The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and higher education


UNODC & academia: Inspire. Change. Together. to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Universities (and other higher education institutions) have a crucial role to play in today’s rapidly changing global system, which is increasingly driven by knowledge, information, innovation and ideas. However, as noted by several higher education leaders, it would be short sighted to limit the scope of higher education’s role to being important only for economic development and a source for innovative ideas to resolve today’s problems. Instead, higher education institutions need to be supported and recognized as places where the next generation will be empowered to become the leaders that are needed for tomorrow. Equally important to prosperity and innovation are leaders who understand the rule of law, good governance and how organized crime, terrorism and corruption can be countered effectively.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States recognized that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are interrelated. A prime example of this interconnectedness is that peaceful, just societies and strong institutions are essential to sustainable development. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Agenda highlights the importance of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. At the same time, SDG 4 on education is described as key to promoting sustainable development. SDGs 4 and 16 are regarded as “enablers” within the 2030 Agenda and are both essential for the other Goals to be achieved.

Bianca Kopp, Education for Justice initiative, UNODC, is joined by Hilligje van’t Land, Secretary General of the International Association of Universities, and César Wazen, Director of the International Affairs Office of Qatar University, to discuss the role of higher education in advancing the SDGs, what different universities around the world are doing, how impact can be assessed and why the SDGs are as important for higher education as higher education is for the advancement of the SDGs.


Hilligje van’t Land

Secretary General of the International Association of Universities and Executive Director of the International Universities Bureau since September 2017

For the past two decades, Dr. van't Land has worked at IAU committed to making higher education a key driver of societal change and has positioned the IAU as lead partner network in the UNESCO Global Action Program on Education for Sustainable Development by promoting the role of higher education and research in addressing the goals set in the context of Agenda 2030 (HESD). Prior to joining the IAU, Dr. van’t Land taught comparative francophone literature at the Universities of Groningen, Laval (Québec) and Avignon et les Pays du Vaucluse. She holds a PhD in comparative contemporary francophone literatures from Groningen University in the Netherlands and completed a post doc research period at Laval University (Québec) before moving back to France. She speaks six languages and produced a number of publications related to higher education.

Interested in IAU’s Cluster on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development (HESD) and in working with IAU? Please visit their website.


César Wazen

Director of the International Affairs Office, Qatar University

Mr. Wazen’s interests in rankings, academic accreditation and student assessment are backed by extensive experience teaching mathematics and statistics as well as in whole-school accreditation. He holds a BSc in mathematics, a teaching diploma and a master’s in educational administration and policy studies, all from the American University of Beirut and is currently pursuing doctoral studies in European and International Studies.

Interested in the efforts of Qatar University to become a hub for SDG teaching and the upcoming events mentioned in the talk? Please visit their website.


Bianca Kopp

Global Coordinator of the higher education component of the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Bianca has been working for the United Nations since 2010, including for the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the UN Democracy Fund, and for various sections in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Prior to this, she was working for the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as a researcher and lecturer at the Department of Political Science of the University of Salzburg, Austria. As a survivor of the terrorist attack on the UN in Nigeria in 2011, she is a strong advocate for the role education has in countering radicalisation and in strengthening rule of law worldwide.

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