Academia is fundamental for SDG 16 and SDG 16 is fundamental for academia: Research and education helps realize the SDGs and SDG 16 in particular. Universities can produce and share cutting-edge research that is needed to understand how the SDGs can be achieved and to learn from successes and set-backs. Universities can also educate future generations on the importance of sustainable development and the SDGs. This is particularly important for SDG 16 as this Goal did not exist in the preceding Millennium Development Goals. In turn, researchers require access to information and the fundamental freedoms that SDG 16 protects in order to operate in their societies.
Supporting and engaging with academia is therefore critical for governments to implement and monitor progress on the SDGs, especially SDG 16. There are many different ways of doing so: For example, governments should involve researchers with specific expertise in policy development, provide them with access to government data and support universities’ efforts to educate students on the SDGs.
To ensure that academic research informs the SDG process systematically and to connect academic institutions, the UN Secretary General established the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) as early as 2012. In addition, universities in and across many countries are forming networks and SDG centres that allow them to focus on SDG relevant research. Governments and UN organisations have also started to involve academia more actively.