Universities, colleges, and other higher education institutions (HEIs) play a critical role in the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal Agenda. HEIs are mentioned specifically under SDG 4 on quality and inclusive education, but in fact their influence extends across all the goals through teaching and learning, research output, and campus initiatives. HEIs facilitate social, environmental, and economic development. They are one of the most significant incubators of ideas and solutions to global problems, and their central position amongst networks of government, civil society and industry partners mean that they have vast potential to generate positive impact.
Since the international community of Member States came together to agree upon the 2030 Agenda, some HEIs have established campus greening initiatives to improve their internal sustainability, while others have implemented community outreach programmes, student groups, and research and innovation hubs. However, in the Arab region, progress has been slow. For example, across the Region, the International Association of Universities (IAU) lists just some actions undertaken by universities related to the SDGS.
Against this backdrop, UNESCO Doha, in partnership with UNESCO Beirut, organized on 23 October 2019 the first national workshop on the role of universities in Qatar in achieving SDGs. The workshop, held in Doha, gathered representatives of local HEIs and research institutions, in addition to representatives of the Ministry of Higher Education, and Qatar’s National Commission for UNESCO. The workshop aimed to provide participants with a platform to share experiences and reflect on the SDGs and their means of implementation at the HEI level in Qatar.
Over the course of the workshop, programme specialists from UNESCO Beirut and Doha offices provided participants with information about the targets and means of implementation of SDGs. Participants reflected on the goals that are directly linked to HEI and how the latter can contribute to their achievement. Participants were also introduced to UNESCO Chairs and learnt how they can be used as a tool to achieve SDGs.
Representatives of local HEI expressed their interest in continued cooperation with UNESCO Beirut and Doha Offices, as well as the Ministry of Higher Education, to contribute to the achievement of SDGs. They also suggested that a network be established at the regional level to coordinate efforts of HEIs in the Arab world in the achievement of SDGs. It has also been agreed that UNESCO Beirut and Doha Offices will provide technical support for Qatar’s Ministry of Higher Education in HEMIS implementation.