By: Juliaty Ansye Sopacua, PhD.
SDGs Advisor-UNDP Indonesia
Universities have important and strategic roles for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Indonesia. To ensure that Indonesia can reach the 17 goals, 169 targets and more than 300 indicators in the year 2030, active participation and significant contributions from all parties are needed.
In this context, there are at least two important aspects which are directly related to universities: 'Education’ and ‘Innovation'. First: SDGs education is needed both inside and outside campus environments. As higher education institutions, universities have the mandates and opportunities to provide knowledge and expertise necessary to create Indonesian future scientists, technicians and thinkers. Universities have the opportunities to instill 'sustainability' ideas for future leaders and decision makers. Universities also have the opportunities to promote education outside campus and reach the community in the broad sense with applied educational programs or services.
Second: Innovation is an important factor to accelerate the achievement of SDGs. 'Business as usual' approach for development will not provide the expected results, particularly to address various development challenges in Indonesia which are still difficult to overcome up to this point in time. Projected trend analysis of SDGs achievement indicators in various districts/municipalities and provinces by UNDP Indonesia and Padjajaran University SDGs Center has shown that all SDGs indicators will not be achieved if we just follow the existing trend. SDGs achievement in 2030 requires innovations in terms of regulation, approach and implementation model.
In this context, the role of university is needed to pioneer, present and encourage various forms of innovations for all goals. For example, analysis and development of innovative diagnostic tools that can help the government to determine policies and regulations as well as technical research development that can help achieve specific goals such as: 1. use of technology in the health sector that can help reduce maternal mortality rates (goal 4), 2. finding alternative energy sources that can used to provide electricity in remote villages in Indonesia (goal 7), use of satellite technology and radar systems for protect Indonesian sea and waters (goal 14) and even finding new food sources that can help eliminate 'stunting' (goal 2) and others.
Education and innovation are part of the Tri Darma (Three Obligations) of Universities to Conduct Education, Research and Community Outreach Services as stated in Law No. 12/2012. This means that the roles and contributions of universities for SDGs achievements are included in their main tasks.
The Indonesian government has shown a strong commitment to promote and disseminate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The highest commitment of the government was proven with the issuance of Presidential Regulation No. 59/2017, which mandates 4 important aspects; 1) inclusive governance, 2) preparation of SDGs action plan, 3) success reporting and 4) SDGs financing, which apply at national and sub- national levels (province and district/municipality).
Prioritizing ‘inclusiveness’ as one the important SDGs principles, SDGs governance was built from four pillars of stakeholders, namely businesses and philanthropists, academics and experts, civil society and media.
The implementation and success of SDGs depend on the four actors. Thus far, the enthusiasm and involvement of SDGs stakeholders in Indonesia is very positive. Philanthropists work together with civil society to implement various programs; businesses participate to develop various innovative financing instruments; civil society works directly with the community and advocate government’s commitment on SDGs principles and several universities play their roles in performing analysis for the formulation of SDGs National/Local Action Plan along with the monitoring framework.
In addition to being part of the SDGs coordination team and assisting the preparation of the SDGs National and Local Action Plan, universities are also expected to conduct important researches that can help address difficult development challenges. Universities should use planning documents (both the National Action Plan/RAN and Local Action Plan/RAD) as reference to determine the types of research for the institutions. Various challenges identified in the RAD/RAN can serve as inputs for universities to develop their community outreach programs.
Up to 2018, various important activities have been undertaken by universities in Indonesia in the context of SDGs. Starting from an event to introduce SDGs to students, seminars, conferences and various workshops with SDGs themes and efforts to develop SDGs-based core curriculum as done by the Padjajaran University. Furthermore, several universities in Indonesia have set up 'SDGs Centers'. There are 6 universities with SDGs centers: Padjajaran University, Jember University, Andalas University, Bengkulu University and Bogor Agricultural University.
This effort deserves appreciation. Other universities are also expected to participate actively. It would be better if universities work together in one network, as practiced by other stakeholders. Businesses and philanthropists and civil society groups have managed to organize their own groups and formed a 'forum' or 'network' as a vehicle to discuss and determine the right contributions as SDGs main stakeholders.
At the end of January, UNDP Indonesia in collaboration with BAPPENAS initiated the establishment of a 'University Network for SDGs' by inviting rectors and heads of community outreach centers of 50 universities throughout Indonesia, directors of SDGs Centers from 6 universities, development partners and embassies as well as businesses and civil society representatives.
The enthusiasm of the participants who attended the event was extraordinary. Almost all universities in Indonesia have played a role in SDGs, in their own ways. The discussion on the establishment of the network received positive response from all participants and was supported by provincial government representatives who were present. The establishment of the university forum or network for SDGs can be a strategic platform where members can discuss and determine the right approach and method in making a real contribution to SDGs, especially to accelerate the achievement of SDGs.
As the initiator of the idea, UNDP Indonesia proposed three approaches to the network establishment, 1) a geographical approach where universities located on the same island can work together to resolve similar issues 2) a thematic approach where network members group themselves in various themes, for example: renewable energy, poverty alleviation, stunting reduction and other themes, and 3) a ‘pillar’ approach where universities group themselves based on economics, social, environment and governance pillars.
With the complexity of SDGs and the many issues facing Indonesia, the contribution of universities is a necessity. The positive response from the universities to form the network is one important step that must be followed up immediately, with a consideration of the above three possible approaches.
This article was first published in Bahasa Indonesia on Kompas newspaper.