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A Massive Open Online Course on the Sustainable Development Goals


The GLOBE project is concerned about some of the key global challenges of our time: climate change, pandemics, poverty, hunger, energy, conflicts,… In GLOBE we try to account for how these challenges are dealt with through a range of global governance institutions. An important framework which deals with these interrelated challenges are the Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2015, the United Nations have adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global framework of goals to build a better, more viable and sustainable world for all by 2030.  Each of these goals are made up of individual targets, with some goals containing as few as three targets, and some containing over 15 targets. These targets hone in on specific problems, such as ocean acidification or primary school enrollment. This enables the SDGs to build up a comprehensive framework by having broad far-reaching goals, with specific targets to pin-point certain areas. Targets are then monitored by one or more indicators which act as proxies to measure the progress made on a certain target. An indicator is typically a measure of the state of a particular phenomenon.

The SDGs constitute an urgent call for action by all countries, developed and developing, in a global partnership. They are, by nature, universal, integrated and indivisible, and aim to reconcile the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development by tackling wide-ranging issues, from reducing poverty and hunger, to improving health and education, reducing inequalities, spurring economic growth, as well as tackling climate change and preserving our forests and oceans.

The SDGs framework is thus a powerful tool to translate sustainability pledges into concrete and coordinated actions across all levels, from the local to the global, and across all sectors. But five years into the SDGs, how well do you know about them? How did they come up to be? How are they structured? What challenges do they face?

The EdX MOOC “The UN Sustainable Development Goals: an Interdisciplinary Academic Introduction”, developed by the University of Leuven (Belgium), unravels the complex web of the 17 SDGs and explains their emergence, structure, and interrelatedness. In a systematic manner, the course explores the background and the reality of each of the SDGs, and reflects on the challenges they are confronted with.

The course is taught by an interdisciplinary team of academic experts from the University of Leuven, as well as by practitioners in the field. Throughout the 6 modules, you will explore the concept of sustainable development and each of the 17 SDGs through videos complemented by reading materials. The discussion platforms and activities will offer you the opportunity to exchange with your peers on some of the most salient sustainability issues globally as well as to share your own experiences in contributing to the SDGs in your daily life.

The course consists of 6 modules and takes approximately 25 hours to complete, which you can do at your own pace up until 25 October 2021. As it is 100% online, it is entirely COVID-safe and you can take it from wherever you want.

As an introductory course, this MOOC is targeted at anyone with any educational or professional background who is interested in understanding how the ambitious 2030 Agenda and its SDGs aim to solve global issues.

Interested? Join over 5000 participants around the world and enroll now: https://www.edx.org/course/the-un-sustainable-development-goals-an-interdisci

Axel Marx is Deputy Director at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, KU Leuven.
Charline Depoorter is a Doctoral Researcher at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, KU Leuven.