Originally published at the Hromadskyi Prostir web site on 10 November 2020
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine, in partnership with German development agency GIZ, is implementing an ambitious project to support sustainable development in Ukraine by raising awareness of the issue among civil servants, the business community and civic leaders. The aim is to help each of us to realize that we are responsible for building a sustainable future, and to provide guidelines about how to achieve it. Under the project, three online courses on sustainable development have been developed. Kateryna Prykhodko, the project manager of the Online Education for Sustainable Development project, spoke to Hromadsky prostir about the launch of the project, UNDP’s role in achieving the Agenda 2030, and modern challenges.
- Kateryna, why is sustainable development a big issue just now?
In 2015 all 193 United Nations Member States, including Ukraine, approved the Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a 15-year plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity.
However, five years into the plan, the global community has realized that not enough progress has been made – and time is running out.
For this reason, UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2020 called for a Decade of Action to achieve the SDGs and make every effort to pass on a comfortable and equitable world to the next generations.
However, today, the world is facing its hardest social and economic shock in decades. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has not just damaged economies; it has exposed inequalities and set back progress in development by years.
But the pandemic has also once again reconfirmed that the world built on the SDGs will be more resilient to shocks and crises such as the one the world faces today.
- So, can we say that the UNDP’s role is to make these goals achievable?
Yes. As the lead development agency, UNDP, through all its programmes and projects, supports Ukraine in achieving the SDGs through various measures, including setting the stage for engagement between governments, partner agencies, the private sector, civil society and others who are ready to support the implementation of the goals. Our role is to ensure the implementation of the SDGs by helping contextualize national targets and ensuring their implementation. Consolidated efforts at the global level are impossible without proper action at the national and local levels. It’s important to think globally and act locally.
- How did the idea for the Online Education for Sustainable Development project appear?
The idea came about as a response to the global call for action to achieve the SDGs, which was heard in Ukraine and supported by development partners. Knowledge-sharing is a fundamental part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially when this concerns civil servants, businesspeople and civic activists.
- Why did you choose the audiences of civil servants, business and civil society?
That’s simple: Civil servants and local government officials must be able to analyse, formulate and implement public policies for the sustainable development of territories, through the development of effective multi-level governance in Ukraine, and based on an effective partnership with business and civil society.
Entrepreneurs have to initiate and promote positive changes as well – for instance, through the introduction of innovations, the sustainable use of natural resources, and transitioning from a linear to a circular economy. The private sector can and should be socially and environmentally responsible, while at the same time ensure that their businesses are prosperous and contribute to achieving the 17 SDGs.
Additionally, civic activists are leaders who are concerned with the economic, environmental and social problems in Ukraine and the world today, and they are seeking to promote the principles of sustainable development in Ukraine. I’m pleased to note that this community is growing both in number and in quality. This is extremely important, because everyone first has to understand their own role in the process of achieving sustainability at the community, region or country levels. Everyone must be aware of their own responsibilities, and join in the process of achieving the SDGs.
Our efforts have resulted in three online courses on sustainable development called “Act further: Sustainable development for civil servants”, “Act further: Sustainable development for businesses”, and “Act further: Sustainable development for civic activists.” All three courses are freely available on the national educational platform, namely VUM Online and Prometheus.
- Who supported setting up the project? Who shared their experience and expertise?
The project was launched with financial support from the Government of Germany through the aid agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). In total, more than two hundred people, including UNDP analysts, experts on sustainable development, experts on public-private partnerships, government and local authorities, small and medium-sized companies, and educational institutions shared their knowledge and expertise. Among them, there were the National Academy of Public Administration under the President of Ukraine, Lviv Business School, along with the VUM and Prometheus educational platforms as partners of the project.
Also, the Team Leader of the Sustainable Development Cluster at the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub, George Bouma, shared his knowledge with us. There were other contributors as well, such as founder of the pro.mova think tank, member of the Nestor Group and member of the Supervisory Board of the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine Yevhen Hlibovytsky, the co-founder and coordinator of the Ukrainian network of energy innovation Greencubator Roman Zinchenko, the founder of the organization Dostupno.UA and the “Toaster” Ukrainian city accessibility ranking Dmytro Schebetyuk, the founder of Kyiv-Mohyla Business School and former Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine Pavlo Sheremeta, Business Ombudsperson of Ukraine Marcin Swiecicki, member of the Swedish national board of trade Karolina Zurek, social entrepreneur and founder of the Ekskäret Foundation Thomas Bjorkman, and many of civic activists, entrepreneurs and others.
- How many people have already taken these three thematic courses?
We expected that a total of 1,000 people would complete these three courses. Instead, we see that today the number of participants who have already completed courses and have received certificates is already at 8,000. The number of participants who have registered for the courses is approaching 16,000. That means that 51.5 percent of all registered participants have already completed their learning and received certificates. And that’s just a few months since the launch of the online courses! It’s nice to know that there are a lot of people in Ukraine who are interested in sustainable development issues. We’re looking forward to seeing the practical implementation of the knowledge they’ve gained. We should also be proud of the fact that e-learning is becoming a powerful tool for positive changes in Ukraine.
I should also note that the project’s very high KPIs (key performance indicators) are also a result of the work of the trainers who help run these courses in Ukraine. During the project implementation stage, we planned to train a total of 30 trainers for the three target groups, but now we’re about to train 58 trainers. Another 44 have already received certificates and are currently promoting the online courses among the target audience, and promoting information on sustainable development in the regions of Ukraine.
- What's next step? Can we expect further projects in Ukraine that will contribute to positive transformations in the economic, environmental and social areas?
Yes, work is going on, and transformations are taking place. One step at a time, changes are coming. For instance, seven exciting community initiatives were deployed under a SIDA/UNDP joint project called “Empowered Partnership for Sustainable Development.” The goal is to facilitate multi-stakeholder cooperation between local and regional authorities, councils, civil society institutions, experts and entrepreneurs for the implementation sustainable projects aimed at tackling the most urgent challenges at the regional and local levels.
By the way, one good example is the information campaign supported by UNDP regional coordinators in partnership with homeowners associations throughout the country’s 24 regions. This initiative was launched under the EU/UNDP “Home Owners of Ukraine for Sustainable Energy Solutions (HOUSES)” project. And of course, we continue to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and global goals in Ukraine.
- What is the most important sustainable development goal for you personally?
All of the goals are important to me, because they are interconnected and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental dimensions. But I would say the most important goal is 17, called “Partnership for Sustainable Development,” given that partnership is key to implementing the vital changes needed in communities, countries, and worldwide.