Auburn University joins Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Published: April 12, 2019
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Nations of the world are addressing a list of daunting economic, social and environmental worldwide challenges, and Auburn University is contributing to the local, national and global solutions.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, or SDSN, recently launched a U.S. chapter to mobilize and support America’s colleges, universities and other leading research institutions.

Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, represented the university at the historic opening meeting at Columbia University in New York.

“As a land-grant university, Auburn is already a leader for several sustainable development goals,” Alavalapati said.

The SDSN has been operating since 2012 under the U.N. secretary general to promote practical solutions for sustainable development by accelerating joint learning and promoting integrated approaches that address interconnected global challenges. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, were established in 2015 in pursuit of eradicating poverty and deprivation cultivating a thriving and inclusive economy, protecting the environment, and promoting peace and good governance.

At the SDSN USA opening meeting, representatives of more than 60 academic institutions around the nation developed a work plan for the new network, focusing on priority SDG challenges facing the United States.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network website emphasizes that “universities are critical to the success of the Sustainable Developments Goals, through their teaching programs, research activities and powerful ability to convene leaders of government, civil society, academia and business to collaborate on SDG solutions.”

As members of SDSN USA, Auburn University faculty will collaborate with Sustainable Development Solutions Network scholars and organizations around the world in efforts to fulfill the SDGs at local, national and global scales.

“Our membership in the SDSN US Chapter will enhance our capacities to advance these SDGs through national and global networks,” Alavalapati said.

The second Sustainable Development Goal is “a zero hunger world,” and the Auburn University College of Human Sciences has been a leader in this fight since 2004.

June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences, and Harriet Giles, managing director of the Hunger Solutions Institute, visited the SDSN headquarters at Columbia University in New York as a follow-up to the charter meeting and about Auburn’s leadership role among universities in eliminating hunger and malnutrition.

“Network leaders were excited to learn about Auburn’s longstanding commitment to hunger elimination, which began in 2004 in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme, and has led to the formation and oversight of Universities Fighting World Hunger, Presidents United to Solve Hunger and End Child Hunger in Alabama,” Giles said.

Following the meeting, Henton and Giles invited a SDSN representative to participate in the annual PUSH Leadership Forum in Portland, Maine. The representative addressed a group of high level college and university administrators from across the country and around the globe about the role of the SDSN and ways in which universities can contribute, including the creation and use of online courses for the Sustainable Development Goals Academy.

“The PUSH Forum provided an excellent opportunity for SDSN to recruit new members and for PUSH and SDSN to begin discussing potential ways in which these two networks can join forces to accelerate the elimination of hunger and malnutrition,” Giles said.

“Meeting the objectives of the seventeen SDGs by the target date of 2030 is crucial if we are to ensure a livable future,” said Mike Kensler, director of the Auburn University Office of Sustainability.  “Dean Henton and Dr. Giles’ engagement with SDSN leadership is a perfect example of Auburn’s capacity to make substantial contributions to reaching the SDGs. Already, it is clear that joining SDSN will expand our opportunity for engagement and amplify the impact of our efforts.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.