A national conference on “Lebanon Collaboration for Sustainable Development Goals” was held to mark the completion of the first year since the foundation of the Global Compact Network Lebanon (GCNL) at AUB. The conference showcased various ongoing efforts and partnerships amongst the private sector, public sector, and civil society that demonstrate the crucial role of business in advancing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the newly launched UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Since September 2015, AUB has served as an engine for supporting sustainable development in Lebanon. It hosts the Global Compact Network Lebanon which works closely with the UN Global Compact (UNGC) in New York and serves as a focal platform for collaboration around SDGs. It provides opportunities for learning, policy dialogue, and partnership to advance 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption.
“It is a very proud moment for us to continuously be in support of the Global Compact as a business school; to have the responsibility and the honor of hosting it is something we hold dearly,” said Dean of the Olayan School of Business (OSB) Steve Harvey. “As a premier business school in the region, it is extremely important that we show the way and that we are part of the way forward.”
Keynote speaker of the event was Minister of Education and Higher Education HE Elias Bou Saab who highlighted the importance of access to quality education and job creation in sustainable economic growth.
“Great ideas start from universities,” said Dr. Bou Saab. “I strongly believe that quality educational reform will lead to faster economic growth but we need to improve the education sector in Lebanon.
“If we have fine institutions it does not mean everyone is getting the same quality education in Lebanon. AUB should be proud that it is leading this league of institutions but I should be sad that only so little of these institutions are in this category,” he added.
The conference included four panel discussions addressing specific SDGs and showcasing concrete progress in relation to these goals across Lebanon. Partnerships with UN agencies were overviewed as were practices applied by Bank Audi in its pledge for five SDGs: quality education; gender equality, economic growth and industry, innovation and infrastructure, and climate action.
In addition, three initiatives were presented related to SDG number 5 on gender equality, The Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), The Blessing Foundation, and the Knowledge Is Power (KIP) project at AUB; along with an on-going project, the Green Demonstration Room, where students from all public and private schools of Lebanon have the opportunity to engage in the concept of green buildings, the principles of energy efficiency, water conservation, and other environmental issues.
“To have a knowledge-based economy and society which is inclusive and rights-based and to include particularly those at the bottom of society and those who are marginalized—this is part of sustainability,” said UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag. “Build and share knowledge and look at the ability to catalyze action for change. Have the examples and spread them. It is important for a Global Compact community to strive and have vision.”
“The Global Compact could help transform the culture to an ethically global, socially responsible structure where, with transparency and accountability, we can see the building of the social infrastructure of a state. The building of confidence through the Global Compact would be transformative. It is very important that the credibility of a highly effective senior institution of higher learning—like AUB, Saint Joseph, increasingly LAU, and others—be brought to the table for investment in knowledge and the discovery of knowledge. This is critical because this is what allows one to capitalize the remarkable intellectual properties being developed on this campus and on other university campuses.”
The conference hall was filled with students and professionals eager to see the positive application of a full pledge for all SDGs.
“We are delighted to have hosted this milestone event to entice nation-wide collaboration around the SDGs,” Professor and Global Compact Network Lebanon Representative, Dr. Dima Jamali, told us.
“This is in fact the right time to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and see businesses and NGOs work together and make use of our Global Compact Network Lebanon progressive platform to contribute to alleviating poverty and hunger, promoting quality education, protecting the environment, and addressing all forms of inequality. We hope that our Global Compact Network Lebanon will continue to serve as a catalyzer of best practice and collaboration in relation to sustainability and sustainable development in Lebanon and beyond.”