GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Implementation of SDGs in GCC countries via crowdsourcing urban sustainability tools
Paper Proposal Text :
Over the last two years, the international community has witnessed one of the most unprecedented levels of participation of public engagement and intense processes of Member States in crafting the SDGs across the globe. Some have argued that this task concluded as of August 2015, with the agreed consensus outcome document, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, but in reality, it is just the beginning.

Looking at the current set of SDGs, half of them directly integrate key environmental issues or address the sustainability of natural resources: from poverty to food and agriculture, to water and sanitation, to energy, cities, consumption and production behaviors, climate change, oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. At the same time, over 86 of the overall targets impact or are related to environmental sustainability, including at least one in each of the 17 SDGs.

Today, society is shifting away from just economic measures of development to human-centered measures and value-based indicators. The SDGs are not just aimed at government but many other strategic actors, including civil society. Nested structures of responsibility for implementation will be required as some things are just not possible to achieve only by policy. A key challenge for engaging civil society in delivery of the SDGs will be to take the very impressive process and translate them into a language that people will identify with and adhere to. Additionally, it is important to recognize that a large part of humanity simply will not care about the goals and will be motivated by forces that work counter to them so new strategies must assume such.

The United Nations process has traditionally been essentially top-down, building a global consensus among governments on global challenges and responses. Unlike the MDGS, the formulation of SDGs has been a result of numerous consultations with individuals, communities and civil society to start a bottom-up process, translating the goals into implementation at the local level. To refine implementation processes and action plans, new tools need to be integrated into the decision-making. One way to achieve this is to use open data to verify progress towards the goals at a local, regional, or global level. Such tracking can be done with the help of \"crowdsourcing\", which accelerates the analysis of large amounts of data, such as images or documents, thanks to collective efforts on the internet. Due to this rapid global development, science, technology and society are entering today into a new relationship with far-reaching consequences and resulting in dynamic problem-solving.

Putting this argument within the context of the GCC countries, we believe there is a significant amount of potential for crowdsourcing methods to be a key avenue for calibrating implementation of the SDGs. Taking stock of the research that has shown that the actions and decisions of people on a micro-level can have a significant impact – positive or negative – on the macro energy profile of a country or a region (Azar 2014), we believe that crowdsourcing is one way to make an impact at the societal level in the advancement of the SDGs within the GCC region. The development indicators of the GCC countries indicate that the region has achieved high levels of human development that is on par with the most developed nations. However, the sustainability indicators of the GCC countries indicate significant environmental costs. The GCC countries are facing challenges related to sustainable development, including lack of adequate supplies of fresh water supplies, inadequacy of internal food production, high demand for energy, high levels of consumption, and economies reliance on oil exports. The demographic imbalance and high reliance on temporary expatriate workers are also major challenge to achieving sustainable development in the GCC countries towards anchoring capacity-building long-term. In response, the GCC governments have actively engaged in promoting sustainability initiatives, mainly in relation to education, land development, environmental protection, water, and energy, all of which fall under the targets set for the 2030 Agenda.

Anyone with a smartphone benefits from the power of sensors that measure location, movement, ambient light, as well as a range of individual social and economic actions. Sensors hold the potential for new techniques, applications, products and services for address climate change, issues of water and health and other important environmental challenges. The proliferation of increasingly affordable and compact sensors in our built and natural environment is producing a wealth of data on a wide range of environmental phenomena. Big data analytics – originally developed for finance and social media – are being used to mine this data, and help people adapt to the impacts of global change at the local level.

This paper explores how Do-it-yourself (DIY) environmental sensoring in conjunction with web platforms and social media present an opportunity to engage individuals within GCC countries to monitor and take ownership of the implementation of the global goals, especially in relation to water, energy and natural capital, from a bottom-up approach and motivate sustainable lifestyle behaviors, such as improving walkability of some of the GCC cities, such as Abu Dhabi. The paper further analyzes this methodology within the context of a case study of the Swissnex Data Canvas Sense Your City environmental sensing competition run in seven global cities ( This paper concludes by identifying possible academic institutions within the GCC countries to serve as “SDG hubs” within the region to connect and facilitate knowledge transfer among members of the community in crafting crowdsourcing toolkits specific to the needs of each country.