SDG Conference Bergen


2019 SDG Conference programme - preliminary

Preliminary programme for the 2019 SDG Conference Bergen: Thursday 7 and Friday 8 February.

For enquiries on the SDG Conference Bergen, please contact the Conference Secretariat.

Day One: Thursday 7 February


Conference Opening

Session 1 – re:thinking I // Education and Global Inequality

The global knowledge society is highly unequal. The resources for renewing our common knowledge base is concentrated among the few. Every university, and the universities within cross national networks must themselves work to reduce this inequality. A broadening of the student access, the distribution of resources, the opportunity for research, space for critical thinking and participation in the international communities of academics are steps towards knowledge equality. As argued by one of the speakers at the first conference on the SDGs: "It is important that your own institution lives the goals!”

“Living the goals” legitimizes the critical role of universities. When the goals were agreed on, they were justified by the need for a “formative shift” of our development path. But this re:thinking of the path of development also needs a re:thinking of how and what knowledge is needed for such a shift and how to make it relevant.

This session will have a particular focus on SDG4 (Quality Education) and SDG10 (Reduced Inequalities).


Session 2 – re:thinking II // Climate Action and Economic Growth

This session will address issues related to alternative pathways towards a sustainable future. Modern renewable energy is not more costly than fossil anymore, but what does it take to have it implemented fast enough? Will rebound effects and continued economic growth lead to devastation of the environment? Which human needs are essential for a good life? Can techno-optimism be reconciled with ecological economics? An underlying theme for the session will be to discuss which types of knowledge are needed in order to make informed policy decisions.

This session will have a particular focus on SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG13 (Climate Action).

Conference dinner (Grand Selskapslokaler)

Day Two: Friday 8 February

Opening Day Two

Session 3 – re:working // Knowledge for Partnerships

The first two sessions at the 2019 SDG Conference Bergen will show the in-built and unresolved problems in the 2030 Agenda. These problems set the stage for the third session of the conference – re:working. How can we find avenues for knowledge that highlight the more uncomfortable, and even risky and unsettling issues, in order to work in a meaningful way with Agenda 2030? What kind of research do we need, in which areas and how can this knowledge be transmitted to the field of policy? As Katherine Richardson stated in her opening address at the 2018 SDG Conference Bergen: “The SDGs are NOT only about solutions.” This is an important recognition because it opens and widens the field of knowledge that is relevant for the SDGs. What kind of knowledge do we need if the SDGs are not only about solutions, but also about asking the right kind of questions?

This session will have a particular focus on SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

Closing session – 2030 Agenda // Global Governance and the universities

The questions raised in this session are:

  • What kind of global partnership and global governance is needed in the post-2015 SDG era?
  • How can universities and university networks contribute to the strengthening the global partnerships called for in the 2030 Agenda?

The 2030 Agenda is a success story for the UN multilateral system. Based on significant contributions from several hundred experts a compromise was concretized in a number of sub-goals and targets (169) asking for more and tighter interchange between knowledge and politics.

At the same time, the UN multilateral system is under pressure. Bilateral interactions, regional networks and a multitude of alternative global initiatives, funds and agreements emerge outside the UN umbrella. We observe that the global knowledge community is being split by regionalization, bilateral priorities, and national strategic interests. Authority and legitimacy of the multilateral system is weakened despite the unique agreement on the 17 Goals.

As argued by OECD in their report on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (OECD 2018:3), we see a growing “unfair globalization and the erosion of trust in the multilateral system”. If we want to strengthen the global governance of the multilateral system for the sake of fair globalization in line with the UN Agenda 2030, what should then be the role of higher education and research?