New York, 9 July, 2019. The SDG Learning, Training, and Practice Center was launched today at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
Dr. Jafar Javan, Director, UNSSC, addressed attendees, detailing the need for and significance of UN SDG:Learn. Read on for his speech.
“We are now at the end of the first cycle of SDG implementation and progress has been made across a variety of sectors. We witnessed a great amount of work which has contributed to advances in decreasing extreme poverty and child mortality, decreasing the incidence of a number of diseases, improving access to electricity and globally moved a number of economic indicators to pre-financial crisis levels.
However, as the Secretary-General is outlining in his progress report, we see that the most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer most and that the global response thus far has not been ambitious enough.
For the next decade of implementation, acceleration will be key. Acceleration will require a fundamental shift in the way we think and act. For transformative change to happen, sustainable development must be embraced and internalised at the individual, community and societal levels. Our efforts must go beyond mere awareness-raising or technical approaches to development.
The uniqueness of the 2030 Agenda is that it challenges us to think and act differently. Rather than applying tried and tested recipes and models, the 2030 Agenda challenges us to think out of the box, and more than anything, it challenges us – to learn.
The first step for different audiences to learn is for them to know where they can find the information they are looking for: This is where UN SDG:Learn comes in. UN SDG:Learn provides a one-stop-shop for existing learning solutions offered on the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. It reduces overlaps and duplications of existing learning products, services, and platforms, it addresses the need for joint learning solutions to support countries, and it provides professional guidance that enables decision-makers, practitioners, and other sustainable development actors to make informed decisions on their sustainable development learning path.
UN SDG:Learn tries to achieve these objectives through a three-pronged approach of Platform, Partnership, and Programme that Nikhil has presented. These components bring the content, actors, and knowledge together. UN SDG:Learn’s slogan ‘SDG Learners today, SDG Leaders tomorrow!’ will continuously guide and drive the community of sustainable development learners.
UN:SDG: Learn is the first step on a wider learning path that all learners should engage in.
Effective learning requires exposure to real-life cases and engagement with real-life actors. Spaces such as the Learning and Training Side events during the HLPF or the manifold face-to-face courses that our institutions offer are crucial. The HLPF itself, as a space for a discussion on lessons learnt, is extremely important.
Effective learning focuses on what you need to know, as much as how it makes you feel and what you do differently as a result. It requires spaces for dialogue, which allow different actors to share the process they went through, the assumptions they made and the results they achieved. In fact, effective learning requires a growth mindset that looks at the difficulties and even failures as a learning opportunity. Be not afraid to share why something has not worked and what can be learned from it. When learning happens in such an environment, learners emerge from the experience with new or improved capabilities to take action. On-the-case learning and experience sharing allows for much greater empathy. It also allows us to see connections between a diversity of issues and understand the imperative for integrated approaches better.
Allow me to say that we are often not brave enough in our learning journeys, stopping at the first step of taking in new information, but not always really demanding what it means for us and how it can transform the way we go about the challenges and opportunities in front of us.
The ability to empathise with a diversity of stakeholders, to understand who is at risk to be left behind and to see the connections between the different issues and actors involved, is a prerequisite for transformation.
Effective learning also understands that learners have different motivations and desires to learn and matches such motivation and desires with the appropriate learning solutions. In essence, effective learning in the context of sustainable development needs to be transformational learning that fundamentally shakes the way we look at the world and the action we take.
The 2030 Agenda requires new types of knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable people working on sustainable development to adapt their thinking, working, and behaviours to take action to promote and implement policies for sustainable development. Transformational learning also requires us to unlearn. Sometimes we have to let go of what we thought was an age-old truth that we don’t need to question. Transformative learning allows us to question the way we do business – literally meaning the way we finance development, the way we mobilise people and partners, the way we look at global trade, innovation and the economic paradigms we follow.
The Secretary-General made it clear that for the UN to support governments more effectively, UN staff need to acquire new skillsets for integrated analysis and coherent policy design and a sound understanding of the use of data and evidence. It involves aligning budgeting and financial management to sustainable development policies, strong political economy analysis, and know-how of participatory approaches that foster collaboration to achieve a whole-of-society approach to sustainable development.
His message holds equally true for the learning that is required for civil servants, as well as all other actors. A transformative culture of learning also requires a new culture of leadership at all levels, that fosters collaboration, systems-thinking and co-creation, while focusing on the ultimate impact we want to achieve and upholds the values and norms we stand for.
To generate new ideas and create an environment that allows transformative change to take place, people need a safe space to be creative, freely exchanging thoughts with other people from different disciplines and breaking silos that make such exchanges difficult. Strengthening multi-stakeholder platforms such as UN SDG:Learn serves as a precursor to building partnerships at a scale that corresponds to the ambition of the 2030 Agenda and provides opportunities for a new generation of learning solutions.
Thank you to all of you for supporting the UN SDG:Learn initiative, and I invite you to use it.”