• Course Code:  GC

  • Term:  Autumn 2014

  • Start Date:  Aug 25 2014

  • End Date:  Dec 23 2014

  • Duration:  18 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Jeffrey Sachs Shiv Someshwar

This course has ended

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MDP Global Classroom: The Age of Sustainable Development

Autumn 2014

Sustainable Development




About this course

With the world at 7 billion people and a current annual GDP of around US$70 trillion, human impacts on the environment have already reached dangerous levels.  By 2050 there may well be 9 billion people and global GDP of more than US$250 trillion.  The challenges of governance for sustainable development in a globalizing world are real and many. National governments must coordinate policy development and implementation with diverse actors -- businesses, local governments, regional / international institutions, and civil society organizations. The global Information and communication revolution is leading to increased transparency, with growing demands for participation in decision making in every country. Multinational corporations are key players in global trade, finance, manufacturing, resource extraction, and technological change, and more so than most national governments. Globalization makes possible regulatory and tax arbitrage across jurisdictions, undermining the effectiveness of national economic policies, taxation, environmental regulations. Tackling problems that require global cooperation is extremely challenging in a multi-polar world. The world urgently needs a practical and effective framework for sustainable development to address the simultaneous challenges of ending poverty, increasing social inclusion, and sustaining local and planetary life systems. 


Recognizing the urgency, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s High-Level Global Sustainability Panel issued a report recommending that the world adopt a set of

Sustainable Development Goals.  As part of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s initiatives to promote sustainable development, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was launched in 2012 to mobilize global scientific and technological knowledge on the challenges of sustainable development, including the design and implementation of the post-2015 global sustainable development agenda. There is growing international support for the idea that a set of SDGs for 2015-2030 should succeed and build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  A central challenge is that feasible pathways to long-term sustainability are highly complex, subject to technological uncertainty, and requiring substantial financial resources. Sound policy-making in each country requires a long-term approach that integrates strategies vis-à-vis many complex challenges: food and nutritional security, social service delivery, energy policy, water resource management, urbanization, infrastructure, human rights, biodiversity, adaption to climate change, mitigating GHGs, sustainable business, good governance, and much more. New kinds of cross-disciplinary expert teams, knowledgeable of and sensitive to these issues, and often working across national borders, are needed to provide an integrated approach to sustainability.  


The broad goal of this course is to introduce the foundations of key sectoral and thematic knowledge for these important challenges to sustainable development. Through the Global Classroom, an approach pioneered by Columbia University and the Global MDP Association, we will do this together with academic partners from around the world.


Course objectives: Upon successful completion of the course, students will become familiar with current and emerging global issues related to sustainable development goals, be equipped to analyze critical dimensions of sustainable development in the context of both industrialized and developing countries, and be cognizant of the key spatial and temporal connections and their integration for successful policy and practice of sustainable development.

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MDP Global Classroom: The Age of Sustainable Development


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