Scientists have been urged to reflect on their role in promoting sustainable development in their respective countries.
This was said by President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi at the 12th International Southern African Nordic Centre (SANORD) Conference held at the University of Botswana Conference Centre in Gaborone on Wednesdsay. Held under the theme; “Role of Higher Education in Forging Sustainable Livelihoods”, the three day conference, which ran from the 11th to the 13th September, 2019 is a gathering for scientists from institutions of higher learning that has grown from six members to the current fifty institutions in the past 12 years.
The conference is a non-profit university network committed to providing a forum to advance academic collaboration between the Nordic and the Southern African region universities, and the SANORD Strategy 2022, consists of network of institutions committed to providing a forum for the advancement of academic collaboration between Nordic and Southern African countries.
“One of the key focus areas of SANORD is to address sustainable development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through joint activities of research, education and other areas relevant to the member institutions,” stated the President in his address. He also highlighted that he was pleased that the theme for the conference talks to sustainable livelihoods. “The use of the word sustainable is very important. The focus is not just on livelihoods, but also on the sustainability of such livelihoods,” he cemented.
The Botswana SDGs Roadmap was launched in February 2018 and identifies strategic areas to be implemented from 2017 to 2023. It also provides guidance on raising public awareness of SDGs as well as ensuring ownership at all levels in an integrated and coherent manner. The President also noted addressing sustainable development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through joint activities of research, education and other areas relevant to the member institutions as one of the key focus areas of SANORD.
He however noted that ‘sustainable livelihood’ is a broad and general term that demands a holistic diagnosis and analysis. “Countries need to take into account the social, economic, political, historical and demographic trends that are likely to influence the livelihood options of a given population,” he highlighted, adding that there is also a need to assess the risks to which communities are exposed, the resources at their disposal and institutions and organizations that operate within a given context.
Reiterating the role of higher learning institutions to the achievement of the theme, President Masisi noted that the empowerment of communities is the basic tenet for sustainable livelihoods and higher learning institutions can play a major role in the quest for sustainable development. He stated that highly trained and experienced staff, the resources for advancing frontiers of knowledge through research and education, as well as the support they receive from Governments, commit universities to empower communities to sustain their livelihoods.
“These are however, complex issues which compel institutions to engage effectively with other stakeholders at all levels. In the 21st Century, there is no country or institution that can work in isolation,” he said, quoting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 which speaks to strengthening the means of implementation and revitalization of global partnerships for sustainable development.
He then urged the leadership of Botswana’s institutions of higher learning to commit themselves to proactively addressing the different challenges that plague societies.
For his part, University of Botswana (UB) Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris said the conference will get Botswana and the other member countries closer to the strategic implementation of SDGs.
The SANORD Chairperson, Yohana Mashalla stated that SANORD brought together the best minds as the member institutions boast well trained and skilled man power. “It is time that their creativity and innovation are employed for the benefit of the societies that have established them,” he concluded.