Key ‘Takeaways’ from the International Conference on Sustainable Development

By Eromose E. Ebhuoma –


A defining moment for me, at the International Conference on Sustainable Development hosted by the University of Columbia, New York, USA on the 26 – 28 September 2018, was listening to plenary speakers who highlighted the ways in which they have personalised, and are actively pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, for example, stated that his personal SDGs are both 1 (no poverty) and 14 (life below water) respectively. Also, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, revealed that New Zealand factors the SDGs into everything it does. What was enlightening to me is the fact that New Zealand’s 2019 budget is tagged the ‘wellbeing’ budget. According to the Prime Minister, ‘the wellbeing budget will unashamedly look into investing in future generations’. A key takeaway from these examples is that in order to contribute significantly towards fulfilling the agenda of the SDGs, I need to personalise some of the SDGs and pursue them vigorously. As the Crown Prince of Norway stated, every individual, not just political leaders, must be actively involved in the quest to create the future we want.

Another key takeaway from the conference is that to change the world for the better, I must have faith in my ability to make a difference. Listening to various speakers’ who provided insight into the ways they are ‘getting their hands dirty’ in pursuing the SDGs instilled in me the confidence that no idea, no matter how ‘little’, is worthless. It is a matter of nourishing and acting on the little ideas that can contribute positively in a profound way towards achieving the SDGs. Ideas, more often than not, need finances to flourish. This is especially true in terms of ensuring rural people adapt more efficiently to climate change in order to obtain and secure sustainable livelihoods, an issue that I am deeply passionate about. This is one of the numerous aspects where the conference organisers did an impressive job by hosting a plenary session titled ‘Innovative solutions for financing the SDGs’. This session provided useful tips regarding sourcing funds to implement projects aimed at actualising the SDGs.

It was refreshing for me to note that there are institutions like the IEEE that are committed to funding projects in Africa and other developing countries that are feasible and sustainable in order to facilitate the actualisation of the SDGs. The overarching goal of IEEE is to advance technology for the benefit of humanity. The IEEE hosted a workshop on 28 September to provide delegates with examples of technological innovations used to pursue the SDGs, amongst other issues. The organisers also provided clarity on the sort of projects they fund, which I found to be really helpful.

The conference has motivated me to find practical ways to assist rural people improve their overall welfare in order to facilitate the actualisation of the SDGs. It is not enough to publish the challenges rural households’ face in attempting to obtain and secure their livelihoods in the wake of climate change. I must take things a gear further. This will entail being committed wholly towards implementing technological solutions, after brainstorming with community members, in order to make it relatively easier for rural households’ to obtain and secure more sustainable livelihoods. Also, listening to various researchers’ success stories have recalibrated my mindset to the notion that, regardless of the financial cost required to improve rural people’s livelihood and welfare, there are funders out there that are willing to assist. It is ‘simply’ a matter of looking for the financial resources in the right places. Who knows, perhaps someday my footprints from taking action to improve rural people’s livelihoods and welfare might propel political leaders to pursue sustainability, environmental and social justices more vigorously in the near future, underpinned by the spirit of Ubuntu where no one is left behind.