Pham Khanh Nam (Vietnam), Haileselassie Medhin (Ethiopia), Nnaemeka Chukwuone (Nigeria), and Ola Olsson (Sweden) participated in one of the panel discussions at the SDG 8 Conference.
Photo: Petra Hansson

Researchers discussed how to reach Sustainable Development Goal 8


Researchers from all over the world met at the University of Gothenburg on August 25-26 to present, discuss and network on topics related to the Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) in Agenda 2030. The aim was to mobilize academia in the efforts to achieve that goal and to strengthen the interactions with policy-makers. The conference offered high-class presentations as well as lively, constructive discussions.

“Researchers have traditionally defined our own questions. But now we have to ask ourselves how we can make ourselves relevant in society,” said Torbjörn Lundh, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the opening of the conference.

Gunnar Köhlin, Director of Environment for Development, EfD, was speaking at the opening. 

"Now is the time for action," was his main message to the participants.

Gunnar Köhlin
Gunnar Köhlin, Environment for Development, EfD, stressed the urgency to act.
Photo: Petra Hansson

 Sustainable Development Goal 8, SDG 8, to Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all encompasses many great challenges, for instance: How can we achieve economic growth without compromising the environment? How can we guarantee decent working conditions for everyone?

Coal has fueled growth

One of the keynote speakers, Jan Steckel from the Mercator Institute in Berlin, MCC, underlined that growth has historically happened at the expense of the environment. Coal in particular has played an instrumental role in industrialization and growth.

“It’s not surprising that the Global South wants to get the same benefits as the Global North. Coal can provide stable energy access, low electricity costs, and jobs in poor regions. However, more importantly, renewable energy can do that too! But we need to provide solutions and support to make that happen,” he said.

Many speakers highlighted alarming figures and examples of how the world is moving in the wrong direction. But there were also a lot of examples of research that has had a significant positive impact on policies.

Africa must be taken into account

Haileselassie Medhin, Africa Director of Strategy and Partnerships at World Resources Institute, stressed that Africa has to be at the center of the global discourse on sustainable growth.

“The future of Africa is the future of the world. In 2100 it’s estimated that 40% of the world’s population will live in Africa,” commented Haileselassie Medhin.

“Currently, most countries on the continent are off track when it comes to sustainable development goals (SDGs). But Africa has a real opportunity for a green and resilient economic transformation that reduces poverty and creates employment for its bulging youth.”  

“Africa’s pressing challenges also hold the seeds to leapfrog towards a sustainable future. Sustainable growth is more aligned with a focus on people, nature, and innovative ideas, and African countries can unleash the potential of their youth and women for driving nature-based solutions. There is also significant investment potential in it. The renewable energy sector in Africa alone has investment potential in the hundreds of billions, and countries like Ethiopia have made considerable progress in tapping into it,” he said.

Great examples of impact

Environment for Development, EfD, has a strong focus on research-to-policy interaction. Several EfD centers and their associates were represented among the speakers at the conference. Nnaemeka Chukwuone, Center Director, EfD Nigeria, gave in his presentation a very concrete example of how researchers can have a positive impact on policies: The center has had numerous meetings and workshops with high-level policymakers and stakeholders to discuss among other things the value of Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), which the government is working to implement in its policies, plans, and programs.

The center has also provided training sessions for staff from ministries, agencies, academia, and the private sector to develop natural capital accounts, focusing on a pilot program on greenhouse gas and land cover and ecosystem extent, and mangrove accounts. These training sessions were organized in collaboration with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment, with support from the World Bank.

Conference participants
Some 50 researchers from all over the world attended the conference.
Photo: Petra Hansson

More cooperation is needed

Pam Fredman, President of the International Association of Universities (IAU) and acting Director of the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development, GMV, was very pleased with the conference and the interactions between the participants.

“This conference is about looking forward, to address the complexities that we have to handle, and how everything is linked together,” she said.

“Education is very important to achieve the SDGs. We need more cooperation between universities, refine the education, and increase research-to-policy interaction, which is also what the governments are expecting from us,” she said.

Facts about the event

About the conference

The SDG 8 conference was arranged by:



About IAU, UoG, and the SDGs

The University of Gothenburg is part of the International Association of Universities (IAU) Cluster on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development. Within the cluster each SDG has its lead university, resulting in a global network of universities. The University of Gothenburg has taken the lead on SDG 8. The purpose of the SDG 8 Initiative at the University of Gothenburg is to mobilize academic work and policy interaction in local and global contexts, together with eight “satellite universities” (all EfD centers).