UCL Global


UCL hosts global conference on UN SDGs

5 November 2020

A host of eminent speakers from across the world joined the conference to discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Headshots of SDG conference speakers

From 19-29 October, the Beyond Boundaries: Realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals conference, brought together world-leading experts and champions of sustainable development to examine how universities can galvanise research and teaching to support the SDGs.

Jointly hosted by the Global Engagement Office and UCL Grand Challenges, thousands of attendees from over 55 countries joined the event online to hear presentations and panel discussions on a range of key topics including sustainability in a COVID-19 context, achieving inclusive wealth and addressing global inequalities.

Over 60 speakers joined from countries including Australia, Japan and South Africa and from across government, academia, the media and UCL's key partner institutions. They included Special Envoy of WHO Director-General on COVID-19 Dr David Nabarro, Guardian and Observer investigative journalist Carol Cadwalladr, Delhi-based environmentalist and author, Dr Sunita Narain and Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

UCL’s own researchers also presented and chaired, including Pro-Vice-Provost Professor Deenan Pillay, Regional Pro-Vice-Provosts Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu and Monica Lakhanpaul, renowned economist Professor Mariana Mazzucato, former WHO Director Professor Anthony Costello, SAGE advisor Professor Susan Michie and climate scientist Professor Mark Maslin.

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), said: “This conference was a tremendous opportunity for UCL staff, students and the public to come together to discuss how and if universities, through research and teaching activities, can contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“We hope that Beyond Boundaries has inspired attendees to collaborate across both physical and disciplinary boundaries in efforts to confront the global challenges set out in the UN’s Agenda 2030. As London’s Global University, we hope that the outcomes of this conference will enable us as an institute to make progress towards a new strategy on the SDGs to guide us through the next decade of action.”

In the conference’s opening session, attended by over 460 people, keynote speaker Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Professor of Natural Prosperity, Sustainable Development and Knowledge Systems at UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, discussed the need to create a more sustainable economic model focused on wellbeing, urging the world to build forward better from COVID-19.

Dedicating her talk to the late Professor Dame Georgina Mace, an acclaimed ecologist and conservationist, Professor McGlade highlighted the two potential futures the planet faces, exploring the impact of the pandemic and its profound implications on the environment and inequalities.

Professor McGlade, former Chief Scientist at UN Environment Programme, said: “While the COVID pandemic has greatly hindered many aspects of our lives, it has made us more aware of our capacity to rapidly transform our lives and our economies, especially when governments and society adopt a values-led approach. Our success at managing COVID is also a good indicator of how well we will recover in the coming months and years and especially which forms of leadership will enable us to go beyond simply building a “better” version of the past.

“What we can see is the need to work together at all levels - from the community up to national government - towards shared endeavours and civic norms. Getting the Sustainable Development Goals back on track is a good way to do this and to give us direction, towards a fairer, more environmentally sustainable world for future generations.”

To watch the session recordings, visit the Beyond Boundaries conference websiteFor any questions about the conference, please contact beyondboundaries@ucl.ac.uk.

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