International Conference on Sustainable Development

Tuesday 20 September, 13 MDP Cohort 4 Candidates flew to New York City to attend the annual International Conference on Sustainable Development (IC-SD) at Columbia University. As the MDP program at the University of Waterloo was founded as part of the global MDP network, we are invited to attend and submit papers to the conference. This year three of my colleagues submitted individual papers for oral and poster presentations. Myself and the rest of my colleagues presented at Professor Larry Swatuk’s panel on “Climate Action and Sustainable Development: Water and Land”.


Wednesday 21 September, the IC-SD’s opening ceremonies consisted of presentations by Dr. Patrick Paul Walsh, Professor of Development Studies at the University College of Dublin; H.E. Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica; Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University; and Achim Steiner, Director of the Oxford Martin School. The morning panels began with a discussion on “Private Sector Support for Achieving the SDGs” with stakeholders from both sides contributing to the discussion. Before lunch the discussion shifted to “Hot Topics in Sustainable Development” with specialists in environmentally focused peace and disaster preparedness.

The afternoon session was filled with interesting and diverse speakers, beginning with the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg. The panel discussion titled “Data for the SDGs” was intriguing as it offered insight into how data can and should be used to further development efforts. “Supporting Youth Solutions for Achieving the SDGs” was a youth-focused panel exploring the role of young people in international development. Finally, Dr. Patrick Paul Walsh and Lucia Rodriguez, Director of the Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Secretariat presented the closing session of the first day.


The second day of the conference consisted of numerous panels happening simultaneously, with various papers being presented in thematic discussions. The first morning session had one MDP representative, Vidya Nair, who presented a paper titled “Kiribati’s plight: Balancing adaptation and resilience needs for small-island developing states”. The second morning session also had an MDP Waterloo presence with Kadra Rayale presenting her paper “Lessons in displacement: Challenges and solutions of girl’s education in refugee camps in Kenya”. MDP candidate Laura Maxwell presented a poster on the challenges and successes of community resource management projects in Ghana.


After lunch, the MDP Waterloo panel moderated by Professor Larry Swatuk began with a paper presented by Rija Rasul and Stephen Little titled “Shifting Waters: Exploring How Changing Water Discourse has Ignored the Impacts of the Farakka Barrage”. I presented my paper with my colleague Mary Crawford called “Four Countries One Aquifer: The Guarani Aquifer and the Duty to Cooperate”. The third paper “Nothing’s Always Perfect: The Boomerang Effect of Three Gorges Dam” was presented by Bojian Zhang, Chieh Cheng, and Zhe Zhang. MDP candidate Stephanie Solomon presented a paper titled “An Assessment of UN-REDD in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam”. “The Belo Monte Dam: from local protest to national boomerang effect” was the final MDP paper presented by Jason Durst. The MDP Waterloo panel received a lot of positive feedback from attendees and the papers will be presented again back at the University of Waterloo next week.


During our free nights we explored New York City, and some of us even caught a Broadway musical! Presenting at a conference for the first time was an exciting experience and I’m very glad to have had this opportunity with the support of the program.




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Kaylia Little is a student in the 4th Cohort of the Master’s of Development Practice program. She works as the Student Engagement Coordinator for the  Program. Her research interests include community development, human rights, decolonization, gender equality, indigenous land rights, and sustainable agriculture.


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