The USC Institute for Global Health held an event on Wednesday to discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the HIV epidemic and human rights.
The event is part of the “Wicked Problems” multi-disciplinary practicum, a hands-on course for select USC students to tackle local issues of health, inequality and sustainability, but the seminar was open to the public.
Mandeep Dhaliwal, director of the United Nations Development Programme HIV, Health and Development Group was joined by Jeffrey O’Malley, former director of UNICEF’s Division of Data, Research, and Policy.
Dhaliwal, a physician and lawyer, joined the United Nations Development Programme in 2008, and spearheaded the creation of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Her work focuses on HIV/AIDS research, care and human rights issues in countries like Africa and India.
Dhaliwal outlined the UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which was adopted in 2015 by 193 member countries.
“The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 interconnected goals with 169 targets,” Dhaliwal said. “The SDGs are much more narrowly focused … and the agenda is universal and indivisible.”
Zero hunger, gender equality and clean water and sanitation are a few examples of the broad goals the organization hopes to achieve. While they are broad in language, the SDGs serve as a guiding framework for global cooperation, according to Dhaliwal.
“[HIV] is one of the wicked problems of global health,” Dhaliwal said. “The global response has been remarkable on a number of fronts … [demonstrating] the power of human rights and solidarity across governments.”
O’Malley specifically commented on the diseases’ impact on the LGBTQ community.
“Why are queer people and queer issues linked to the SDGs?,” O’Malley said. “We need to understand how the SDG framework works for people with disabilities, queer people, migrants. Looking at these marginalized groups is a way to test whether this framework works for everybody.”
Global health is rooted in a history of marginalization, he said.
“The roots of global health are not altruistic. They were not about helping marginalized people or poor people,” O’Malley said.
The event attracted both graduate and undergraduate students from all fields of study. Jake Anderson, a sophomore studying global health, attended the talk to hear about issues not discussed in the classroom.
“We are future leaders in this profession,” Anderson said. “I think it’s interesting to see the progress that is trying to be made and to use that to see what it is I want to do with my life.”
Sofia Gruskin, the director of the USC Institute for Global Health and a professor of preventative medicine and law, noted that both speakers were able to blend their passions with strategic thinking.
“[The speakers] move policy and programs in the UN [and] work with governments and civil society around the world,” Gruskin said. “The world is a more inclusive and open place because of their work.”