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2030 Agenda: the DAAD’s wide-ranging work

With the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations addresses 17 different topic areas, underscoring in the process the importance of high-quality education in overcoming global challenges. The contribution of higher education and research to sustainable development was recently addressed and the wide-ranging work of the DAAD in this area highlighted at a meeting of experts in Berlin.

Participants in a Thinking Lab at the expert meeting in Berlin wrote down challenges on yellow cartons, with one challenge in particular emerging time and again: How can we succeed in bringing together the different stakeholders, such as universities, aid organisations, political institutions and businesses, in development cooperation projects in the higher education sector? The NoPa (Novas Parcerias/New Partnerships) project was presented as an effective example.

NoPa is a Brazilian-German programme aimed at promoting practical research partnerships. The DAAD has been working with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Brazilian Ministry of Education’s CAPES Foundation as part of NoPa since 2010. The programme seeks to help create research-based innovations for sustainable development that can be put into practice quickly. Matchmaking events are held to this end, very shortly after the DAAD puts out a tender for cooperation funding. The events bring together representatives from universities, research institutions and businesses, as well as policy-makers and practitioners from the field of development cooperation. The meetings provide them with the opportunity to work on their joint proposals from an early stage. This ensures that the research questions are worded in such a way as to allow the findings to be efficiently put into practice later.

Meeting of international experts

The Thinking Lab, at which NoPa was presented, was part of a conference entitled “Role of Higher Education, Science and New Alliances in the Context of the 2030 Agenda”. This meeting of international experts was organised by the DAAD in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, GIZ and KfW Development Bank. Held in Berlin on 20 and 21 March, the event saw some 100 specialists, including several representatives from the DAAD, discuss the importance of higher education and research in sustainable development. According to the 2030 Agenda, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, greater consideration should be given to these two areas in order to help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Support for young African researchers

In addition to its involvement in cooperation projects such as NoPa, the DAAD carries out many other activities to support achievement of the SDGs. For example, SDG 4 “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” explicitly includes the granting of additional scholarships for students from the world’s least developed countries. Sub-Saharan Africa especially is seeing rapid growth in student numbers. In Kenya, for instance, the student population rose to over 500,000 between 2010 and 2016, a more than fivefold increase. “This is why it’s so important to train up well qualified university lecturers now,” says Christoph Hansert, Head of the Development Cooperation Section at the DAAD. To this end, the DAAD has already used BMZ funding to grant over 600 additional scholarships to prospective African university lecturers, primarily to finance their training at centres of excellence  in Africa.

DAAD’s new Bilateral SDG Graduate Schools programme, also funded by BMZ, is contributing to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Through the programme, the DAAD is supporting the establishment of a total of seven SDG Graduate Schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America. German universities and their international partner universities are working together in this context to train experts and lecturers at Master’s, doctoral and postdoc level. The goal is to strengthen on a sustainable basis the structures for interdisciplinary research and the training of younger colleagues at local universities, and find solutions to central SDG issues. At the 2030 Agenda conference in Berlin, representatives from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the Technische Universität Berlin presented their joint Graduate School, which deals with issues of sustainable urban development. Aditya Kumar, Executive Director of the Development Action Group, from South Africa, stressed how vital it was in this context for the population to be actively involved. “Given the marked population growth in cities, it’s extremely important that we develop sustainable and participatory structures,” explained Professor Philipp Misselwitz, Chair of the Habitat Unit at the Technische Universität (TU) Berlin.

Working on specific problems: water

DAAD is also tackling access to clean drinking water (addressed by SDG 6), bringing together key actors in the water sector to work on sustainable solutions. For instance, universities in Siegen, Kaiserlautern and Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin) worked with Kenyan universities, DAAD alumni from East Africa, Kenyan water action groups, DAAD and GIZ to organise a seminar in Kenya in which researchers and practitioners conducted action research in slums to examine water supply to poor urban residents. They found that, in addition to addressing technical implementation, universities and development cooperation actors should pay more attention in particular to the issue of organised crime in the water supply process and that of intelligent flood management in slums. Another example is the recent meeting of former scholarship holders from Viet Nam, China, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand at the Alumni Talk in Hanoi in March 2017 to discuss water and environmental issues in their countries from the perspective of different disciplines. “Through initiatives like these, we are promoting an interdisciplinary approach to tackling specific issues,” says Christoph Hansert.

Results of expert discussion

Professor Dirk Messner, Director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), delivered the key message to delegates right at the start of the conference. He said that, as well as adapting and applying global knowledge to local situations, it would also be increasingly important in future to engage in joint knowledge creation in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Just like the state and leading German companies, development cooperation actors would also need to invest three per cent of their budget in research and development going forward, something he said they were still a long way from achieving at present. He continued that such an increase could only be implemented by massively expanding innovative partnerships between universities, the development cooperation sector and new actors from the private sector and civil society. A diverse range of pilot projects for developing cooperation beyond individual horizons were presented at the expert meeting in Berlin. All that is needed now is the funding for scaling them up.

This article was originally published on DAAD.de.

(c) Hendrik Bensch / Societäts-Medien, DAAD aktuell

April 2017

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