September 23 & 24th 2015, marked the third annual International Conference on Sustainable Development held at Columbia University in New York City. The conference’s theme, Implementing the SDGs: Getting Started had riveting discussions concerning the United Nation’s latest endeavour to launch the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Amrita University’s AMMACHI Labs presented their paper titled, Training India’s first female toilet builders: An argument for improving sanitation through women empowerment and social inclusion during one of the parallel sessions at the conference. The paper was co-authored by PhD researchers Srividya Sheshadri, Kripasagar (Chris) Coley and the Director of AMMACHI Labs, Prof. Rao R. Bhavani. Former intern Vidya Nair from the University of Waterloo presented the paper. The unique aspect about AMMACHI Labs is that all team members spend considerable time in the field alongside its end-users. This way, they get a firsthand understanding of the many challenges to rural development and sustainability and are able to identify and innovate solutions to target the specific needs of rural villages. Many participants were interested in the work the University and AMMACHI Labs had been doing across India and applauded its efforts. The paper also won the “best paper award,” being recognized as one of the six best papers presented at the conference.
The conference was interesting and attracted a range of speakers. Many heads of state were present, including, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia and His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda. A number of United Nations representatives, including Jeffrey Sachs, Irina Bokova, and Jan Eliasson also addressed attendees. There was passion in the speakers’ voices as they pleaded for international agencies and national governments to work together towards achieving the new SDGs. Discussions stressed the importance of applying the lessons learned during the millennium development goals to new initiatives moving forward. Moreover, there was an increasing push towards stronger community engagement in any project launched. The strategies and themes highlighted during the conference were very much aligned with Amrita University Chancellor’s vision, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, “to impart a culture of the heart.” In order for us to achieve the SDGs by 2030, it is important for stakeholders to stir innovation, inclusion, and ownership to allow for a greater impact of sustainable development initiatives. These are crucial steps to be taken in order to see change.
The conference proceedings will be available during the coming weeks at http://ic-sd.org
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