January 2017 marks the first year of existence of the UNSSC Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development which was established on 1st January 2016 by the Staff College with the generous support of the Federal Republic of Germany. During its first year of operations, the Knowledge Centre has been able to successfully live up to its mandate of providing comprehensive learning and training opportunities to UN staff and partners in the context of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement for climate change.

Through its Knowledge Centre, and within a short period of time, the Staff College has been able to place itself as one of the key learning and training institutes for sustainable development. It did so, by integrating knowledge across UN agency mandates, by fostering inter-agency coherence and strengthening dialogue within and beyond the UN system, and by facilitating catalytic learning in support of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Reflecting Back on 2016

Promoting multi-stakeholder engagement and partnerships for learning has been one of the highlights of the first year of operations of the Knowledge Centre. The Centre identified and engaged with various partners to address and fulfil a diverse range of learning needs of UN staff and other stakeholders. In 2016, five separate partnership agreements were signed and concluded with the SDSN Association, Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP), Consensus Building Institute, Data Pop Alliance and Simpleshow Foundation. Through these agreements, the Centre began collaborating with its partner institutions for the design and development of a diverse set of learning products around courses on the SDGs and the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Centre collaborated with numerous other institutions for the delivery and facilitation of its courses in 2016. Some of them are ROI Institute, UN Global Compact, Hertie School of Governance, UN Development Operations Coordination Office (UNDOCO), German Development Institute (DIE), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and UNOSSC.

During the course of 2016, the UNSSC Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development delivered 20 courses and contributed to 18 different learning events. The trainings focused on various thematic areas like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, stakeholder engagement, building partnerships for sustainable development, big data, south-south and triangular cooperation and UN country programming. While the majority of learning offerings were delivered during face-to-face sessions, e-learning opportunities were also provided, which comprised self-paced learning modules and instructor-led live webinars. Some of the live webinars featured renowned experts on sustainable development like Dr. David Nabarro (UN Special Adviser on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), Johan Rockstroem, (Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre) and John Hendra (Senior UN Coordinator “Fit for Purpose” for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda) and Halldor Thorgeirsson (Senior Director for Strategy, UNFCCC).

More than 881 individuals were trained in 2016, which included UN staff members as well as representatives from the private sector, civil servants, academia and civil society. Participants came from over 118 different countries representing all major regions of the world.

In 2016, the Knowledge Centre also introduced a new segment to its already existing Peer Talk platform, called Peer Talk LIVE. Peer Talk LIVE provides a platform for UN staff and stakeholders from academia, foundations, civil society and the private sector to join live webinars and ask senior UN officials in real-time. Last year’s edition of Peer Talk LIVE consisted of two webinar sessions featuring three distinguished speakers including Mr. Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy and Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, UN DESA, Ms. Katja Hujo, Senior Research Coordinator, UNRISD and Ms. Gabriele Koehler, Senior Research Associate at UNRISD. The two sessions fostered fruitful discussions on the implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and policy innovations required for achieving transformative change.

What Participants Have to Say

As a learning institute, the Staff College puts special emphasis on participants’ feedback and opinions to further develop and improve its course portfolio. With this in mind, we decided to reach out to some of our participants to share with us some of their key takeaways from our trainings. Here’s what they had to say:

“The learning and training provided at the Knowledge Centre deepened my understanding of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, its human rights based foundation, universal applicability as well as the holistic approach of the SDGs.” said Dr. Joy Alemazung, Project Manager at Engagement Global, who attended the 2016 edition of the UN Summer Academy. When asked about the extent to which he was able to apply the learning acquired at UN Summer Academy to his work, he elaborated that “Since our work at Engagement Global is centred around education on development politics, I have been able to incorporate important SDGs components and diverse targets of the different goals in all our educational work. With this basic knowledge about the SDGs, I am better placed to advise and promote the work and activities of our target groups which include local governments, municipal governments, state and non-state actors in the field of development politics and development cooperation.”

Mr. Rogers Dhliwayo, Economics Advisor at UNDP Tanzania, said that “I enrolled in two courses with the UNSSC Knowledge Centre namely the Foundational Course on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and UN Country Programming in the Context of the 2030 Agenda. The two courses equipped me with a sound understanding of the concept of sustainable development as well as the vision and principles of Agenda 2030. They widened my scope on the three pillars of sustainable development while taking a look at the inter-linkages between climate change, planetary boundaries, social inclusion and human rights and also the linkages with the UNDAFs.”

Looking Forward to 2017

With the successful conclusion of the Centre’s activities in 2016, the Staff College is looking forward to 2017 with great enthusiasm. In the new year, the Centre will offer a range of learning opportunities in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a start, we are pleased to launch three new learning products: the Close the Loop - SDG 12 Online Course, Leading in Sustainable Development and the UN-Private Sector Partnerships. To learn more about these and other courses, you can check the Centre’s course overview here.