UN SYSTEM STAFF COLLEGE Complex needs and a ‘whole of society’ approach to the SDGs

he UN System Staff College (UNSSC) Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development was officially opened in Bonn, Germany in 2016. The College’s mission is to respond to complex training needs in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The OFID Quarterly met with the UNSSC’s Learning Portfolio Manager Sandhya Balasubrahmanyam to find out more. “During the SDG Global Festival of Action,

we’ve been talking about Agenda 2030 requiring a ‘whole of society’ approach: it’s everybody’s responsibility to deliver on it. So we have to think differently about how to tackle such complex challenges. This is our focus at the UNSSC. We create learning aids and courses and curate expertise from within the United Nations as well as from outside (we work with governments, NGOs, the private sector and civil society organizations) to bring together best practice and contextualized approaches. We build and deliver courses – online and face-to-face. Online courses combine live webinars as well as group work and collaboration; face-to-face courses combine lecture-style

sessions delivered by subject matter experts with interactive modules. We also develop and deliver several customized courses for a diverse body of clients.

Our flagship learning event is the annual UN

Summer Academy which runs in Bonn in August. The academy facilitates and fosters dialogue with thought and action leaders who are currently working toward the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Up to 80 participants join us for a week to share knowledge, innovation, thought leadership and experience on implementing the Agenda. All our courses rate very well on participant feedback and have a high rate of participant referrals. A course of particular interest to readers may be the one on Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development in Bonn. Other courses focus on the ‘essentials’ of sustainable development: anti-corruption, social protection, climate change and much more. The SDGs are a part of an integrated agenda: the 2030 Agenda is more than simply a set of 17 goals. We have to consider what this means for policy coherence. There are synergies and trade-offs. How do we better equip our teams and what new skills do we need?

How do we understand partnerships and broaden our definition of working together? How do we finance the Agenda – current levels of aid are not going to help us achieve our targets, so what opportunities are there to mobilize domestic resources and attract foreign investment? What about public and private actors? The answers are not simple but we can do something about it. We have to support the creation of better enabling environments and learn to think and act very differently from how we have done in the past. Achieving the sustainable development agenda is a huge job. I’m not doubting for a second the enormity of the challenge. But I think it’s truly wonderful that we’re changing the way we talk about things; the basis of the whole conversation. The other day my daughter who is 13 came home from school and started talking about sustainable growth and development. The most promising thing for me is that the next generation is learning correctly the first time around. If this was not happening, I wouldn’t be so confident about success. But things are changing for the better.”

Learn more about the United Nations System Staff College Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development at

“The most promising thing for me is that

the next generation is learning correctly the first time around

[...] things are changing for the better” Sandhya Balasubrahmanyam


PHOTOS: OFID/Steve Hughes

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