Students explore the Sustainable Development Goals at the Natural History Museum, Vienna

By 2030, we have an important mission to achieve. Our world is at stake. What are world's biggest challenges? What can each of us do to tackle them?

These questions were posed at the Natural History Museum on 10 November 2016 on the occasion of the first World Science Day for Peace and Development. In partnership with UNESCO and the International Council of Museums, special activities were offered by science centres, science museums and their networks worldwide. The aim was to promote the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by world leaders last year. More than 200 countries took part with over 300 events.

At the Natural History Museum in Vienna, numerous partners of the Austrian ScienceCenter Network joined in the international endeavour of proactively addressing global sustainability while reaching increasingly diverse audiences, in particular young people. Under the title "In 17 Goals Around the World", students, parents and teachers were invited to explore the potential of and challenges around the Sustainable Development Goals.

Scattered around the museum, interactive stations were waiting for the young explorers. Each dealt with one of the 17 Goals, and encouraged the visitors to experiment and pose questions. Experts in the respective field were present to share their knowledge and discuss it with the students. In the Reading and Media Corner visitors could delve deeper into the matter.

The interest of the young people was evident. After giving a short introductory talk on the United Nations' work to achieve the SDGs, Martin Nesirky, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna was bombarded with intelligent questions. "How realistic is it to achieve all 17 Goals by 2030?", "Where will the money come from to fund these initiatives?", "If nobody was poor anymore, would this not result in further overpopulation, exploitation of natural resources and destruction of our environment?"

Martin Nesirky responded to the critical questions with a mix of realism and optimism. While he informed the young visitors of the various challenges ahead, he pointed out that it was already a big achievement that the 193 UN Member States had managed to reach a consensus, agree on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and follow a common vision, amidst wars, growing tensions and rising nationalism. Lastly, he encouraged his young audience to explore and get engaged in this fundamentally important topic - they took him by the word and enthusiastically scurried away to the stations.

The UNIS Director also joined a press briefing prior to the event with Chairperson of the ScienceCenter Network, Margit Fischer, the main event organiser, Sarah Funk, General Director of the Natural History Museum, Christian Köberl and CEO of the ScienceCenter Network, Barbara Streicher. All speakers emphasized that such interactive events are an excellent way to start building awareness and engagement for the SDGs among young people.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals aim to tackle the world's biggest challenges such as ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and combating climate change. The United Nations appeals to each and every individual to join in the effort to make this visionary project a success.