Implementing the SDGs: Getting Started

2015 International Conference on Sustainable Development

2015 is a pivotal year for sustainable development! As we move from the MDGs to the SDGs, we need to hear from you! This year’s conference theme is Implementing the SDGs: Getting Started. The aim of the conference is to identify and share practical, evidence-based solutions that can support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be agreed upon at the United Nations immediately following the conference. The ICSD provides a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from government, academia, the United Nations, international agencies, NGOs, and grassroots organizers to share practical solutions towards the achievement of more sustainable and inclusive societies.

Draft Program of Parallel Sessions Now Available

Conference attendees may now view a draft program of the Parallel Sessions and the Abstract Book (click to download).

Featured Speakers

  • President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

    Peter Bakker is President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). He is a distinguished business leader who until June 2011 was the CEO of TNT NV the Netherlands based holding company of TNT Express and Royal TNT Post (formerly TPG Post).

    Under leadership of Mr. Bakker, TNT became a leader in Corporate Responsibility with a ground-breaking partnership with the UN World Food Program, ambitious CO2 reduction targets from its Planet Me initiative and multiple year leading positions in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. He joined Royal TPG Post in 1991 and was appointed financial director of its parcels business unit in 1993. He was appointed financial control director of TPG Post in 1996 and became a member of the Board of Management of TPGPost in 1997. Since the split of TPG N.V. from Koninklijke PTT Nederland N.V. until his appointment as CEO in 2001, he was chief financial officer and a member of the TPG Board of Management.

    Mr. Bakker is a respected leader in Corporate Responsibility. He is the recipient of Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2009; SAM Sustainability Leadership Award in 2010; and the UN’s WFP Ambassador Against Hunger in 2011. In addition he is the Chairman of War Child Netherlands.

  • Director-General, UNESCO

    Irina Bokova, born on 12 July 1952 in Sofia (Bulgaria) has been the Director-General of UNESCO since 15 November 2009, and was successfully reelected for a second term in 2013. She is the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead the Organization.

    As Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova is actively engaged in international efforts to advance gender equality, quality education for all, and combat terrorist financing by preventing the illicit traffic of cultural goods. A leading champion in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, Bokova has spearheaded UNESCO’s activities on Holocaust remembrance and awareness and is the first Director-General of the Organization to appoint a Special Envoy for Holocaust Education.

    She is a leading advocate for ensuring quality education for all and has championed gender equality, making this her own personal priority for the Organization. Other fields of action include enabling scientific cooperation for sustainable development, such as early warning systems for tsunamis or trans-boundary water management agreements and global advocacy for the safety of journalists and freedom of expression.

    Having graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and studied at the University of Maryland (Washington) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University), Irina Bokova joined the United Nations Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria in 1977. In charge of political and legal affairs at the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations in New York, she was also member of the Bulgarian Delegation at the United Nations conferences on the equality of women in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995). As Member of Parliament (1990-1991 and 2001-2005), she advocated for Bulgaria’s membership in EU and NATO and participated in the drafting of Bulgaria’s new Constitution.

    Irina Bokova was Minister for Foreign Affairs, Coordinator of Bulgaria-European Union relations and Ambassador of Bulgaria to France, Monaco and UNESCO and Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie” (OIF). As Secretary of State for European integration and as Foreign Minister, Irina Bokova has always advocated for European integration. She is a founding member and Chairman of the European Policy Forum, an NGO created to promote European identity and encourage dialogue to overcome divisions in Europe. This is an example of her work to endorse the values of dialogue, diversity, human dignity and human rights. Irina Bokova is Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) and co-Vice-Chair of the Broadband Commission.

    Irina Bokova has received state distinctions from countries across the world and is Doctor Honoris causa of leading universities.

    In addition to her mother tongue, she speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian. She is married with two grown children who live and work in the United States.

  • Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations

    Jan Eliasson was appointed Deputy Secretary-General by UN Secretary-General ban Ki-moon and took office on 1 July 2012.

    Mr. Eliasson was from 2007-2008 the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Darfur. Prior to this, Jan Eliasson served as President of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly. He was Sweden’s Ambassador to the US from September 2000 until July 2005. In March 2006, Mr. Eliasson was appointed Foreign Minister of Sweden and served in this capacity until the elections in the fall of 2006.

    Mr. Eliasson served from 1994 to 2000 as State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a key position in formulating and implementing Swedish foreign policy. He was Sweden’s Ambassador to the UN in New York 1988-92, and also served as the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Iran/Iraq.

