and Environment.

Mr. Jon Lomøy
Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

Dr. John-Arne Røttingen
Chief Executive, The Research Council of Norway.

Dr. Inge H. Rydland
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (TBC)

Ms. Johanne Vaagland
MA student, Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen (UiB).

Moderator: Professor Edvard Hviding, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen (UiB).

Universities need to reform themselves as organisations, as teaching institutions, and in their research profiles. Universities need to give advice on difficult issues and take on academic controversies about how the SDGs can best be realised. Ideally, universities should contribute to the transformative shift by being a societal actor volunteering the “best argument”. How can, and should, universities build and give advice to the UN, the EU, other regional organisations, and national governments striving to implement the SDGs? How do we reform curricula to ensure that students are graduating from our institutions with the necessary SDG credentials?


15:15 – 15:30

Professor Annelin Eriksen, Vice-Rector for Global Relations, University of Bergen (UiB).