Past events put our global systems and sense of humanity to test. Continuous learning in the areas of leadership, knowledge, and partnerships will be even more crucial if we are to prepare for future crises and make a sustainable future a reality.
In a recent call to action, the UN Sustainable Development Group (UN SDG) called for a global response that must match the scale of the crisis as no country will be able to exit COVID-19 alone. The UN SDG also called for all of us to learn from this pandemic, build back together, and strengthen our commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to better respond to future crises.
Urgency to Act
With COVID-19’s triple hit to health, education, and income, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned that global human development could decline this year for the first time since 1990, which can reverse the progress made in development in the past decades.
The Urgency to Learn for a Sustainable Future
We must seize this crisis to do things differently by thinking differently, behaving differently, and acting differently for a sustainable future. We can prioritize three areas of learning and knowledge sharing to support building back together and create more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive societies: leadership, knowledge, and partnership.
One strong message that emerges from recent issues—from the novel coronavirus, natural calamities, and unrest—is the need for all actors to rise to the urgent task of addressing the complexity of issues at hand in an integrated manner. Collaborative leadership is key as no single entity or person has all the information needed. Leaders need to rely on different resources, trust the capabilities of experts, groups, and communities, and engage other leaders and the public in their efforts to overcome the challenges we are facing.
Complex, non-linear, dynamic challenges in situations of insufficient resources, and incomplete information require impactful, purposeful, and agile leaders who can stay in the development path towards achieving a sustainable future. As we recover better and build back together, it is important that leaders learn together, build trust, and reduce the fragmentation in their field.
It is not an impossible task and there are a couple of examples we learned at UNSSC.
To increase the resilience of societies and stay on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda, all stakeholders must share a common understanding of the interlinkages and interdependencies of the dimensions of sustainable development and the SDGs. Learning for the 2030 Agenda must focus on a whole-of-society approach, with learning experiences aimed at enabling the UN system and all relevant actors to internalize the five dimensions of sustainable development—people, planet, prosperity, partnership, and peace or the 5P’s.
In the past months, UNSSC has seen an upsurge in registrations in the online courses (currently 3,200 registrations, showing 100% to 500% increase per course) from individuals working in the UN, governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector. In fact, for the first time since the establishment of the UNSSC Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development, we will be welcoming more than 600 participants from different countries and sectors on June 15 in two of our online courses. UNSSC has also seen an upsurge in the completion rate of online courses, which surpassed 70% in a recent online course (completion rate ranges from 50 -81%). More importantly, it is imperative for people to apply what they learn to achieve results.
With global emergencies affecting health, climate and environment, and peace, full-scale global solidarity and cooperation are needed more than ever. With the demand for resources greater than normal and with impacts of such complex issues affecting us all, building partnerships and strengthening cooperation are central in a whole-of-society approach.
Learning and building new skills on partnerships and cooperation will be more important, for example, in the roll-out of the Cooperation Framework between the UN and countries as well as financing for sustainable development. The role of regional commissions is becoming even more critical in learning and knowledge management. It is within this context that the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA) leads joint programmes on learning, training, and knowledge management to accelerate SDG learning and training for the Arab region.
An effective response to sustainable development challenges needs to be multi-dimensional, coordinated, swift, and decisive. All need to play their part in the response as no single country can do this alone. At the UNSSC, we are constantly exploring and reflecting on emerging learning needs and ways to address them. We stand ready to tailor offerings that speak to the issues, skills, and behaviors that are required for individuals and organizations to build back better, together.
If you are interested in any learning offerings mentioned in this article, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in our blog posts are solely those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of UNSSC, the United Nations or its members.