    Mr. Eliasson was the first UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and was involved in operations in Africa and the Balkans. He took initiatives on landmines, conflict prevention and humanitarian action. 1980-1986, Mr. Eliasson was part of the UN mediation missions in the war between Iran and Iraq, headed by former Prime Minister Olof Palme. In 1993-94 Mr. Eliasson served as mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He has been a Visiting Professor at Uppsala University and Gothenburg University in Sweden, lecturing on mediation, conflict resolution and UN reform. Mr. Eliasson has had diplomatic postings in New York (twice) Paris, Bonn, Washington (twice) and Harare, where he opened the first Swedish Embassy in 1980.

    Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson also served as Chair of Water Aid/Sweden and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advocacy Group of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    Mr. Eliasson graduated from the Swedish Naval Academy in 1962 and earned a Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration in 1965. He was born on 17 September 1940 in Goteborg, Sweden, and is married with 3 children.

  • Vice-President (Operations 2) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)

    Stephen P. Groff is Vice-President (Operations 2) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He assumed office in October 2011.

    Mr. Groff is responsible for the full range of ADB's operations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. His mandate includes establishing strategic and operational priorities in his areas of responsibility, producing investment and technical assistance operations amounting to approximately $5 billion annually, managing an existing portfolio of about $23 billion, and leading about 650 staff.

    In addition, Mr. Groff supports ADB's President in managing ADB's overall operations, represents ADB in high-level multilateral fora, and contributes to managing its relationships with its 67 member country shareholders, other multilateral financial institutions, and key government, private sector, and civil society partners.

    Prior to joining ADB, Mr. Groff was Deputy Director for Development Cooperation at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) where he led OECD's work on a wide range of development-related economic and political issues. He also served as OECD's envoy to the G20 Working Group on Development and was a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council. Prior to this he was the Deputy Vice-President for Operations at the Washington-based Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), where he helped set up the agency and led MCC programs while advising the CEO on development issues, strategy, and policy. Prior to MCC, Mr. Groff held several staff positions at the ADB. Before this, Mr. Groff was the deputy director and chief economist on a large U.S. Agency for International Development project designed to encourage private sector development in the southern Philippines, a Program Director for the U.S. Refugee Program, and a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.

    Mr. Groff has worked across Asia, Africa, and Latin America and writes regularly on development issues. He also serves on a number of advisory boards for development-related organizations.

    Mr. Groff holds a Master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology from Yale University.

  • Director of Earth Institute’s Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program and Former Director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

    Dr. James Hansen, formerly Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he directs a program in Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions. He was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science program of Dr. James Van Allen at the University of Iowa. His early research on the clouds of Venus helped identify their composition as sulfuric acid. Since the late 1970s, he has focused his research on Earth's climate, especially human-made climate change. Dr. Hansen is best known for his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 and was designated by Time Magazine in 2006 as one of the 100 most influential people on Earth. He has received numerous awards including the Carl-Gustaf Rossby and Roger Revelle Research Medals, the Sophie Prize and the Blue Planet Prize. Dr. Hansen is recognized for speaking truth to power, for identifying ineffectual policies as greenwash, and for outlining actions that the public must take to protect the future of young people and other life on our planet.

  • Internationally-Renowned Journalist, Writer and Moderator

    Femi Oke is an international journalist, writer and moderator. Since the 1980s, she has worked for BBC television and radio, Sky TV, all U.K. terrestrial television networks, CNN and U.S. public radio. Oke’s reporting has been recognized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Communications Agency and InterAction. Her engaging moderating style is well known at the United Nations, World Bank, European Union and numerous NGOs where she regularly moderates at high profile events. You can connect with her anytime via Twitter @FemiOke.

  • Former President of Ireland; President and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Mary Robinson Foundation

    Mary Robinson is President of the Foundation and Chair of the Board of Trustees. She is a former President of Ireland (1990-1997) and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002).

    Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997), former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and founder and President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative (2002-2010), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Born Mary Bourke in Ballina, County Mayo (1944), the daughter of two physicians, she was educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King’s Inns Dublin and Harvard Law School to which she won a fellowship in 1967.

    As an academic (Trinity College Law Faculty 1968-90), legislator (Member of the Irish Senate 1969-89) and barrister (Irish Bar 1967-90, Senior Counsel 1980; called to the English Bar 1973) she sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court in Luxembourg as well as in the Irish courts. A committed European, she also served on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.

    In 1988 Mary Robinson and her husband founded the Irish Centre for European Law at Trinity College. Ten years later she was elected Chancellor of the University.

