President's Blog

Sustainable Development Goals in a University for the World

IMG_1664United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been busy this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland asking everyone here to join forces and commit to the sustainable development agenda that is likely to be adopted in September. The agenda, which in its current draft is articulated around 17 goals, is meant to galvanize the attention, efforts and investments of nations, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, multilateral institutions and individuals around the world for the next 15 years.

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are already drawing a great deal of attention, and a movement has formed under the name Action/2015 to make sure we all learn about the importance of what is at stake for the world this year. A session with a group of young leaders in Davos was dedicated to craft a plan to reach all 7 billion of us in seven days after the 17 SDGs are formally adopted.  Bill and Melinda Gates expressed support for the goals and even played a video in which Stephen Hawking asked that we “must become global citizens” and accept the challenges of sustainable development.

This is only the second time that the world has engaged in a process to identify the most pressing global problems and establish shared goals.  The first such process led to the Millennium Development Goals, which conclude this year with an imperfect yet fairly decent scorecard. The MDGs have proven that a global agenda can help galvanize the efforts of multiple stakeholders and deliver results.

As a university that is “committed to creating a more just, free, and prosperous world,” 2015 offers George Mason a unique opportunity to decide the role we want to play in this second global development agenda. We have achieved world-class distinction in a number of disciplines and have demonstrated success in important multidisciplinary domains, from public policy or conflict resolution, to information technology, health care, education and sustainability, among others.

Consider what we have to offer: Academic strengths; our location outside Washington, D.C.; our privileged access to private, public and international organizations right in our back yard; our commitment to making a positive difference in the world.

We need to be ready to answer the question: What role is Mason going to play in the world’s next development agenda?