Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Contributions from the Humanities

It is widely agreed that achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals requires the insights, knowledge and comparative perspectives of Humanities disciplines. The UNESCO Hangzhou Declaration of 2013 highlighted the importance of culture as ‘an enabler and driver of sustainable development’. Yet the Humanities have so far featured relatively little in work on the SDGs.


In spring 2021, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies ran a short research project to investigate the reasons for this gap between the potential and actual contribution of the Humanities. We worked jointly with SHM, a consultancy firm which specialises in applying insights from the Humanities to solving problems for businesses, public policy-makers and NGOs.

We held a series of interdisciplinary discussions among a range of UCL researchers, from PhD students to professors. The aims were to identify ways of applying Humanities insights to work on SDGS and to make proposals for policies to help ensure that the Humanities are fully integrated into the debates from now on.

On this page you can find a short report on our findings, information about the app-based tool by SHM and existing work to encourage and support recognition of the potential contribution of the Humanities to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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