Science - August 29, 2018

‘We need others to achieve anything’

Albert Sikkema

As Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University, Arthur Mol is involved in 12 of the 17 sustainable development goals. WUR’s role: collect new and reliable knowledge. Collaboration is key in this respect. ‘We need others to achieve anything.’ Today, the last part about the upcoming SDG conference.

How are you involved in achieving the SDGs, in particular eradicating hunger?

‘As rector of Wageningen University, I am closely involved with the SDGs. A stocktaking has revealed that our institution contributes substantially to 12 of the 17 SDGs through education and research. We work on food safety, clean drinking water, sustainable cities, health, partnerships, etc. Our role is to collect and share new and reliable knowledge, both regarding the issues and regarding the directions to follow to reach solutions. The SDGs are central in our domain and one could say they fit us like a glove.’

In your opinion, which concrete actions or measures will have a significant impact on achieving these SDGs?

‘I would have to say collaboration and partnerships. We cannot contribute anything to the SDGs in practice with just our knowledge and without collaborating with public and private parties that can implement our knowledge and recommendation out in the field. We need others to achieve something; we must place ourselves in the middle of society.’

Could you give an example?

‘To limit the environmental impact of pesticides in agriculture, we need proper authorities for authorisation, registration and control of pesticides. WUR advises on this subject, for example in Ethiopia, where I visited the national office that oversees the admission and use of pesticides. It was a small, messy room with large piles of paper where nothing was digitised and which was significantly understaffed. This would be one of the institutions we need to set up to realise more nutritious food and cleaner drinking water. This also means that we do not merely need to collaborate, but also to learn how to set up institutions in countries such as Ethiopia.

The great thing about SDGs is that they do not only apply to developing countries, but also to the Netherlands. We must also collaborate locally to achieve a structurally more sustainable agriculture, for example.’

On 30 and 31 August, WUR will be hosting the SDG conference to find out how we can implement the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Senior and young speakers from around the world will be giving speeches and attending workshops. What do these participants want to achieve?