On September 17th and 18th two Masters of Science in Development Practice students – Bryan Lee and Julia Schroer – on the jointly delivered course by TCD and UCD attended the Second Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice. The ICSDP is co-hosted by the Global Association of the Masters in Development Practice Program (the MDP’s home on TCD’s campus is the Geography Department in the School of Natural Sciences) and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The conference is also supported by the Earth Institute and it was held at Alfred Lerner Hall on Columbia University’s campus in New York City, New York. Nearly 400 students, practitioners, academics, and government officials converged on Columbia University to attend the conference.
The ICSDP serves as a platform to discuss evidence-based solutions for sustainable development issues and to provide feedback to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network ahead of agenda negotiations due to take place in 2015. Over the last 14 years, the world has witnessed an unprecedented effort to end extreme poverty in all forms. This effort has been guided by the Millennium Development Goals. Much progress has been made towards reducing poverty, but there are still billions of people who live in extreme poverty and many countries that will not achieve the goals in their entirety. In 2015, the world will reconvene to discuss lessons learned and to ratify the successors to the Millennium Development Goals.
Over the course of two days, the conference featured numerous speakers who delivered messages detailing development challenges and hope for the future. Keynote speaker Jeffrey Sachs emphasized that civil strife has acted as a barrier to development and urged an end to all hostilities. Sachs placed this responsibility on world leaders and stated that “We need the role of the state to be, not for war, but for sustainable development.”
Keynote speaker Frannie Leautier, CEO of Mkoba Private Equity, also emphasized the role of business in sustainable development. She stated that small and medium size businesses are incredibly innovative and quick to adopt new technologies and thus could have a great impact on the world. She argued that “SMEs can do a tremendous job towards contributing to the post-2015 agenda” by leading the world in creating and adopting environmentally friendly technologies.
A new component of the ICSDP this year was a two-part series on Careers in Sustainable Development. A wide variety of organizations participated, including: One Acre Fund, Chemonics International, International Relief & Development, Concern Worldwide, Caja Rural Los Andes, USAID, McKinsey & Company and Developing Radio Partners.
In process of identifying initial opportunities and continuing to progress one’s career, the importance of networking was mentioned by several speakers. Panellist Rosanna Ramos-Velita, founder and director of Caja Los Andes, pointed out “there is only one degree of separation between you and your future boss” and do not be afraid to “follow up constantly with professional persistence”.
Bill Siemering of Developing Radio Partners also offered the sage fieldwork advice that “change happens at the speed of trust” and in our call to serve others, it is our authenticity that lights up the faces of the people we seek to help.
It is hoped that this session at future ICSDP meetings will continue to grow and formalize the element of professional recruitment, both for internships and jobs, for the uniquely qualified MDP students.
After months of planning and hundreds of hours of hard work from dedicated employees and volunteers, the ICSDP 2014 has been a great success and students, alumni, professors and practitioners alike look forward to what next year will have in store.