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SDG Conference Bergen
CONCEPT NOTE SDG 2020

Action/InAction – concept note

Read the concept note for the 2020 SDG Conference Bergen, Action/InAction – Technologies and Partnerships.

During the 2018 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) the UN's General Secretary Antonio Guterres stated that the SDGs are off track. In spite of work from governments, academia, civil society and business and industry, the world is not approaching the goals with the necessary speed. Dramatic change is needed to combat serious threats to climate, biodiversity, health and welfare in a context of spiralling social inequality.

In 2020 there are only ten years left to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda. There is an urgent need for action. Political discourse and public debate is often framing technology as the solution, but who will fund this technology? Is business and industry willing to fund high-risk projects? Or is this the role of publicly funded research? And we need to ask even more fundamental questions: is new technology really going to be enough? Do we not also need change in social behaviour? And who will benefit from the new technology? The majority of the world's population is deprived of many of the benefits of advances in technology and economic growth. At the same time these are the people suffering the most from ecological, environmental and social hazards, in particular in relation to health.

For the 2020 SDG Conference Bergen the university sector invites business and industry to enter into dialogue in particular to focus on how to accelerate the speed with which we can transform Earth, and to manage this in a fair and inclusive way. Throughout the conference, ideas and initiatives for providing new solutions and discuss aims to rectify today's unequal development will be raised by different voices, including regions in the global south where alternative economical and societal development are being proposed or practiced.

Suggested topics for the three main conference sessions:

  1. Despite rapid growth in developing renewable energy solutions, global emissions of carbon dioxide are still increasing. The time window for phasing out fossil fuel is rapidly closing. Will engineering and innovation provide us with the solutions we need for sustainable development, or do we also need to change our social behaviour? Will carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere be an important part of the solution, or is solar radiation management what is needed to secure a healthy and prosperous climate for all of us? Can we put on the brakes without lifting the foot from the gas pedal? Where some see future solutions, others see diversions from actions. What is the right balance between technology optimism and technology pessimism?
  2. Technology and education: Transforming access to knowledge for sustainability and equality. “Artificial intelligence (AI) can be a great opportunity to accelerate the achievement of sustainable development goals. But any technological revolution leads to new imbalances that we must anticipate," said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General. In this session we ask how the use of ICT and AI may contribute to the reduction of knowledge inequality within and between societies. Reducing such inequalities is a goal for the SDGs, and may be a tool for universities to develop workable solutions for a sustainable world. We ask: do not these technologies require involvement by very often under-resourced academic communities and their students in order to be successful? Without this involvement, do we not run the risk of producing new imbalances, and new forms of inequality in access to knowledge? Will we miss out on the opportunity of sharing knowledge globally?
  3. Health on a global scale is locked into a “health gap” with substantial inequalities in access for the bottom billion to essential and highly effective health services as well as new advances in gene- and biotechnology. How can “Health in all Goals” contribute to eradication of extreme poverty, protect a healthy workforce, improve economic productivity, and reduce inequalities? How can partnerships for better education, gender equality, clean water, climate action and innovation improve health and wellbeing for all?