The World Federation of Engineering Organisations president Marlene Kanga discusses how engineers can contribute to sustainable development.
What is the significance of the Global Engineering Congress (GEC)?
The GEC will bring together eminent engineers from around the world to discuss their collective efforts in progressing the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is also an opportunity to raise the profile of the problems that are being addressed and the solutions that are being developed.
How has the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) identified the right topics and projects for the first GEC to tackle?
The WFEO has a strategic objective to provide international leadership for engineers to develop frameworks and policies that progress the SDGs. Our aim for the GEC programme was to showcase the best of the projects that are being undertaken around the world and to provide thought leadership on the critical issues.
How is our changing climateand growing, urbanising population impacting infrastructure globally?
There is a pressing need for better housing, roads and utilities, especially in developing countries. Providing sustainable solutions will be a challenge for engineers.
The WFEO has developed a model code of practice to assess the impact of climate change on infrastructure and we will be speaking about some of these issues at the GEC.
What tools are at engineers’ disposal as they strive to create more resilient infrastructure?
A risk-based approach is cost effective. However, every aspect of location, design, construction and maintenance requires review to achieve sustainable outcomes.
What role can digital transformation in engineering play in tackling the SDGs?
Digital transformation can introduce new technologies that can enable developing countries to leapfrog development stages. For example, mobile payment systems can allow small farmers and entrepreneurs in Asia and Africa to trade without a bank account. This can lead to the achievement of several SDGs – including education, better health and the alleviation of poverty.
What is required to support the engineering industry’s achievement of the SDGs?
Government policy is needed to underpin the imperative for sustainable development. The technology for many solutions already exists but there may be barriers, such as cost or community perceptions, that prevent implementation. For example, in some developed countries there is an aversion to potable recycled water, which is an imperative in dry countries. Recycling is often a more sustainable alternative to desalination, which is very
energy intensive. Government can establish policies that ensure integrated water management.
How does WFEO play a role here?
WFEO has a unique position in being the umbrella body for nearly 100 professional engineering institutions around the world.
We can engage with international bodies such as the UN to put forward frameworks and strategies to implement solutions to various aspects of sustainable development. The WFEO Engineering 2030 Plan sets out
to achieve this objective. We will be releasing the first report on the projects being undertaken under the Plan at the GEC.