The SDG principles serve as a compass in VLIR-UOS endeavour of sharing minds, changing lives. They are transversally integrated to render the activities and change processes SDG-proof. VLIR-UOS considers global engagement for higher education as a goal (SDG 4: Quality Education) and a means for attaining other SDGs through knowledge co-creation, transfer and valorisation.
Additionally, VLIR-UOS uses the SDG principles as a compass to integrate the principles of “synergy and complementarity” and the integration of transversal and priority themes of the Belgian Development Cooperation into its operations. Integration of these principles is an important element in the selection of projects.
Interconnectedness: VLIR-UOS recognises that given the complexity, scale and interconnectedness of current societal challenges, meaningful social, economic and ecological transformations can only be realised by approaching the SDGs from a holistic and integrated viewpoint. More precisely, VLIR-UOS strives for holistic transformations by encouraging projects to reflect on their position in the interplay of global challenges and national needs, and to bring together the different types of expertise that are necessary to successfully implement the project. As an essential first step in considering the complexity of societal change, all VLIR-UOS supported projects develop a holistic context analysis that moves beyond sectoral and disciplinary borders and should analyse the positive as well as negative interlinkages between the SDG goals. This also includes attention for the transversal themes gender equality and environment sustainability. With regard to gender, VLIR-UOS and its partners engage in fixing the numbers, fixing the knowledge and fixing the organisation in line with the theoretical three-fixes model of Londa Schiebinger (See VLIR-UOS gender policy document). Projects are expected to align with this threefold gender strategy in their proposal. With regard to environment, project applicants are invited to consider the environment and environmental sustainability during the project identification & formulation phase, as well as to monitor and reflect upon the project’s effects on the environment and the risks posed by the environment on their project. Thereby, projects should be guided by the ‘do no harm’ principle to prevent, reduce, and control the risk of environmental harm. Besides integration of gender equality and environmental sustainability concerns within project management, the transversal themes can also feature in the projects’ content.
Coherence, interinstitutional collaboration and Multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSP): The complexity, scale, and interconnectedness of the current societal challenges that the SDG framework is seeking to address, requires a concerted effort or collaboration by a wide variety of actors. This need for concertation/collaboration is translated to 3 potential approaches . Proposals are invited to explore these.
Coherence: The Agenda 2030 urges actions to be coherent with the actions and networks of other actors and/or other HES4SD initiatives. An analysis of complementary actions by academic and non-academic actors is essential for each partnership (to ensure coherence). VLIR-UOS wants to facilitate coherence and connections between different actors and projects present in each country and across borders. With these objectives in mind, Country Reference Framework (CRF) documents support teams of academics when identifying and formulating project proposals, by providing a context analysis per country, focused on Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development and the higher education sector, and by providing an overview of Belgian development actors active in the country and of their ongoing projects and partners, in view of exploration of opportunities to connect and assure coherence.
Interinstitutional collaboration: This concerns a structural collaboration between several higher education institutions at Flemish and/or partner level within the framework of a project, pooling available expertise, with the aim of obtaining better results.
Multistakeholder partnership (MSP): This concerns a structural collaboration with at least 1 non-academic actor (= multi-stakeholder; civil society, private sector, governmental actors, etc.) in which this actor plays an active role in the project implementation. VLIR-UOS takes into account the MSP principle by promoting collaboration between different actors (beyond HEIs) to co-create, share, and mobilise knowledge and expertise across disciplines, sectors, interest groups, and borders. More precisely, VLIR-UOS explicitly puts forward the science-society interface and knowledge uptake, and the importance of strengthening it.
Leave no one behind: VLIR-UOS recognises the need for pro-active strategies to ensure that vulnerable and marginalised populations are included and benefit from higher education partnerships for sustainable development. The LNOB principle is taken into account by looking at partners with whom we work, at beneficiaries for whom we work, and at what we focus on in projects. VLIR-UOS encourages projects to take gender and vulnerable groups into account, by putting forward partnerships with mid-range or small-scale institutions, by awarding scholarships to a diversified group of beneficiaries and by promoting transformative or community-based types of research. More precisely, international top higher education institutions are only considered when they participate as supporting partners in projects, scholarship attribution is not only based on academic excellence in terms of scientific output, and mainstreaming approaches are put in place to consider inclusion and (gender) equality in each project. Short Initiatives, in particular, aim to be accessible for academics/researchers at the early stages of their academic career interested to explore the potential for higher education for sustainable development. As mentioned earlier, with regards to gender, VLIR-UOS and its partners engage in fixing the numbers, fixing the knowledge and fixing the organisation for gender equality. This is also an important dimension of the Leave No One Behind principle.