Africa: How to Transform UN's Environmental Goals Into a People's Agenda for Africa

opinion

Brandenburg, Germany — The COVID-19 insurgence has highlighted the need for multilateral cooperation among sustainability stakeholders. As the journey towards achieving Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is fraught with imminent global challenges, global environmental leaders agree that now is the time to act collectively for nature, leaving no one behind.

The shortage of sustainability knowledge in Africa is particularly appalling, and it seems the continent is oblivious to the world's agenda. This is evident through the data-based analysis of Africa's lack of progress towards achieving sustainability.

In response, Dr. Adenike Akinsemolu, educator, sustainability advocate, academic associate with SDSN, and a scientific committee member of the 2018 ICSD at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, swung into action.

She founded The Green Institute, a sustainability education organization in Nigeria, and authored an indigenous sustainability text, The Principles of Green and Sustainability Science (Springer, 2020).

The Green Institute confronted this challenge in Africa through the instrumentality of home-based solutions of education, innovation, and advocacy. One pertinent question arose and resonated with Dr. Akinsemolu all through her efforts towards bridging the knowledge gap of sustainability in Africa.

How can we bring the Agenda of Sustainability to indeed become the people's Agenda in Nigeria and Africa? Having entered a new decade, unless Africa embraces a virtuous cycle of sustainability, she will decline in a vicious cycle of poverty, social injustice, and environmental degradation.

To change this, her organization went further by organizing a virtual summit aimed to mobilize sustainability leaders to share their expertise in the face of a global pandemic.

On June 5, 2020, the Green Institute, in collaboration with Hamad Bin Khalifa University (Qatar Foundation), will host Jeffrey Sachs (SDSN) and over 25 renowned sustainability experts from across the globe, at a virtual symposium Time #ForNature for World Environment Day, a United Nations awareness campaign for environmental protection, held annually since 1974.

The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is biodiversity.

This hallmark event organized by a sustainability organization is a confluence of sustainability leaders in various fields endeavored at assembling individuals and organizations towards achieving sustainable development in Africa and beyond.

Armed with a plethora of speakers, the virtual symposium incorporates diverse fields of human endeavors ranging from sciences to arts, botany to engineering, health to et cetera.

The virtual symposium is also launching the indigenous sustainability text titled The Principles of Green and Sustainability Science, authored by Dr. Adenike Akinsemolu. "Everyday anthropogenic activities are responsible for the problems of our planet, and there is a need to salvage the situation through creativity, innovation, and critical thinking," Dr. Akinsemolu stresses in her book.

She offers a detailed and step-by-step guide to understanding sustainability and discusses best practices to establish a more harmonious and balanced approach to living. In the words of Prof. Marc A. Rosen (Ontario Tech University), "The book enriches a global movement while highlighting efforts in Africa."

Alongside the author is world-renowned sustainability leader Prof. Jeffrey Sachs who will be speaking on Building Resilient Health Structures to Combat Novel Diseases: A Case of COVID-19.

Sachs was twice named as Time magazine's 100 most influential world leaders and was ranked by The Economist among the top three most influential living economists.

Among the topics discussed at the summit are biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, sustainable building, urban innovation, minimal living, eco-feminism, waste management, renewable energy and others.

Over a century of civilization, humans have founded and established values that regulate human societal behaviors. With a new sustainable agenda spanning for the next decade, Dr. M. Evren Tok will explain the impacts of values and morality in sustainable development.

As the Associate Professor at the College of Islamic Studies (CIS) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (Qatar Foundation), the Assistant Dean for Innovation and Community Development and Lead Project Investigator for a Qatar National Research Priorities Program on Localizing Entrepreneurship Education in Qatar, Dr. Tok has extensive experience in building disruptive mechanisms in education and learning in post-graduate studies.

He is the founder of the first MakerSpace in Qatar Foundation, built around the concept of Green Economies, Social Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.

The development of the world economy has consistently been at loggerheads with the environment. How can we simultaneously achieve economic growth and environmental wellbeing? Prof. Marc Rosen, Prof. Manfred Max Bergman (University of Basel), and Samson Ogbole (Farm Lab) strongly argue that both the environment and the economy could thrive simultaneously.

One of the essential directions for ensuring a shift in progress towards Agenda is education. The right to education is a fundamental human right that every nation aspires to fulfill. In an age of sustainability, what changes to our educational system are pivotal towards achieving sustainable development?

Ruba Hinnawi (Qatar Green Building Council) and Noah Martin (Georgetown University) will discuss the educational transformation that must occur if we are to transition towards sustainable development. The visual artist Data Oruwari will reveal the role that arts play towards achieving sustainability.

As the saying goes, "One is too small a number to achieve greatness." The Green Institute has partnered with various international organizations that share the same commitment towards achieving sustainable development.

Organizations such as the Hamad Bin Khalifa University (a member of Qatar Foundation) and the Sustainable Solutions Development Network have been instrumental towards the success of The Green Institute.

The Nigerian organization behind the global summit believes that although SDG 17 is the last of the SDGs, it is by no means the least.

Ironically, it serves as an overarching framework for the successful implementation of the remaining 16 goals. To this end, The Green Institute continually extends its hand of partnership to collaborate with other organizations in achieving sustainable development.

The participating organizations include the UNEP, UNDP, Qatar Green Building Council, Qur'anic Botanic Garden, Farm Lab, Human Future, Springer Nature, Institute for Oil, Gas, Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, University of Basel, the Open University UK, TerraCycle, Design Future(s) Initiative of Georgetown University, United Nations Development Program, and the Green Maasai Troupe Doha Qatar.

For more information, full schedule and registration: www.greeninstitute.ng/wed2020

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