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2021 – A Super-Year for Sustainable Development Diplomacy

2021 – A Super-Year for
Sustainable Development Diplomacy
April 20 – May 18
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2021 is a super year of sustainability multilateralism. Postponements and disruptions caused by COVID-19 have made 2021 a busier than normal year of multilateral engagement on critical issues of sustainable development. This includes more than 7 heads of state or government summits across issues of climate change, biodiversity loss and nature, and food systems ability to provide an affordable healthy diet, sustainably. International economic governance will also focus on sustainable development as economic leaders seek to ensure that financial and economic systems respond to climate risks, valuation of nature’s contribution to the economy, a global debt crisis and a crisis of inequality that threatens resilience just as we understand the need for resilience in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we make sense of the challenges and the opportunities of this super year of sustainable development diplomacy? Can progress be made when the world is fighting a global pandemic? Can politics and diplomacy respond to the science? Can progress in sustainability be pursued when there is a cooling in international relations on technology, trade, security and human rights?

This course designed for mid- to senior-level international affairs professionals from the public, private and non-profit sectors combines intense, interactive lessons from global experts with a flexible learning format to inform and equip executive leaders for global affairs diplomacy for the post-pandemic landscape. Sustainable Development 2021 will be taught by Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School and Professor of Practice. Dean Kyte and her teaching team will work closely with participants to achieve their professional goals for the course.


Skills & Professional Benefits

Become aware of key issues at stake in different processes of sustainable development , how they interact and the frameworks decision makers may use to help reach agreement.

Gain a deeper understanding on the interconnection of multilateral agendas and the interests of national and international stakeholders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Connect different multilateral processes to future issues, and gain analytical insight of emerging trends and pathways to foster cooperative action.

Acquire working knowledge of the issues, diplomatic strategies and key economic and finance matters in sustainable development diplomacy and relevant multilateral processes.

Access new peer networks and close connection with globally recognized experts, and become acquainted with sources for analysis and knowledge.

Certificate of completion awarded.

Course Fee: $960 | Fletcher and Tufts Alumni: $720
Dean Kyte

Rachel Kyte

Dean of The Fletcher School
Professor of Practice

Kyte is a member of the U.N. secretary-general’s high level advisory group on climate action and an advisor to the U.K. government in its preparations of the climate talks in 2021 as a Friend of COP26. See her full bio here.

Live Sessions

Session 1: Climate

Date: April 20, 2021 | Time: 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM ET

Featured Expert: Mr. Selwin Charles Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General for the Climate Action Team

Critical climate talks will take place in November 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow, UK. The most significant moment of climate diplomacy since the 2015 Paris Agreement received a shot in the arm with the US rejoining the Paris Agreement on February 19th. Countries must ratchet up their ambition in cutting emissions and in addressing adaptation and resilience. Critical issues include finance – how to finance transitions to low emissions development and adaptation to climate impacts and how markets can speed and scale climate action, from effective carbon pricing, to accounting rules for offsetting emissions, to trade rules related to carbon embedded in goods and services.

The session will explore question on how much of the urgent climate action needed this decade can be delivered in Glasgow and how much is it dependent on other coordination on economic and finance issues in discussions normally held in the context of the G7 and G20. Does the pandemic make it easier or harder to strike agreement.

Session 2: Nature

Date: April 27, 2021 | Time: 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM ET

Featured Expert: Ms. Hindou  Oumar Ibrahim, UN SDG Advocate and Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples Caucus

The United Nations talks of the three environmental crisis of this decade and decades to come: the climate crisis, the crisis of waste and pollution and the crisis of biodiversity loss and humanity’s assault on nature. The Kunming Summit on Biodiversity, also postponed from 2020 will take place in 2021 and will focus on a framework for action to preserve biodiversity from 2020 on. Famously, previous targets have gone widely unmet, but the pandemic and the climate crisis as well as new scientific reports have revealed the extent of the assault on nature and how it undermines development and prosperity. The next world ocean summit will take place in 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. It marks the beginning of the UN decade for ocean science for sustainable development reflecting how much is still poorly understood about the role oceans are playing in sustainability and the priority that must be attached to restoring their health.

The session will explore questions around the new found role, for many, of nature as a solution. Does this make it easier or harder to agree ambitious action to stop biodiversity loss? How does ambition emerge from economic systems that fail to value nature?  What can be achieved to protect nature across all the summits in 2021? Can we arrive at ambition without nature having a seat at the table?

Session 3: Healthy and sustainable diets

Date: May 4, 2021 | Time: 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM ET

The Food Systems Summit will take place in New York in September. In December 2021 Tokyo will host the Nutrition for Growth summit. These summits and the organizing around them will look at system reset for food systems that failing both humanity and the planet. What then are the possibilities that these summits put us on course for healthy, affordable and desired diets for all that can be produced while staying within planetary boundaries and contributing to restoring nature.

The session will explore the extent to which these summits may lay the ground work for food system transition or transformation, the extent to which critical issues of food will appear in other summits and processes, how the different constituencies are lining up and how food is moving up the list of priorities in the international community.

Session 4: International economic coordination and governance

Date: May 11, 2021 | Time: 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM ET

Sustainable development has moved from the realm of environmental negotiations to the heart of international economic governance and financial systems coordination. Despite the antipathy of the Trump administration there has been significant movement to fully appreciate the systemic risk posed by climate change and biodiversity loss as well as the corrosive effect of inequality within economies. With the G7 and G20 hosted by the co-chairs of the climate talks, the UK and Italy, with the return to the international economic stage of an engaged US administration, and with new leadership in key positions of influence in economic governance, is there an emerging alignment of key actors  in 2021?

This session will explore the sustainable development urgent to-do list for international economic coordination and governance, including of the Bretton Woods Institutions. It will examine where thought leadership is emerging, the contours of that leadership and what this may mean for existing institutions.

Session 5: Can politics and international cooperation deliver for science?

Date: May 18, 2021 | Time: 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM ET

Science and scientists deserve better political leadership and better coordination at the international level. This is not a new story, but the post-fact world, the rise of digital and social media, has taken denial of science to a different and more quickly destabilizing level than before. At the same time, the international system designed more than 75 years ago is creaking under the strain of hostile populism and the benign neglect of its friends. How then can 2021’s super year of sustainable development diplomacy spur necessary reforms of international governance and coordination, or give rise to processes that will engage new forms of governance and coordination. How do new technologies help or hinder? Can businesses and civil society organizations be engaged in governance transparently?

This session brings together the themes from previous sessions and asks how the current system can be reformed or evolved to support concerted action in the decade to come? Can 2021 usher in a more productive era of cooperation?