Imme Scholz and her colleague John Agard – both in their roles as chairs of the UN-Independent Group of Scientists (IGS) and following the invitation of Future Earth, organised the closing plenary of the major annual congress of international sustainability research.
The congress gathered over 2000 participants from over 100 countries and presented inter- and transdisciplinary work for sustainable development up for discussion. Imme Scholz and John Agard presented the current IGS’s reflections for the next Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), which is to be published on behalf of the United Nations General Assembly in 2023.
They then listened to five selected young scholars presenting their expectations within the five fields of work of the congress and formulating recommendations for the next GSDR. Many contributions emphasised the need to reform science itself, to dismantle colonial structures, to include underrepresented groups as well as indigenous knowledge holders as partners in research (and not just to question or consult them), to train for inter- and transdisciplinary research, and to learn how to listen and use clear language to do so. Sustainability, the scholars argued, cannot be achieved without global justice for the most vulnerable people, and for that to happen, society and economy must become more diverse than they are now, as well as recognise the rights of other ways of life. Mark Stafford-Smith concluded by articulating what did not exist at these annual congresses exist ten years ago: neither the SDGs nor the now undeniable importance of indigenous knowledge for sustainability solutions, a much more engaged private sector, and an evolved transdisciplinary practice.