Programme / Sustainable Development Goals: The Future We Want But Can We Have?

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Day 4

Friday / 10 nov

11:30 - 13:00

Special session:
Sustainable Development Goals: The Future We Want But Can We Have?
Organised by:  JST Japan - JHU
Venue: King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre, Petra 2, Sea Floor

Adopted by the UN just a year before Donald Trump’s election and the rise of ‘America First’, the subsequent collapse of the planned US-Asia trade bloc, the UK Brexit Referendum and the call for reform of NAFTA, NATO and the UN system, this session examines whether the 17 Sustainable Development Goals underpinned by 169 targets were always based on ideology and unrealistic promises or might, in fact, deliver action and results. Concrete case-studies spotlighting future health-care and how climate is literally ‘changing us’ are given, alongside a technical demonstration of upcycled mobile technology monitoring and protecting remote forests, enabling real-time interventions.  

With speakers from the US, Europe and Asia working very much at the heart of efforts to tackle climate change, poverty, public health and much else, we examine if achieving the SDGs is wishful thinking, perhaps the dying embers of a bygone era of global cooperation? We will question if artificial intelligence and technological disruption, geopolitical rivalry, widening social inequality and growing populist calls for nationalist policies, including trade protectionism, fed by rising contempt for international cooperation, are too strong a headwind for the SDGs to succeed. In particular, the role of STI as a leveler of the playing field and global-good-enabler versus as a catalyst for winner-take-all competition whereby hubs seize access to knowledge and power, leaving less-privileged groups, classes, sectors, and regions struggling to compete, will be spotlighted.  

Against the backdrop of fiscal restraints in the richer countries, coupled with emerging markets weakened by lower commodity prices making paying for such public goods all the more unappealing, the panel will equally signpost where the SDGs are, in fact, already making an important difference. They will argue that in a world of 65 million refugees compared to 1.6 million in 1960, the SDGs provide a necessary blueprint for tackling destructive politics in water-stressed and conflict-affected countries where governments are fragile and failing. In addition, multilateral institutions need to be upgraded and restructured, with effective decision-making and implementation mechanisms for managing global development and social peace challenges such as infrastructure gaps, migration, climate change, and financial instability.


Organiser: Osamu Kobayashi (JP), Director, Department of International Affairs, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).


Co-organiser: Thomas Hartung (DE), Thomas Hartung, MD PhD, Doerenkamp-Zbinden Professor & Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, The Johns Hopkins University.


Goals or own-goals? The back-story to setting the SDG’s and progress to-date

In 2015, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unanimously adopted by 193 UN Members. These lock in the coordinates for the direction the entire world should take with 169 universally binding targets for all nations and for all stakeholders. My talk unravels the politics, the science and the economics underpinning the SDGs, reviewing how they came about as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals. I will identify the tortoises and the hares in the race to successfully implement them, while pointing to those best practices we can already credit certain actors with on the road to 2030. Above all, I will champion the pivotal role of science, technology and innovation as the bedrock of any eventual full or partial success.


New technologies driving the future of healthcare and public health

Health – well-being and longevity – costs countries world-wide an average of 10% of their GDP. In the US, it stands at 17%, rising to 20% by 2025. As try to reach the many SDG targets, my talk will examine the sustainability of the status quo. I will demonstrate how new technologies and their implementation will be the deciding factor in our successes and failures in harvesting the societal benefits of these massive investments. In particular, I will spotlight new test and prevention strategies for toxic exposures to illustrate the tremendous changes we are facing. While the West moves onto 21st century solutions and beats the drum for the 4th industrial revolution, is it acceptable to share with other poorer regions only the 20th century health-care technologies we are leaving behind? 


Environmental SDGs through the eyes of an insider


Future Tech Video Demonstration:

Topher White (USA), Founder, Rainforest Connection, California.


Trees that can talk: how upcycled mobile technology can monitor and protect remote forests, enabling real-time interventions.



Event video