Convening Leaders for Practical Sustainable Development Solutions at ICSD 2023

September 2023 marked SDSN’s 11th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD)! This year’s theme was The Midpoint of the SDGs: Global and Local Progress and Challenges. SDSN was proud to convene esteemed sustainable development leaders, researchers, and development practitioners from across the globe to present and discuss actionable solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the next seven years and beyond.

three days of programming, presenters shared their work on topics ranging from gender equity and inclusive education to climate change to economic development and financing. Day 1 featured side events on a range of topics, including from SDSN’s SDG Academy, the Networks Program, and Global Schools Program. Day 2 consisted of parallel and poster sessions, featuring sustainable development research and innovations from around the world. And day 3 featured plenary sessions and keynote speakers from leaders across academia, government, civil society, UN agencies, and the private sector. Read on to learn more about these sessions.

President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shared his keynote address on the state of the SDGs globally. In the DRC, the “SDG Acceleration Roadmap” has been adopted to bring about the social and economic transformations needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

“Courageous and urgent policies must be taken to expand social protection measures and curb income inequalities, but also to support vulnerable people, including young people and women.”

Gerd Müller, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), provided keynote remarks on sustainable and inclusive industrialization, and UNIDO’s role as a global implementation partner in support of developing countries, especially Africa, in the critical years ahead. 

Director General Müller called upon students, scientists, politicians, and entrepreneurs in the audience to take action on the SDGs and climate change: “Alarmism is not enough. We have the technologies, the solutions, and the knowledge. A world without hunger is possible, and climate change can be limited. It’s up to us.”

The winner of the ‘Universities for Goal 13’ award, a competition supported by SDSN and Siemens Gamesa to promote university talent in the fight against climate change through disruptive solutions, was announced at Day 3 of ICSD. The winning project, “E-Gora: The Energy Marketplace,” was created by students at Case Western Reserve University in the USA. Jeffrey Sachs, President of SDSN; María Cortés Puch, Vice President for Networks at SDSN; and Maximilian Schnippering, Head of Sustainability at Siemens Gamesa presented the award.

“All of us need to stay passionate about the green transitions we see in all industries. Use this passion and turn into action – and nothing will stop you,” remarked Maximilian Schnippering, Head of Sustainability at Siemens Gamesa.

The Pathways to Achieve the SDGs’ panel explored key questions in the race to accelerate SDG achievement, including how to create political will, how to connect commitments to much-needed financing, and how to monitor progress and refine implementation for maximum results. 

Moderated by

Moderated by Guillaume Lafortune, Vice President and Head of the Paris Office at SDSN, the panel featured a keynote by Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, Senior Minister in Charge of Development and Coordination of Government Action for the Government of Benin, as well as Obid Khakimov, Director at the Center for Economic Research and Reforms (CERR); Simona Marinescu, Senior Advisor for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS); Shirin Malek Pour, Associate Professor at Monash University and a member of the UN Independent Group of Scientists; and Lamia Kamal-Chaoui, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Dr. Qu Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, gave remarks on the critical moment we face in tackling the immense challenges to global food security. Solving these challenges will require working across sectors, harnessing data, science, technology, and agricultural innovation to transform agrifood systems and achieve the SDGs.

The panel ‘University Action to Achieve Net Zero was moderated by John Thwaites, Chair of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Climateworks Center as well as SDSN Leadership Council Co-Chair. It brought together Tim Carter, President of Second Nature, Dano Weisbord, Chief Sustainability and Campus Planning Officer of Tufts University, and Kendra Wasiluk, Program Director of Net Zero and Sustainability, Buildings and Property Division at Monash University.

The panel explored the implementation of the Net Zero on Campus Guide and Toolkit, specific steps along the decarbonization pathway for higher education institutions, as well as some of the key barriers and enablers for universities.

Donald Kaberuka delivered a Kapuscinski Development lecture, entitled ‘Accelerating Action on the SDGs in the Face of Global Challenges’.  His lecture explored possibilities for financing the SDGs and closing the divide between financing in the Global North and Global South through solidarity and partnerships.

“I’m not naive to believe that we can achieve all these SDGs at once.”

Dr. Hiba Ahmed, Director-General of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (IsFD), and Jeffrey Sachs, President of SDSN, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote data-driven strategies that enhance access to quality education and alleviate poverty.

The final session of ICSD was the Closing Ceremony and Best Paper Awards. A complete list of the researchers who received the award for Best Paper in their respective themes can be found at