When world leaders ratified the United Nations (UN) Millennium Declaration in 2000, six fundamental values were identified as essential to international relations (i.e., freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility) and eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set for realizing these values worldwide by 2015.
Building upon the eight MDGs, the UN General Assembly adopted 2015 the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set an even more ambitious 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for countries to achieve over the next 15 years. The 2030 Agenda is based on the principle of “leaving no one behind” and takes a holistic approach by addressing the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and aspects such as peace, justice, and effective institutions.
From 2000 to 2015, the role of universities had been, by and large, that of an observer. University researchers, including those in UP, extensively studied the MDGs concerning international development, producing data and analysis that helped track the country’s progress in achieving the MDGs and measured the impact of various sectors on the MDGs experience.
But under the UN 2030 Agenda, the higher education sector became a core partner in fulfilling the UN SDGs. The UN also called on universities to play a key role in fulfilling the 2030 Agenda in three major ways: to expand human capital with an SDG perspective; to research to help better understand the costs and implications of implementing the SDGs, and to implement the 2030 agenda by becoming actors in multi-stakeholder partnerships.
This shift in the role of universities is reflected in the world university league tables and rankings. In 2019, the Time Higher Education launched its University Impact Rankings, which measured their “success in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals”. And in October 2022, Quacquarelli Symonds published their QS World University Rankings: Sustainable Development Goals, with a methodology aimed “to give a sense of the relative productivity of research into SDGs at institutions.”
The University of the Philippines welcomes this new global recognition of the role of universities as drivers of sustainable development and the challenges involved in fulfilling this role.
For UP, the challenge lies not so much in contributing toward meeting targets under the SDGs. For over a hundred years, UP has produced the country’s top leaders and policymakers, scientists and innovators, social scientists, industry and community leaders, academics, and media and cultural icons—all of whom have contributed toward developing the country’s economy, agriculture and industry sectors, public governance, education, and cultural systems, and international relations.
Our research has long since been directed toward analyzing and generating solutions to public issues, from preserving and promoting indigenous studies as a knowledge resource for sustainability in UP Baguio to health and medical science in UP Manila to sustainable agriculture and environmental management in UPLB and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in UP Visayas, to sustainable industries and communities, clean water, affordable energy, gender equality, accessible quality education, disaster response and climate change resilience, stronger institutions, and many more in UP Diliman, UP Cebu, UP Mindanao, and the UP Open University. The same can be said about our project collaborations with national and local governments and other sectors, even our student organizations have long since been active in advocating for social justice and equality.
We do this following UP’s mandate to perform its unique and distinctive leadership in higher education and development and to harness the expertise of our academic community to support the quest for national development. We do this because we are Iskolar ng Bayan (the Scholars of the Nation), committed to serving the Filipino nation and humanity—just as we have done long before the signing of the UN 2030 Agenda.
Indeed, the challenge for us at UP lies in documenting and classifying all of what we do. We are creating a database to collect and collate all the academic programs, research, and public service initiatives of each UP constituent University that align with the SDGs. This task is massive, given the many contributions of each UP CU across the System.
Hence, I believe this report is a step in the right direction. Not only because our students, faculty, researchers, staff, and academic units deserve to have their efforts recognized and appreciated. Just as importantly, we in UP must continually seek to improve, and as management theorist Peter Drucker once said: “What gets measured gets improved.”
Mabuhay ang UP! Long live the University of the Philippines!
More on UP and the SDGs
UP and the Sustainable Development Goals
Green UP: A UP System Action Plan for Environmental Sustainability
UP at a Glance
UP on Good Health and Well-Being
UP on Quality Education
UP on Gender Equality
UP on Sustainable Cities and Communities
UP on Climate Action
UP on Partnerships to Achieve the Goals