Building on ESPA’s five years of science - The SDGs and ESPA-2016.

Paul van Gardingen, ESPA Director
October 5, 2015

An important milestone was marked at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25th, 2015 when the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) were adopted by world leaders.  As well as setting the global development agenda for the next 15 years, this event also provided an opportunity to reflect on our progress since the last equivalent event at the turn of the Millennium when the UN adopted the Millennium Declaration and subsequent Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In the 15 years since the UN’s Millennium Declaration there has been very significant progress, as documented by the progress in measured against the MDGs.  The adoption of the SDGs recognises this progress but also that much more remains to be done if we are to succeed in “Transforming Our World by 2013”, the theme of the SDGs.  You can read more about the SDGs from the UN’s website including commentary of the Sustainable Development Summit which includes a section on the SDG’s Illustrated.

This month also marks an important milestone for the ESPA programme, itself a response to the MDGs (2000/2001) and subsequent UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005).  ESPA’s research reached its 5th anniversary this month and represents one of the world’s largest body of research that provides evidence of the way that ecosystems contribute to human well-being in developing countries. 

The ESPA Directorate has just published a set of documents that describe ESPA’s contributions including our Annual Report for the last year. This documents some of the programme's achievements and describes plans for the coming year, including a potential extension of the programme designed to enhance our overall impact.  I hope that you have time to read some of the key sections of this report.  The second important document published this month is the programme’s report against its monitoring framework, our "Logframe Report" for 2015.  This demonstrates just how well the programme is performing, both in terms of academic output (see our list of publications) and influencing policy and practice around the world.

There are a number of features in this edition of the ESPA newsletter which considers how to build on our progress and enhance impact.  Steve Bass, the independent Chair of ESPA’s Programme Executive Board has provided a blog that reflects on the 10 years since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and what this means for ESPA’s research in the era of the SDGs.  We link to a blog from Professor Guy Poppy the Principal Investigator for the ESPA Assets project where he reflects of the importance of research delivering impact, and need to change the way that we work to achieve this.  Finally we are launching the design phase for the next (and last) round of ESPA research calls, ESPA-2016. 

The ESPA-2016 round will commission a set of academic synthesis studies with projects currently expected to commence towards the end of the 2016 calendar year.  The first step of the design process for the call document is a global online consultation for ESPA-2016 designed to identify themes that may be explored as part of the call.  The results from this will feed into the draft announcement of opportunity which will be discussed further at a programme “Town Meeting” planned for early 2016 to be held in London.  The results from that meeting will be used to finalise the announcement of opportunity before it is published.  Please do take the opportunity to share your thoughts and influence this very important call for the ESPA programme.  We also encourage you to share the link for the consultation widely.

As the programme considers how best to build on five years of ESPA science I personally am very pleased to see the progress we have achieved and how much ESPA has to offer in terms of improving the lives of people.  I see this documented in our Annual Report and in priorities outlined in the SDGs.  Our new ESPA-2016 call will provide the opportunity for researchers to further enhance the programme’s impact through academic synthesis which can in turn be used to build the development impact of the programme.  I look forward to seeing the responses to the online consultation and next year to launching ESPA-2016.