UNDP Partners with The University of The Gambia in Localizing the SDGs
It is widely recognized that academic research institutions play a vital role in formulating and shaping evidence-based policies and social intervention. As research-cum-educational establishments, universities have been the citadel of learning, knowledge production and dissemination on improved development programs and practices worldwide. In cognizance of this, on October 12, 2020, UNDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of The Gambia (UTG) in mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its academic curricular, research programs and community engagement.
This partnership, which is currently advanced by UNDP Accelerator Lab The Gambia (AcclabGM), equally aims to support the country’s overall reform process in the social, economic, political and security spheres, as embedded in The Gambia’s National Development Plan (NDP 2018-2021). In line with national priorities, the MOU captures five thematic areas:
i) SDG tracking:
This aspect of the MOU is necessitated by the fact that substantive qualitative and quantitative research output is crucial for sustainable development planning and practice. Against this backdrop and as a lead research institution in The Gambia, UTG will conduct research to track, monitor, and evaluate the progress of the implementation of the SDGs in The Gambia. This also includes enhancing data and statistics for development within the National Statistical System of The Gambia. Broadly speaking, such research interventions would be invaluable in informing government policy decisions and UNDP programs in the country.
ii) Curriculum Development
Under this pillar, the MOU seeks to mainstream the SDGs in the university’s academic curricular as a way of providing familiarity and learning opportunities to students in the areas of sustainable development. In other words, this approach is geared towards preparing young people in becoming progressive development planners, analysts and practitioners. To achieve this goal, the different Schools at UTG will develop curricula on thematic areas of the SDGs as part of classroom lectures/discussions and seminars. Notwithstanding, the SDG curricula will be used to train and enhance the capacities of Gambians and other nationalities domiciled in the country.
iii) Case study and research on SDG baseline information
Studies on The Gambia have increasingly revealed the gaps on baseline information in many areas of development – water quality, rural poverty, agriculture etc. This is where UTG will come in and fill that gap on baseline information by conducting case studies and research. Essentially, having such baseline information will enable us to assess progress, identify challenges, and set realistic benchmarks towards attaining the SDGs. This will equally serve as a guide to development stakeholders, partners and donors.
iv) SDG Lecture Series
In their quest to reach out to the larger population of The Gambia, UNDP Gambia and UTG will organize various seminars, conferences, and workshops throughout The Gambia informing and educating the Gambian population on the SDGs. Considering the high illiteracy rate in country, especially in rural areas, this sensitization project will particularly target rural people – farmers, women, girls and youths using local languages and methods. This engagement seeks to avail local populations the opportunities to further understand and relate with the SDGs and as well adopt sustainable practices that enhance their daily socio-economic activities.
v) Project Piloting
Considering the AcclabGM project will phase out in 2022 and as part of the gradual phasing out, AcclabGM by extension of UNDP will support and co-host activities with UTG that strengthen its standing as the likely national partner to which UNDP would hand over the Lab framework. This move is in line with the understanding that the nature of project, in terms of research, experimentation and solutions mapping, predominantly aligns with the mandate and interventions of the university.
Notably, in this strategic partnership, each of the nine Schools within UTG will focus on a specific SDG or SDGs that aligns with its mandate to design innovative projects that respond to the pressing development needs of The Gambia. For instance, the School of Arts and Sciences, precisely the Development Studies Unit, will incorporate and focus on SDG 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender Equality) and related Goals in its lecture/seminar series and research programs. While the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences will direct teaching and research on SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), 13 (climate action), 15 (life on land) amongst other associated Goals. On the other hand, UNDP will aid in the mobilization of financial resources and as well provide the requisite technical support.
As we are nearing the end of 2020, this partnership has put in motion fascinating projects around girls and women empowerment, implementation of the gender seal, (rural) community development, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), youth entrepreneurship amongst others for implementation in early 2021. The upcoming launching of the Center for Sustainable Development and Policy Studies (CSPS) at UTG is key among these initiatives. CSPS will be home to academic research, public policy evaluation and development and rapid rural development in The Gambia.
Overall, this partnership is shaped by the understanding that local ownership of the SDGs is integral to their success. Moreover, the complex development challenges of our time signal the need for concerted efforts and (new) cooperation from different stakeholders at all fronts (local, national and global) for successful development interventions. Importantly, synergizing international and local initiatives/efforts is imperative towards the realization of the SDGs by 2030. The UNDP-UTG partnership is a move in the right direction!