11 May 2018

Partnership between universities and local governments featured in START seminar

The importance of academia for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is crucial, as shown by the activities and initiatives undertaken by member institutions of the United Nations Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).

11 May 2018 - The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) hosted a seminar on 10 April 2018 at United Nations Headquarters in New York that addressed partnerships in the state of Kerala, India between educational institutions and local governments in support of sustainable development. The seminar focused on meeting the essential needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. 

The framework of the meeting was the START (“Skills and Technology Advancing Rapid Transformation”) programme, which considers how research, science and technology can address some of the world’s most pressing issues and problems and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In that regard, institutions of higher education are considered social capital contributing to the well-being of their communities.

Over 150 students from Amity University and TKM College of Engineering, participated in the event moderated by Ramu Damodaran, Chief of UNAI. Among the keynote speakers were the Minister of Fisheries and Harbour Engineering and Cashew Industry of the Kerala State Government, J. Mercykutty Amma, the District Collector, S. Karthikeyan and Lauren Barredo, Head of Partnerships at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

TKM College officers such as the Trust Chairman, Shahal Hassan Musaliar and the Principal, Ayoob Sulaiman, along with UN staff Saji Charuvil Thomas, were also speakers during the opening panel. The event as a whole highlighted the value of development models for social inclusiveness, while underscoring the need to addressing housing situations—a requirement to improve the quality of life of the poorest of the poor.

Land is a scarce resource in the Indian state of Kerala. The best possible use of space is seen to be vital for reducing the lack of housing in Kerala, which affects thousands of homeless families—even as the state boasts a 100% literacy rate and a vibrant tourism industry. The EDAM housing project in Kerala was featured during the event precisely as a potential model for local development and as an example of micro-level planning and resource mobilization. It incorporates government programmes, local bodies, educational institutions and civil society, and involves housing designed by civil engineering students of the TKM College of Engineering. The project was shown by Assistant Development Commissioner, Sudhesan Vidyadharan, Additional Private Secretary, Roy Tom Lal and District Information Officer, Ajoy Chandran.  

The ‘Economically Viable Housing Unit’ for the project was presented by the student Asif Ayoob, professor Altaf Muhammed and the Head of the Civil Engineering Department, Sunil Kumar Bhaskaran. This housing project, whose goal is to ensure access to housing for all and situates itself with the LIFE (Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) mission, gives an opportunity to engineering students to develop their social commitment to their communities. Reintegrating the homeless into the mainstream requires the involvement of all those affected, which is why engagement with stakeholders at the local level, including academic institutions, is crucial. This project also illustrates the importance of practical implementation of classroom knowledge, thereby showing how academia can help advance the SDGs.