From Choi to the World

Led by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Professor Sanjeev Khagram, L.A. and Oxy team up for a global initiative to accelerate Sustainable Development Goals

Occidental will partner with the City of Los Angeles in an ambitious effort to accelerate and measure the city’s pursuit of sustainable, inclusive, and equitable growth as part of a unique global initiative backed by the 193 countries of the United Nations.

“Los Angeles can, should, and will lead in building the healthier and more prosperous world that we dream of for our children and grandchildren,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in announcing the joint effort in a speech February 5 at Choi Auditorium. “Our partnership with Occidental matches that commitment with the brainpower, research, and data collection that will keep us on target to reach for the highest goals.”

As part of the new collaboration, Oxy will recruit other regional academic institutions and identify ways in which faculty and students on multiple campuses can help implement Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Los Angeles, according to Sanjeev Khagram, Occidental’s John Parke Young Chair in Global Political Economy.

“Later this spring we will begin convening stakeholders from across the entire community to contribute to making Los Angeles a leader in achieving the SDGs,” said Khagram, who will serve as senior adviser on the initiative, known as Global Ambition, Local Action (GA-L.A.). “Angelenos will and must be the direct beneficiaries of our efforts, but we will also assemble a set of practices with our partner cities that can be adapted around the world.”

Occidental students are already at work utilizing World Council on City Data standards to measure how current city plans and programs align with the SDGs. Adopted in 2015 by the United Nations’ entire membership, the 17 SDGs call on the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to address challenges that range from ending hunger and reducing inequality, to building resilient infrastructure and combating climate change.

“Oxy has a proud tradition of global engagement,” said Garcetti, who once taught at the College and cited its Kahane United Nations internship program and its diplomacy and world affairs department, the only one of its kind in the country.

As founder and leader of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data in 2015, Khagram recruited hundreds of partners worldwide to begin to use big data to achieve sustainable development goals. His expertise and international network fit neatly with the city’s efforts to build on its 2015 SDG-based Sustainable City Plan, which lays out a series of goals for a cleaner environment and a stronger economy. Los Angeles’ successful bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics also requires the city to demonstrate how it is advancing SDGs.

“Cities are on the front line of getting services to ordinary people, and we know that 60 to 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities in the coming decades. That’s why this initiative is so critical,” Khagram said.

At Oxy, GA-L.A. will involve an interdisciplinary effort among multiple academic programs—global affairs, DWA, urban and environmental policy, computer science, the Center for the Digital Liberal Arts, and the International Programs Office—to help develop new data-driven decision-making processes for the city.

“This is a College-wide effort,” Khagram emphasized. “Occcidental is committed to being the premier liberal arts college for Sustainable Development Goals.”