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Engineering in partnership can save the planet

“12 years left to save the planet”, was said and written many times throughout 2019. Indeed, we only have ten years to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a decade to make a difference for this planet and the next generations. We need to find ways to fix the damage and make the Earth a better place for everyone. There are no exceptions, it concerns everyone.

The aspiration of the sustainable development agenda is that no one should be left behind. The achievement of sustainable development goals as their aspiration is not a journey for a lonely thinker. The Goal no. 17 is earmarked for strengthening global partnerships. Mobilising multi-stakeholders and multi-disciplinary expertise in new forms of cooperation is not only the way for succeeding on the goal no. 17, but also a condition to buckle down to all goals.

It becomes evident that engineers - the bearers of technical solutions are crucial in making their important strides on this journey. Engineering through its very essence intends to have impact on society, grow the economy and protect people and the environment. Six of the sustainable development goals have been identified by researchers as essential to support delivery of the others. Four of these rely on engineers’ expertise: reliable and affordable energy, access to safe water and sanitation, effective, resilient transport and industry, and sustainable cities.

The Association of Nordic Engineers, ANE and Engineers Without Borders Denmark (EWB-DK) really hit it off while discussing how the well-renowned Nordic engineering solutions could be solicited to help the communities in need. ANE represents professionals holding technical knowledge, it has experience in policy influencing and it advocates for engineering sector’s contribution to sustainable development and national growth. While, EWB-DK holds a long-standing experience in creating partnerships and making technology work in developing countries.

 “The focus of this joint endeavour is the transfer of Nordic knowledge and experience to ensure higher living standards and equip developing countries with necessary technical skills. Building core infrastructure from scratch is both a political and technical process, and therefore it is paramount to support local engineering organizations in the South and make them a voice for sustainable development,” says Dorte Lindegaard Madsen, Secretary General of EWB-DK.

While the specific objectives are still to be written in the stone, the emphasis of this cooperation is on the capacity building and knowledge transfer activities carried out with the Sierra Leone Institute of Engineers, SLIE - the beneficiary institution. Mainly, these activities will be targeted towards strengthening the organisational structure and providing technical support for building resilient infrastructure. The goal is also to position SLIE as a strong and influential voice for sustainable development in the country.

All partners met for the first time in Freetown to agree on the strategic vision for this partnership during the 3-day visit, August 12-14. If the local organisations should help their communities with the sustainable transition, one should think about the institutional capacity strengthening. The SWOT analysis of SLIE, conducted during the visit, pinpointed the crucial need for interventions around developing a long-term strategy for the organisation with the communication and visibility plan attached. There is a need for sharing knowhow on policy-influencing and outreach activities. In terms of securing the sustainability of the organisation, there is also a requirement for developing a new business-model, which from one hand would secure additional income and, from the other - a higher membership number. A specific focus should be on finding methods to ensure employability for new graduated students and to empower women-engineers.

In the opinion of Ing. Oba Agwu-Jones, Secretary General of SLIE, this first meeting was useful in clarifying everyone’s expectations. For SLIE this cooperation is very important in terms of enhancing the existing institutional capacities and getting new knowledge. The Nordic countries have a well-renowned reputation when it comes to smart technological solutions, strong organisational structures that defend workforce interests on the job market and free education that delivers high-quality professions. This surely forms a good foundation for anchoring the relevant expertise in SLIE.

Making use of the successful engineering outcomes quite often needs a little push in form of political commitment with allocated investment capital and strong institutional structures supporting new ideas and engaging in new forms of cooperation.

 “Sustainable development goals are a solidarity project, helping each other to speed up the transition towards a more sustainable world of living and acting. Sharing knowledge and getting new insights are the success criteria for this project. And, this goes both ways. For the Nordics, getting out of the comfort zone and finetuning mindsets to deliver smart solutions fitting the local conditions is definitely a skill to get. Hopefully there will be more partners joining in the future to help us delivering on the goals. We need to act together, there are no shortcuts on this road!”- stated by Inese Podgaiska, Secretary General of ANE.

In 2006, Thomas Friedman, an American writer called for a green revolution in his book: “Hot, Flat and Crowded”. 12 years later, Greta Thunberg and our young generation took his call to the streets across the world. We have to weld elbows, as we don’t have much time to waste, a decade is just a drop in the ocean!

This article is written by Inese Podgaiska, Secretary General of Association of Nordic Engineers, ANE

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den forventede levealder i Sierra Leone er cirka 52 år. Det er en af verdens laveste.