Kerstin Wilmans

Goal 16 “Peace, Justice and good institutions” is especially important to me

An interview with Dr. Maja Göpel, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, regarding the Agenda 2030 and the importance of Education for Sustainable Development

With the Agenda 2030, the United Nations have agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which they are striving to achieve in all 193 Member States. Which of the 17 Global Goals is particularly important to you, Dr. Göpel?

Goal number 16 regarding “Peace, Justice and Good Institutions” is particularly important to me. It includes central prerequisites for trust in society and thus for good, democratic governance. This is the first step not only to achieve the other goals, but also to secure them effectively in the future.

Goal Number 4 calls for high-quality education for all people. What is “good education” for you?

“Good education” for me means the invitation to get to the bottom of things and the ability to shape future realities with these insights. We know that we need new solutions for the challenges of the future, but our current education system does not encourage them.

The young generation often sees this very clearly. I will never forget the debate in the European Parliament regarding the Youth on the Move initiative. The Commission had presented measures aimed at reducing youth unemployment, putting cooperation between companies and universities at the top. The "employability" of the students was to be increased. A young woman started to speak and explained that she did not want to be part of a destructive company, but to be equipped with the competences that would enable her to cope with new sustainable solutions in situations of uncertainty. Many people spontaneously applauded, only the Commission officials looked upset. Thus, there is still a need for education for those who set the framework.

The Global Goals Curriculum explores new forms of learning and collaboration. The goal is a curriculum that enables people to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In school, civil society and business. Can we achieve this, Dr. Göpel? What do we need?

We will never be able to achieve the Global Goals as they are currently phrased. The list also includes economic growth as targets, especially in the sub-targets. But in my opinion, economic growth is to be used as a means only if it brings more benefits than costs. Empirically, we know by now that this is often not the case for people with good basic care.

Further growth in material goods and financial wealth will continue to increase the ecological footprint, but does not make people with good basic care any happier. High quality of life depends on qualitative factors such as health, good social relations, fulfilling activities and safety.

In the OECD countries, we reached these living standards around 1978. Nonetheless, for the richest countries, further economic growth as a goal is at the same level with the fight against hunger and poverty and the preservation of the oceans, forests, fertility of soils and the prevention of climate change.

A Global Goals Curriculum should enable people to recognize and change these contradictions creatively. This also includes the courage to demand from banks, corporations and wealthy people, to adhere to the generally accepted rules of taxation. The financing of environmentally sound programs for the energy and food supply of the poorest people would then be possible. Medium-growth would be used where it is needed to achieve the social goals.

About Dr. Maja Göpel

Dr. Maja Göpel is the head of the Berlin office of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. She is a member of the Leadership Council of Sustainable Development Solutions Network Germany, a transformation scientist and an international campaigner for sustainability. From 2008-2011 she was the Director of the World Future Councils in Brussels.

The interview was conducted by Carola Ehrlich-Cypra during the Global Goals Curriculum 2016 conference.

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