“We are here as thinkers, because we actually need the thinking right now. There is very little to be complacent about.” (Jeffrey D. Sachs in his T20 speech)
As the leaders of the world’s largest economies prepare to meet in Hamburg for the meeting of the G20, it is vital to recognize that research centres and think tanks can play an instrumental role in providing policy advice and concrete solutions to solve today’s complex problems. To start with, these stakeholders represent an essential source of necessary knowledge, skills and scientific evidence at a dramatic juncture which is simultaneously characterized by growing interdependence and increasingly difficult multilateral cooperation. In addition, they have the capacity to use such knowledge to promote government accountability, raise awareness among the general public, and ensure coherence between political decisions and the long-term goals enshrined in the 2030 Agenda and in the Paris Agreement.
In other words, the work of epistemic communities should be strongly supported by all societal actors, including young people around the world who should seize every opportunity to form partnerships with experts and contribute their own skills to the achievement of sustainable development. It is with this objective in mind, that SDSN Youth project leaders and network representatives decided to join the Think 20 Summit – Global Solutions and the 10th meeting of the SDSN Leadership Council, both of which took place in Berlin on 29-31 May 2017.
The Think-20 Summit, which brought together a vast network of research institutes and think tanks from the G20 countries, aimed to develop transformative policy recommendations for G20 policy-makers in the context of a common vision of economically prosperous, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive development. Coordinated by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) and the German Development Institute (DIE), the event focused on several key areas, including climate policy and finance, the 2030 Agenda, financial resilience, and inclusive growth, with the help of thematic Task Forces comprising world-leading researchers in different sectors (for the full list of policy briefs that were presented, click here).
Throughout the Summit, the close interplay between the world’s economy, the climate system and the forces of technological change represented a major fil rouge cutting across all discussions. Within this background, the need to protect and strengthen cooperation on global public goods, as well as to address the most urgent challenges facing developing countries, emerged as a real, overarching concern at a time of rising nationalism and disregard for evidence-based policies. In particular, it was widely argued that enhancing the continuity and consistency of the G20 process, a process which might otherwise suffer from its yearly leadership change (in 2018, Germany will cede the helm to Argentina), would be crucial to ensure that political discussions between the G20 leaders continue to be aligned with the wider sustainable development agenda of the United Nations.
On 30 May, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs was also invited to deliver a keynote speech, in his capacity of Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and in the light of SDSN’s close involvement with the Think20 (two SDSN-led side events were also hosted at the Summit, on SDGs and the oceans and on the role of religion in global problem solving, respectively). In his address, Prof. Sachs highlighted the pervasive concerns surrounding the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, and voiced a strong call to action for epistemic communities, encouraging think tanks and research centres to raise their voice and boldly advocate for evidence-based, long-term transformative pathways for sustainable development. The Summit later issued a communiqué for the G20 leaders, which can be read here.
On the last day of the T20, the 10th SDSN Leadership Council Meeting started at the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). High-level members of the SDSN Leadership Council, SDSN managers and Networks chairs, and SDSN Youth delegates gathered to analyze SDSN progress over the past six months, including the new Massive Open Online Courses offered by the SDG Academy, two new flagship initiatives (the 2017 edition of the SDG Index and Dashboards and the FABLE project), and the activities of the new Regional and National Networks. The pilot edition of the SDSN Amazonia’s Solutions Platform was also presented during a side session hosted at Impact Hub Berlin, a key development which is strongly linked with the increased efforts that many SDSN Networks are devoting towards supporting local, national and regional solutions that are contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.
Throughout the two events, the participation of SDSN Youth served as an important catalyst for partnership discussions and to advance the ongoing initiatives of the organization, including the expansion of the Youth Solutions Report’s platform, the further implementation of the Local Pathways Fellowship, the roll-out of the Global Schools Program and the upcoming 2nd edition of the #KnowYourGoals global campaign. In addition, Siamak Sam Loni, our Global Coordinator, presented an overarching SDSN Youth progress report to the SDSN Leadership Council, drawing the interest of the Council’s members and laying the foundations for new collaborations between SDSN Youth and SDSN Member Institutions.
Dario Piselli is the Project Leader of the Solutions Initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth and Editor-in-Chief of the Youth Solutions Report. He is currently a PhD Candidate in International Law at the Graduate Institute of Geneva where he also works as a Research Officer for the Global Health Centre. Dario holds a MSc Degree in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Siena.
Christina Christoforou Livani is an undergraduate student at AUEB in the department of International and European Economic studies. She is the UN SDSN Greece Youth Coordinator. She is also a charter member of the scientific association "European Republic Kallipolis''.