How can we advance efforts to achieve the transformative changes that are required to build a sustainable future for all?
The 6th UN Summer Academy (UNSA) brought together 118 dynamic sustainable development actors to learn and explore new pathways to achieve the sustainable development goals. Drawing from their unique country contexts, the participants who hail from 58 different countries engaged in a series of action-packed sessions where they discussed the challenges that humankind faces today, and the constraints that hamper the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Under the theme “Sustainable Transformation Pathways” they engaged with sustainable development thought leaders, and world-renowned members of faculty to ideate immediate and future solutions that can accelerate work towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
The Academy featured plenary sessions, engaging working groups, and side events which were hosted by global sustainable development experts and experienced facilitators. The sessions had a focus on critical thematic areas such as health and well-being, climate action, and social protection. Participants also explored transformative thought frameworks like systems thinking, futures thinking, and design thinking.
“Learning about design and futures thinking as tools that can make people and organizations successful was the game-changer. The role-playing of real-life situations drove home the point. I now realize that decisions are better made when I can visualize the future differently, and understand the impact of my choices. UNSA is a place to make great connections,” said Olusegun Michael Otitoju, Senior Environmental Scientist, who joined the UNSA from Nigeria.
Reflecting on his key takeaways, Kenjiro Siburian, Project Engineer of BlackForest Solutions GmbH who joined from Germany, said “UNSA provided insight and practical exercises for applying methodologies to engage and collaborate with stakeholders from different sectors. This can lead to interactive exchanges and joint solutions for cross-cutting issues that are related to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.”
Eric Awere, Senior Lecturer at the Cape Coast Technical University joined UNSA from Ghana and noted that: “The UNSA 2022 exceeded my expectations. The multi-faceted delivery approaches by experienced speakers, in a dynamic platform which fostered networking was not like anything I could have imagined. The UNSSC team was great and I enjoyed their facilitation. My mind has been juggled. I am ready to implement transformational changes that will see us achieve the 2030 Agenda.”
With less than a decade left to reverse lost gains and achieve the 2030 Agenda, global multistakeholder actions and dialogue are becoming more critical than ever. UNSA 2022 participants indicated that the felt that they we in a better position to advance their work on the SDGs following the programme. They found the hands-on practice sessions, peer-to-peer learning, networking opportunities, and the knowledge exchange sessions particularly useful.
Youssef Nassef, Director of the Adaptation Division UNFCCC, led the Climate Crisis and Futures Thinking session and reminded participants about the importance of shifting their mindsets to achieve meaningful sustainable development outcomes. “We don’t need to assume the persistence of today's systems tomorrow. Sustainable climate futures need a paradigmatic mindset shift from extractive to regenerative systems.”
Through UNSA, participants were invited into a safe space to unlearn, relearn, reflect, think, speak, co-create and reimagine a new reality for the world. Sandhya Balasubrahmanyam, Learning Portfolio Manager at UNSSC, noted that UNSA was her best week of the year given that the intense learning and knowledge-sharing week drives participants to commit to actions and mindset change for sustainability. “Seeing the enthusiasm and commitment to drive change for themselves and their networks makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
The UN Summer Academy 2022 marks its 6th year in the City of Bonn, a sustainability hub and host to organizations of the United Nations for the past 25 years. In line with this, Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) welcomed participants in the opening session and Katja Dörner, the Lord Mayor of the City of Bonn, offered her support and encouragement to participants during the closing ceremony.
UNSA 2022 ended on a celebratory note with the Amsterdam Music Project who delivered a fantastic musical performance that left participants in high spirits.