    The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Mary Robinson is a member of the Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid.

    She serves on several boards including the European Climate Foundation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society.

    Mary Robinson returned to live in Ireland, following the planned end of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, in December 2010. She now serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Between March 2013 and August 2014 Mary Robinson was the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. In August 2014 she was appointed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change.

  • Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC)

    A leading scientist on global sustainability with a focus on water resources and access. Rockström is a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and a Professor in Environmental Science with emphasis on water resources and global sustainability at Stockholm University.

    Prof. Johan Rockström is the Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and a Professor in Environmental Science with emphasis on water resources and global sustainability at Stockholm University.

    Rockström is an internationally recognized scientist on global sustainability issues. He led the recent development of the new "Planetary Boundaries" framework for human development in the current era of rapid global change. Led by Rockström, the SRC identified nine key Earth processes or systems and marked the upper limit beyond which each system would risk a major system crash. These include climate change, along with other human-made threats such as ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, and chemical pollution.

    He is a leading scientist on global water resources and strategies to build resilience in water scarce regions of the world. Rockström has more than 15 years of experience of research on agriculture, water resources and ecosystem services. He has written over 100 research publications with more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific articles and several books in the fields of global environmental change; resilience and sustainability; agricultural water management; watershed hydrology; global water resources and food production; and eco-hydrology.

    Rockström is a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and has served as advisor to several international organizations, governments and the European Union. He is a frequent keynote speaker in several international research, policy and development arenas on topics such as sustainable development, global environmental change, and resilience thinking. Rockström also serves on several scientific committees and boards. For instance, he is the vice-chair of the science advisory board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). He was chairing the visioning process on global environmental change of ICSU, the International Council for Science. Rockström is also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry

    In 2009, Rockström was awarded the title "Swede of the Year" for his work on bridging science on climate change to policy and society. He was ranked the most influential person on environmental issues in Sweden 2013 and 2012, and in August 2010 was given the "Social Capitalist Award" by Veckans Affärer.

  • Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation and Development, European Commission

    Klaus Rudischauser joined the European Commission in 1989 and took up duty in the Directorate-General Environment. Subsequently he worked on assistance to the Newly Independent States and then was Head of Unit at the Directorate-General Personnel and Administration and the Directorate-General Energy and Transport where he was in charge of the Transeuropean Transport Networks.

    From March 2007 to May 2011, Klaus Rudischhauser was Director at the Directorate-General Development and Relations with ACP Countries. His areas of responsibility covered amongst others: Programming of the European Development Fund (EDF), Panafrican issues, Peace and Security in Africa, Migration, Governance, Budget support and debt relief.

    From June 2011 to July 2012, Klaus Rudischhauser was in charge of Directorate B Quality and Impact of Aid at DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid. His responsibilities included amongst others: Quality of aid; Evaluation; Inter-institutional relations; Information and Communication.

    Since 22 November 2011 Mr Rudischhauser represents Commissioner Piebalgs in the UN initiative Energy for All.

    As of 1 August 2012 Mr Rudischhauser is Deputy Director General at DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid and oversees directorates EU development policy, Sustainable Growth and Development, Human and Society Development as well as the Task-force for an enhanced dialogue with International Organisation and three units dealing with respectively Communication and transparency, Institutional Relations, Quality and Results.

  • Director, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN); Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University; Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals

    Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders. He was called by the New York Times, “probably the most important economist in the world,” and by Time Magazine “the world’s best known economist.” A recent survey by The Economist Magazine ranked Professor Sachs as among the world’s three most influential living economists of the past decade.

    Professor Sachs serves as the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He is co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, and is director of the Millennium Villages Project. Sachs is also one of the Secretary-General’s MDG Advocates, and a Commissioner of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development. He has authored three New York Times bestsellers in the past seven years: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011). His most recent books are To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (2013) and The Age of Sustainable Development (2015).

    Professor Sachs is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty. His work on ending poverty, promoting economic growth, fighting hunger and disease, and promoting sustainable environmental practices, has taken him to more than 125 countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s population. For more than a quarter century he has advised dozens of heads of state and governments on economic strategy, in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

    Sachs is the recipient of many awards and honors, including membership in the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Society of Fellows, and the Fellows of the World Econometric Society. He has received more than 20 honorary degrees, and many awards and honors around the world. Professor Sachs is also a frequent contributor to major publications such as the Financial Times of London, the International Herald Tribune, Scientific American, and Time magazine.

    Prior to joining Columbia, Sachs spent over twenty years at Harvard University, most recently as Director of the Center for International Development and the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Sachs received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard.

