A Global First
The United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDG) were officially launched Friday 25 September 2015. Never before have so many peoples and countries agreed about something.
The Centre for International Health (CIH) and other global players in Bergen co-hosted a mini-seminar with Fafo, one of Norway’s largest organisations for applied social research in Oslo. A number of national leaders participated. Researchers from Norway’s Global Health milieu in Bergen responded with short presentations.
Streamed from Oslo
The president of the Norwegian Government (“Stortingspresident”), Olemic Thommessen said that well-functioning democracies are critical for achieving these goals. He also stated that it is no longer a question of the rich countries helping the poor, as seemed to be the case in the UN’s original Millenium Goals, but that now everyone in the world is “in the same boat”. He felt that the SDG represent a framework for moving forward.
Trine Skei Grande, leader of Norway’s “Venstre” (Left) Party, underlined the need to move from discussions of goals to concrete actions and commitments.
Rune Arctander, from the United Nations Association of Norway (“FN-Sambandet”), said that he believed that Norway is capable of providing international leadership in the process of achieving the SDG.
Svein Erik Stave, a researcher from Fafo, issued challenges to the stronger nations, but also to leaders here in Norway: how are countries measuring up in the 17 different areas today? Which of the 17 different goals should be prioritised at home and abroad? How can we measure improvement and success?
State Secretary from Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment, Lars Andreas Lunde informed us that the SDG represent the culmination of the most inclusive global process ever. He explained that the whole idea behind the goals originated in Columbia with a movement to save the ecosystem. He noted that 60% of the world’s ecosystems are currently in decline.
See the Norwegian launching event here from Fafo (in Norwegian).
Presentations from Bergen
Gunnar Kvåle, Professor emeritus from CIH, highlighted the irony that a number of nations signing the SDG agreement continue non-sustainable economies. He was critical to the large number of SDG. He referred particularly to Norwegian and American continued resource exploitation initiatives in the arctic.
Halvor Sommerfelt, the Director of CISMAC (Centre for Intervention Science in Maternal and Child Health), stressed that maintaining the momentum of health interventions for maternal and child health requires continued efforts. These efforts tend to remain unnoticed, and would be evident should the programs falter. If vaccination programs collapse, we will see a surge in child mortality and ill health. We are currently witnessing a revolution in child survival, but, still, approximately 6 million children die before they reach their 5th birthday and most of these deaths can be prevented by simple means. He underlined that the question of equal rights should pervade all the SDG, including the health SDGs, so that also the poor segments of the populations can benefit from them.
Ottar Mæstad, the Director of the Christen Michelsen Institute, said that research centres must work together to ensure that knowledge, priority setting, and political will are in place to make achievement of the goals possible. He stressed that eliminating poverty is priority number 1. Better education, better health services, better governance and employment generation are critical tools for achieving this aim.
Tor Halvorsen, Associate Professor from UiB Global, underlined the importance of having the structures and frameworks in place. He feels that UiB, with its development focus, should take a leadership role in discussions of how to make the SDG operational. He challenges the university to take an active role in the global debate.
As the first woman involved in Friday’s presentations, medical student Andrea Melberg highlighted that there remains work to be done on SDG #5, Equal Rights! She underlined the importance of students and young people becoming involved in the SDG. Become involved, she urges. Debate. Today’s students will solve tomorrow’s problems.
Kai Grieg, from the United Nations Association of Norway (“FN-Sambandet”), spoke of the importance in thinking about all 17 goals and challenged the university to develop a systematic operations plan on how to address all 17.
Ola Jøsendal, from Haukeland University Hospital, has been deeply involved in work in West Africa. Based on his experience with the Ebola crisis, he underlined the need for bureaucratic infrastructure in international cooperation activity. Using the example of resource exploitation in Sierra Leone, he highlighted rich-poor country inequalities and wondered about a need for implementing global economic programmes, such as global taxation.
Vigdis Vandvik, Professor at the Department of Biology, University of Bergen (UiB), began with an ironical greeting from all the other species on earth, which will also be affected by human decision-making. She tweeted that the main message in the SDG is that the wellbeing of humankind depends on nature and ecosystems. Norway has a large global footprint, she says, and that implies a large responsibility. She also highlights the university’s leadership role in spreading knowledge, reflecting critically and asking questions. “We cannot save ourselves without first saving the Earth”, says Vandvik.
Knut Fylkesnes, Professor at CIH, underlined the importance of maintaining a critical perspective. He explained that prioritising is important. In addition to being optimistic, we must also have strategies and action plans; mobilisation and empowerment. He questioned whether it is realistic to speak of eradicating problems.
See the Norwegian launching event here (in Norwegian); the Bergen presentations come after 12-13 minutes.