State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Getting Started with Sustainable Development

SDSN, International Conference on Sustainable Development
The International Conference in Sustainable Development gives students and practitioners from around the world a chance to meet and exchange ideas. Photo: SDSN

Later this year, the member states of the United Nations will launch an ambitious set of goals for sustainable development. These new goals mark a shift in the global agenda toward economic development that better preserves the environment, is socially inclusive, and is based on good governance.

So, how will we get there? The Third Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development on Sept. 23-24 at Columbia University in New York will start to tackle that question. This year’s theme is “Implementing the SDGs: Getting Started.” The aim is to identify and share practical, evidence-based solutions that can support the Sustainable Development Goals. Immediately following the conference, the UN Summit to announce the goals will open.

Jeff Sachs, ICSD, SDSN
Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs, who also directs the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Photo: SDSN

The conference will bring together up to 1,000 international practitioners, scientists, and students. The program will feature a networking reception and keynote addresses by high-level global policy leaders, including Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute Director, Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, and Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. In addition, there will be over 120 presentations by researchers and students.

The conference will be co-hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Programs. Started as a forum to connect students and faculty, it has evolved into a global platform to share research and inform policy decisions about the most important issues facing our planet today.

2015 is a pivotal year for global economic development, marking a transition in the global agenda. The Millennium Development Goals, established by the UN in 2000 to focus world efforts on eradicating extreme poverty and improving public health and education, will come to an end. In order to continue their fork for the next 15 years, the Sustainable Development Goals will be launched. These goals recognize the links between economic development and the need to preserve environmental resources, combat climate change, create more inclusive societies, and build stronger structures of good governance. Unlike the MDGs, which focused on developing countries, the new goals will be universal, and call on all countries to support sustainable development.

Bineta Diop, ICSD, SDSN
Bineta Diop was among the featured speakers at the 2014 International Conference on Sustainable Development. Photo: SDSN

The International Conference on Sustainable Development provides a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from government, academia, the United Nations, international agencies, NGOs, and grassroots organizers to share practical solutions towards the achievement of more sustainable and inclusive societies.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network was created at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring the voice of the academic and research communities into the post-2015 development agenda. Through the network, conference outcomes will feed into the official UN processes on the post-2015 agenda.

If you would like to present at the conference, you must submit a 500-word abstract online by May 16. Full details on abstract submission can be found on the conference website. Abstract submissions should fit one of the 12 conference topics:

1. Accountability and Evaluation
2. Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition
3. Cities and Human Settlements
4. Climate Change and Access to Energy
5. Education
6. Ending Extreme Poverty
7. Financing for Development
8. Governance (including peace building and justice)
9. Health
10. Inclusive Economic Growth / The Role of Business
11. Planetary Boundaries (including biodiversity/ecosystem services)
12. Social Inclusion (including gender & human rights)

The conference is also open to observers (i.e. non-presenters). Simply register online (same link as above) to join us. The registration deadline is Sept. 1, and early-bird (discounted) registration fees are as follows:

  • Full participant from OECD countries: $300
  • Full participant from non-OECD countries: $250
  • MDP faculty & alumni full participant: $150
  • All students: $30

The conference website contains additional logistical information such as accommodation options, visa information, an around-campus dining guide, draft conference program, and proceedings from past conferences. You may also contact us at should you have further questions.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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