  • Executive Director of Human Resources, Health and Safety, Sustainability and Energy, Vale

    Vania Lucia Chaves Somavilla was appointed Vale’s Executive Director of Human Resources, Health and Safety, Sustainability and Energy in November 2011. She is responsible for the companys Corporate Affairs, Institutional Relations, Business Security, and Communications areas, as well as the Vale Foundation. She was formerly Executive Director of Human Resources and Corporate Services.

    Ms Somavilla joined Vale in 2001 as General Manager of Energy Sales Planning. From March 2004 to March 2010, she was Director of the Energy Department, and she took on the additional functions of CEO of Vale Energia SA from April 2009 to May 2010, and CEO of Petroleum Geoscience Technology Ltda. (now Vale Óleo e Gás SA). She was appointed Director of Vales Environment and Sustainable Development Department in April 2010. Between 1995 and 2001, she worked at CEMIG (Companhia Energética de Minas Gerais) as the coordinator for new hydroelectric plants and other power generation projects.

    She has an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), a postgraduate diploma in Dam Engineering from the Federal University of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, and an MBA in Corporate Finance from IBMEC Business School, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. She has also taken the Transformational Leadership Program at MIT, the Mastering Leadership Program at IMD, Switzerland, and an extension course in Management of Hydro Power Utilities at SIDA, Sweden.

  • President and Chief Executive Officer, Ericsson Group

    Hans Vestberg is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ericsson Group, the world’s leading provider of telecommunications technology and services.

    Vestberg joined Ericsson in 1991. He has broad international experience, having held various management positions for Ericsson in China, Brazil, Mexico and the US. He remains the international advisor to the Governor of Guangdong, China. Vestberg served as Ericsson’s Chief Financial Officer from 2007 to 2009 before becoming CEO.

    Along with the rest of Ericsson’s executive team, Vestberg is focused on advancing the company’s leadership through innovation, technology, services and sustainable business solutions. Under his direction, Ericsson has become the main driver toward the Networked Society, where connectivity is the fuel of progress.

    In 2011 Vestberg was named the 6th most powerful man in wireless by Fierce Wireless.

    He is a leading advocate of the Millennium Development Goals, and for the potential of mobility and broadband to tackle some of the world’s most compelling issues such as poverty, health, education and climate change. He is a member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and chaired the Commission’s climate-change working group. He is also on the advisory board of the Digital Health Initiative.


  1. Day 1

  2. Registration

  3. Opening Remarks - Femi Oke

  4. Kapuscinski Development Lecture Series - Klaus Rudischhauser, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Jeffrey Sachs, Mary Robinson, Jan Eliasson, Irina Bokova, Savas Alpay, Stephen P Groff, Peter Bakker, Johan Rockström, James Hansen

  5. Coffee Break

  6. The Future of Global Health: Case Study Ebola - Betsee Parker, Ranu Dhillon, Aboubacar Diallo, Abdel Nasser Iro Gigo, Ibrahim Kaba, Mamady Camara

    Moderator: Femi Oke

    Panelists: Stephen P. Groff, Jeffrey D. Sachs

  7. Lunch Break (on your own)

    Participants will leave the venue to take lunch on their own. A list of area restaurants is available on our logistics page (scroll down).

  8. Book Signing - Jeffrey Sachs, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

  9. Mobilizing the Private Sector for Sustainable Development - Stephen P Groff, Hans Vestberg, Vania Somavilla, Cherie Nursalim

    Moderator: Stephen P Groff

  10. Data, Monitoring, and Accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals - Bob Chen, Deborah Birx, Christian Kroll, Guido Schmidt-Traub, Simon Scott

  11. Coffee Break

  12. 7 Parallel Sessions (See Parallel Session Agenda)

  13. Poster Session and Cocktail Reception

    ** The reception will take place in a different venue on the Columbia campus. Directions will be forthcoming. **

  14. Concert – Music for a Sustainable Planet (limited tickets available)

  1. Day 2

  2. Careers in Sustainable Development

  3. Empowering Youth for Sustainable Development

  4. Coffee Break

  5. Parallel Sessions (See Parallel Session Agenda)

  6. Lunch Break

    Participants will leave the venue to take lunch on their own. A list of area restaurants is available on our logistics page (scroll down).

  7. Parallel Sessions (See Parallel Session Agenda)

  8. Coffee Break

  9. Closing Plenary



See the logistics page for a full list of restaurants.


See the logistics page for advice on where to stay and how to book.