12 March 2019

Walking the SDGs in Europe, from theory to action

THINK_SDGs, is a network of Global Health Policy Think Tanks and Academic Institutions working on health-related SDGs, lead by the Global Health Centre, in partnership with the International Development Research Centre. The aim of this network is to foster global knowledge sharing, capacity building and innovation.

Co-coordinated and hosted by Barcelona Institute for Global Health, ISGlobal, the European chart of this network met in Barcelona on February 14-15th. Titled “Challenges and needs of SDGs’ implementation in Europe”, the meeting gathered a diverse audience from think tanks and academic institutions to governments and WHO representatives.

From the presentations and discussions held it became apparent how the SDGs serve a double purpose. On one hand, they are a new opportunity to propel Europe’s role in the fulfillment of global health aspirations, such as ending preventable diseases and achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Such is the aim of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All (GAP), a tool that tries to generate high level commitment and vision in a very much atomized (in terms of governance and financing) global health scenario.
On the other, they also represent a responsibility for European countries and institutions to address its own health challenges and inequalities from a “health in all policies” intersectoral approach. Several case studies on topics such as translating science into urban and transport planning in the city of Barcelona, the Swiss Whole-of-government approach at the state level, or how to monitor with sensitive-enough indicators health inequities in terms of UHC in a country such as Sweden; helped attendants to identify barriers and difficulties in SDGs’ implementation, but also success factors and stories.

The huge unharnessed potential of universities and research centers was identified in the discussion. There is a need for think tanks and academic institutions to have better mechanisms to efficiently and effectively work with policy makers and institutions such as the WHO, or at national and local levels, by translating and interpreting knowledge, informing the design of national plans, encouraging implementation, making institutions accountable for their commitments, changing narratives to facilitate political process by thinking outside the box, and teaching and engaging youth, among others. This inspiring meeting has fostered and envisioned ways of further collaboration between think tanks and academic institutions and suggested some avenues to further walk towards the SDGs at the European level.

About ISGlobal
Barcelona Institute for Global Health is the outcome of an innovative alliance between academic, government, and philanthropic institutions that contribute to the efforts undertaken by the international community to address the challenges in global health. With scientific research in two main areas (infectious diseases and chronic diseases and environmental health) as its backbone, ISGlobal’s activities focus on translational research and collaboration with diverse partners, including long-term strategic alliances in Mozambique, Bolivia and Morocco.