Empower your role in the collective efforts towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Climate change, poverty, social inequalities, environmental pollution, armed conflicts… To overcome these challenges, we need all citizens to step up their behaviours, regardless of where in this world they live in. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted in 2015, includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the blueprints to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

“Sustainability is one that belongs to everybody because the issue of our environment and the depletion in resources is one that will affect generations to come, regardless of location,” Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, explained why we should all care about these goals.

The SDGs are often called the people’s goals but just how well do people know about the SDGs? A compilation of Public Opinion Surveys by the OECD Development Communication Network (DevCom) in 2017 found that between 28 and 45 per cent of people are aware of these goals but across 24 countries, only 1 in 100 citizens know the SDGs ‘very well’. So, awareness does not necessarily translate to knowledge.

Insect hotel made by a participant to address biodiversity loss and restore the vital role of insects in biospheres.
Insect hotel made by a participant to address biodiversity loss and restore the vital role of insects in biospheres.

Interested in deepening your understanding on how exactly the SDGs tackle the world’s biggest issues? Here is your chance to gain a global perspective of the SDGs. The EdX MOOC “The UN Sustainable Development Goals: an Interdisciplinary Academic Introduction”, developed by the University of Leuven (Belgium), unravels, in a systematic manner, the complex web of the 17 SDGs, how they came to be, what they stand for, the challenges they face and the efforts to be made to achieve them.

The course is taught by an interdisciplinary team of academic experts from the University of Leuven, as well as by practitioners in the field. Throughout the 6 modules, you will explore the concept of sustainable development and the 17 SDGs through videos, complemented by reading materials. Quick finger exercises check your understanding of key elements after each video. This course, just as the SDGs themselves, relies on interaction and peer learning: at the end of each module, you are invited to reflect on a discussion question and engage with your peers. Several activities also enable you to share your experiences with some of the issues that the SDGs aim to tackle, and you will get inspiration from your peers by sharing some best practices in contributing to the SDGs in your daily life. The final exam comprises a quiz as well as an essay question that is assessed by your fellow participants.

The course consists of 6 modules and takes approximately 25 hours to complete, which you can do at your own pace. As it is 100% online, you can take the course from anywhere! For example, some participants completed the course from…

this park in Quito, Ecuador;
this bench in Ontario, Canada;
this football field in Curitiba, Brazil.

But you can also follow the MOOC from home!

As an introductory course, this MOOC is targeted at anyone with any educational or professional background who is interested in understanding how the ambitious 2030 Agenda aims to solve global issues.

What participants said about the course…

“I wish to thank all the lecturers of this MOOC for facilitating a worthwhile learning experience. It has caused me to think strategically and recognize the various inter-linkages of the SDGs. I have already been recommending the MOOC to my colleagues.”

 “The course is very well-designed in term of contents and how lecturers analyze each goal and give examples.”

“This MOOC on the SDGs is a great learning experience.”

“Good systematic approach to each of the SDGs and the material is indeed informative. The supplementary material is also a useful read.”

“The entire MOOC is interesting, helpful and involving”

 “Thanks for the efforts from staff responsible for [this] MOOC. The content, interviews as well as opinion from domain experts are well appreciated.”

“This MOOC has given me the encouragement to take up more EdX courses!”

The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a joint initiative of 5 UN Agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO) that seeks to address these challenges. It is a demand-driven forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard-setters, certification-bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. It aims to provide impartial information, analysis, and discussions on VSS and their potential contribution to facilitate market access, strengthen public goods and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, the UNFSS focuses on potential trade or development obstacles VSS may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on SMEs and less developed countries.

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