Prof. @shyamaramani of @UNUMERIT representing the UNU community at @SDGglobalFest in #Bonn! She spoke on the panel for “The Power of the Collective: Leave No One Behind”. #ACT4SDGs #GlobalGoals pic.twitter.com/bsVjYMLjNN
— UN University (@UNUniversity) March 23, 2018
‘Leave no one behind’ is one of the boldest commitments in the UN’s 2030 Agenda. But what exactly does this mean? UNU-MERIT’s Prof. Shyama Ramani and Dr. Maty Konte joined the Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development in Bonn, March 2018, to explain our work and efforts across the board. In so doing they stressed the importance of research, outreach, and evidence-based policymaking to ensure that truly no one is left behind.
Leading a plenary session, Prof. Ramani said that UNU’s holistic approach, working on all SDGs while respecting the interconnections, will be key to achieving the agenda. Yet research alone, even world-class research, is not enough. It has to be filtered, translated, made relevant to funders at the top of the pyramid and voters at the bottom. It has to be made digestible and accessible for both policymakers and the general public in a virtuous circle that reinforces scientific literacy.
The control and flow of knowledge is critical in this regard – but never has it been so challenged or manipulated as in our ‘post-truth’ era, said Ramani. This has led to real-world tradeoffs in power relations, with knowledge used as currency or ammunition at all levels: from family circles to civil society to the international community.
As the fine line blurs between opinion and fact, research and expertise are at risk of being swept away by the media tsunami. One answer is to shore up the scientific method and peer review process as the ‘gold standard’ in the quest for ‘truth’. But that is only half the battle.
As a global think tank and research network, UNU must improve its communications and connections to both citizens and decision makers: i.e. broadcasting and ‘narrowcasting’. In other words, make sure our research is widely read, well understood, and that it ultimately feeds into policymaking. To this end, Ramani pointed to various UNU initiatives including ‘Site4Society’, the ‘UNU Jargon Buster’, and the ‘Reach and Turn’ science reporting series.
Helping girls and women in Africa
Later in the day Dr. Maty Konte was interviewed on UN WebTV for the festival’s SDG Studio (followed by Dr. Mathew Kurian from UNU-FLORES). Speaking about her upcoming book on ‘Women and Sustainable Human Development – Empowering Women in Africa’, Konte stressed the dual importance of education and political participation, i.e. the need to mobilise knowledge. This means better schools, better opportunities for girls, and fairer, more transparent political processes for women.
The key message of the book is that women will not be empowered by focusing solely on SDG5, for gender equality. Rather, said Konte, we need to put women at the centre of ALL the SDGs. We need to mainstream their participation, in a kind of ‘gender full spectrum‘ approach. She added that the book focuses on Africa because that is one of the regions where women have clearly been ‘left behind’. Finally, Konte weighed up the ambitious timeframe of the SDGs, saying that the agenda is not likely to be achieved by 2030 — although 2050 may be possible. Watch the full interview here.