Millennium Development Goals within reach - what next?
Many targets have been met in several regions, but progress in other areas is far from sufficient. What strategies do we need for the global society of the future to ensure sustainable development, including for poor countries? This will be the theme for the summer research school in Bergen in 2015.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have over the last 10-15 years directed worldwide attention to neglected global social issues and have triggered much research in a wide range of disciplines. But with the challenges appearing in the wake of a changing climate, many people ask whether the MDGs have actually made a contribution to sustainable development.
The MDG Progress Chart 2014 shows that several important targets have or are close to be met by 2015 in many regions and sub-regions, while progress in other areas is far from sufficient.
“The MDG initiative shows that it is possible to create common goals at the top level of the international community. One can of course find gaps and shortages in the way the MDGs were followed up, but no one can ignore the potential they created for global development. Critical inputs are valuable and add power to the goals,” says Professor Rune Nilsen at UiB’s Centre for International Health. He is the scientific director of Bergen Summer Research School (BSRS) 2015.
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New generation of leaders
"The world is facing so many complex challenges that we will need leaders who increasingly come from higher education and research. That is why research training is so important for the direction of tomorrow's society," says Professor Nilsen.
Every summer, BSRS gathers almost one hundred doctoral students and researchers from all around the world to take an interdisciplinary look at the major global challenges the world is facing.
"The education of future leaders must give them transferable knowledge. It is of fundamental importance that this interdisciplinary knowledge is based on sound values. With this as its basis, framework and goal, BSRS seeks to contribute to a sustainable society of the future. "
The United Nations emphasises the importance of research and institutions of higher education in shaping the global development agenda. New knowledge, critical analysis, and scientific methods should underpin discussions on what should follow the MDGs.
"Complex challenges underlie the new development goals. Therefore, we will cross both disciplinary and geographic boundaries by bringing together an international panel of scientists and doctoral candidates from the natural and social sciences, the humanities and law," says Professor Nilsen.
Transformation vs. adaptation
The process of developing a framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is well under way, and will be in place by the end of 2015. These new development goals provide the framework for the scientific courses and the important discussions they will create at the Summer Research School in 2015.
“The new sustainability goals will give a lift to the greatest challenges of our time - climate change and poverty - and create a platform where they are sought solved in conjunction,” says Hans Geir Aasmundsen, scientific coordinator for BSRS 2015.
‘Transformation’ and ‘adaptation’ have emerged as key concepts in the debate about the global challenges. Will adaption to new realities be sufficient or is a more profound change at the socio-cultural level required? What would such a change mean for attitudes, values, religion, language, culture and politics?
“Does the global economy need to be transformed - and if so, in what way? Should we rely on the development of new technologies? And in a power perspective: who sets the agenda and who speaks on behalf of whom? There are many challenges and even more questions!”
BSRS’s five courses will deconstruct the SDGs and look at energy of the future, challenges related to fair governance and inequalities, and health provision for vulnerable groups such as children and women in vulnerable positions.
“How do we develop a sustainable goal for health and what is the historical background and the normative guidelines that underlie accountability at national and international level? The SDGs recommend cultural transformation. But, what is culture - does it include tradition, religion and language? How can they be changed - imposed or by itself?” asks Aasmundsen.
Analyses and creative solutions
The next summer research school is largely a synthesis of BSRS’s previous sessions which raised, with the help of Bergen’s many research clusters, interdisciplinary aspects of the Millennium Development Goals. Last year's focus was on how governance can meet global development challenges.
The courses are intended as a basis for reflection, critical analysis and constructive discussions. A series of roundtable discussions will gather activists, politicians, practitioners and researchers within science, humanities, social sciences, and law to sharpen their arguments and gain new insights and ideas. Many of the events are open to the public.
"BSRS provides the opportunity for researchers and doctoral students from around the world to network, spend time with accomplished researchers and professionals, and get to know the strong and active research clusters in Bergen. We put together a research education where participants encounter issues from many angles such as energy, climate, political governance, religion, prioritisation of welfare, child and maternal health - all with a global and comparative perspective," say Aasmundsen and Nilsen.
Bergen Summer Research School was established in 2008 as a joint initiative between the University of Bergen, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen University College, the Norwegian School of Business and Administration and Uni Research.