The 8th UN Summer Academy, organised by the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) will be held in Bonn, Germany from 26 to 30 August 2019.

This year’s theme “The 2030 Agenda: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead” will focus on reviewing progress made so far in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as extending a view into the near future.

While previous editions of the UN Summer Academy were held at UNSSC Headquarters in Turin and at the UN Headquarters in New York, the City of Bonn has been hosting the five-day event since 2016. The Summer Academy thereby benefits from the City’s role as a sustainability hub and home to more than 20 different UN entities and programmes, as well as more than 150 international organisations working on various thematic areas related to sustainable development. The UNSA also benefits from its location in the heart of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, which provides numerous examples of sustainable development practices and innovations.

The UN Summer Academy  provides an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders to look at progress to date and ways to accelerate SDG implementation, just one month before member states gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to follow up and comprehensively review progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at Heads of State and Government level. The September summit will be the first UN summit on the SDGs since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015. It will be convened alongside a Global Climate Action Summit to regenerate and reinforce the global impetus required to address the challenges ahead.

While progress has been made on SDG implementation, especially with regards to combating extreme poverty, numerous challenges remain and the world is off track for achieving the vision of the 2030 Agenda at this juncture. Various reports published ahead of the SDG Summit, emphasize the need to be mindful of current megatrends, to accelerate efforts and draw on the ability and resources of all actors to support governments in fulfilling the commitments made.

The Global Sustainable Development Report, to be published in time for the Summit, notably underlines the need for six knowledge based transformations to sustainable development: human wellbeing and capabilities; sustainable and just economies; energy decarbonization and access; food systems and nutrition patters; urban and periurban development and global environmental commons. All transformations constitute entry points for policy interventions and action and come with impediments, levers, integrated and context specific pathways and require a call to action. Four levers are identified in particular: governance, economy and finance, individual and collective action, as well as science and technology.

With 10 years to go to the SDG deadline, the world is called to renew its commitment, pay stronger attention to pathways towards integrated solutions and to ensure that the knowledge, capabilities and resources of all actors are aligned towards the common goals for humanity and the planet.

In this vein, more than 100 selected participants and speakers from over 40 countries will join the UN Summer Academy this year at the UN Campus’ historic Haus Carstanjen, where the UNSSC Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development is located. During the 5-day interactive programme, participants of the UN Summer Academy will deepen their knowledge of the core substance and processes related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Coming from a broad range of institutions, representing national and local governments and international organisations, as well as civil society, academia and the private sector, participants have a unique opportunity to learn from each other and explore possibilities of building partnerships.

Three different full-day field trips to regional sites will provide first-hand exposure to real-life cases of eco-social transformation in the context of sustainable development. Visiting one of Europe’s most modern waste management centres and a renewable electricity project in Lindlar, a solar thermal power plant and the largest artificial sun in Jülich, as well as a geothermal heat project in the Rhine Valley, the excursions bring issues related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and waste management to the fore, crucial for any efforts to combat the climate crisis and advance sustainable development.

This year, Ludger Siemes, Director General of European and International Affairs in the State Chancellery of North Rhine-Westphalia, will open the UN Summer Academy. Ibrahim Thiaw, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will follow with a keynote address on progress made in the context of the 2030 Agenda on issues related to life on land.

High-level representatives from Bonn-based UN entities such as Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and Marina Ponti, Head of the Global Campaign Center of the UN SDG Action Campaign in Bonn, will provide insights into the role of their agencies in contributing towards a more sustainable future.

Different panel discussions will focus on key questions of sustainable development and climate action. Notably, Imme Scholz, Acting Director of the German Development Institute, will interrogate the notion of transformation for sustainable development and Moira Faul, Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute and Deputy Director of the Public-Private Partnership Center, will lead an interactive session on creating partnerships to advance policy coherence. During the panel on catalyzing resources for sustainable development, Elmer Lenzen, founder and CEO of Macondo, will discuss the role of the private sector and the need to measure its impact towards sustainable development, while Massamba Thioye, Manager of the Sustainable Development Mechanism Program of the UN Climate Secretariat will focus on block chain technology and climate policy making. Another panel will bring together representatives from various municipalities, along with Yunus Arikan from ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) and Annette Turmann of Engagement Global, exploring ways to accompany transformations at the local level.

Participants will also have the opportunity to join more than 20 interactive and application–oriented workshops, so-called AppLabs, during the week. AppLabs cover a wide range of topics such as design thinking for innovative approaches to implement the 2030 Agenda, the circular economy, the usage of mass media, campaigns and other mobilization tools to promote the SDGs, tackling the world’s biggest challenges with exponential technologies, reporting on results of implementation, as well as sessions on specific local sustainability initiatives.    

A Share Fair and a World Café will complement the diverse programme. The Share Fair, in particular, provides a platform for participants to share their experiences and contributions towards furthering the sustainable development agenda, present their organisations, as well as connect and build partnerships across the world – all in an innovative and engaging format.

The UN Summer Academy prides itself in bringing together participants from diverse backgrounds and locations. This year, participants will come from a variety of agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations System, as well as from other international organisations such the European Parliament and East African Development Bank.

Representatives of various government agencies and ministries of countries such as Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Germany, Nigeria, Mexico and Denmark will provide policy insights at national and sub-national level. Local government representatives from cities in Germany, Ghana, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Cameroon and Albania will share local sustainable development examples.

Academic insights and research results will be provided by participants coming from universities and research institutes from around the world. Participants from foundations and non-governmental organisations, as well as from the private sector, will also contribute their experience and technical expertise to the various discussions.

All participants are united by the ambition and promise of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and their hope to contribute to its achievement as well as learn from peers through an open dialogue. The UN Summer Academy prides itself in providing engaging learning formats and a safe space where learning is fostered through a combination of discussions underpinned by academic rigour, solution-oriented workshops, and informal gatherings that facilitate knowledge exchange.

The organisers of the UN Summer Academy would like to thank Engagement Global,  the City of Bonn, the German Diplomatic Academy, the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as the State of North Rhine-Westphalia for their excellent support to the Academy overall and for bringing diverse participants from across the world each year. The State of North Rhine-Westphalia has been particularly generous this year, providing the means for the UN Summer Academy to organise three excursions to different regional sites, carried out by the NRW Energy Agency.