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This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken in this episode

It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Marlene Kanga, WFEO President 2017 – 2019.

  Mel De Gioia 0:24

Welcome to Engineering Leaders Mini Series in the lead up to the very first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development 2020. This mini series is being supported by the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. My name is Melanie and my co host and our podcast resident engineer is Dominic. Today’s episode is on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 16… that is Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

  Dom 0:51

Today’s guest almost needs no introduction because she’s already been on that podcast. Until very recently, our guest was the president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. It is thanks to her campaigning efforts that we are about to celebrate our very first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. She’s on the board for the Sydney Water Corporation and Airservices Australia, as well as a few other boards. Our guest has been listed as the top 10 most Influential Women Engineers in Australia, the top 100 Women of Influence and the top hundred engineers in Australia, and she has been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia. Today our guest is Dr. Marlene Kanga.

  Mel De Gioia 1:34

Marlene was naturally talented in chemistry and mathematics, and she knew she wanted to do something practical with her skills. Growing up, no one ever told her that girls couldn’t be engineers. On top of all that her dad was one of India’s very first engineers who worked on some amazing projects

  Guest 1:53

and I saw firsthand the impact that engineering has on people and how it changes lives and empower them and encourages economic development. I think engineers don’t think about this enough.

  Dom 2:06

Couldn’t agree more. This podcast series were specifically looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And today we’re looking at Sustainable Development Goal number 16, which is Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Can you tell us a little bit about what SDG16 sort of encompasses?

  Guest 2:23

So SDG16 is about the institutional framework under which individuals can work to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, these institutions can be government organisations, can be not for profit organisations, can be professional institutions, and can be companies. And it’s all about governance and sound frameworks. And it’s really a foundation for the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. Without strong institutions, we can’t progress these and in the developed world, we often take this for granted. We operate seamlessly under strong institutions. But in many other in many countries around the world, these institutions don’t exist in the first place. Leave alone has strong governance, in particular, in the engineering sector, this is particularly important. And I think it’s very important for the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, of which I was President until November 2019, to work to support from institutions and governance for the engineering profession.

  Dom 3:42

Do you find that most of the institutions are willing to take on the guideline they’re actually willing to help or it’s very hard to sort of cross that boundary between engineering and politics.

  Guest 3:53

In some instances, there is a crying need for strong institutions, people know that they want it, but they don’t know how to get there. And I’ve had experience of getting people across the line, if you like, for international standard in a relatively small space of time and in a relatively small amount of effort, if you like. Because what’s key is communicating what’s required for good governance, what’s the structure that’s required, what are the elements of good governance, and these information is critical for many, many institutions, and many individuals who desire to have strong institutions to help them to understand what is needed to get them to an international standard.

  Mel De Gioia 4:42

So what inspired you to work within this UNSDG?

  Guest 4:46

This SDG 16 on the governance of organisations is a foundation SDG, because this then enables individuals to work within a framework of an organisation that is well run, has good systems and processes, is not corrupt, is an ethical organisation, and provides equal opportunities for all.

So it’s absolutely essential,

I think to have strong institutions with good systems and processes in place to enable individuals to flourish and to progress their goals.

  Dom 5:24

So how are you as an engineer contributing to the UNSDG? Are there specific projects that you’re undertaking at the moment?

  Guest 5:32

Yeah, I can talk to you about three specific areas. So the first is on the global scale in partnership with the International Standards Organisation, ISO. So I’m a member of the committee that is developing a standard on the governance of organisations. This will be the ISO 37,000 standard, and the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. It’s a partner member of this committee. This committee is made up of the standards organisations from around the world, who are working together to develop this particular standard. And what this does is it provides the structure and framework of what a well governed organisation should consist of. It may sound very basic, but it’s actually an essential framework.

We’ve been working on this for the last 18 months and I’m happy to say it’s progressing very fast very well. We hope to release the standard along with some guidance later this year. So this will be a critical element for the governance of organisations and it compliments the ISO 37,001 Anti-Bribery Standard, which the World Federation of Engineering Organisations also worked on with ISO, which is to prevent corruption and organisations. And the World Federation runs training on the implementation of ISO 37,001 and we will similarly develop training programmes on the governance of organisations through ISO 37,000 grants that is released. So that’s the first project and it’s a clear objective and something that will definitely have an impact.

  Dom 7:24

Yeah definitely.

  Guest 7:25

Yeah, the second one is specifically in the engineering sector and this is to


develop strong organisations in the field of engineering education.


So we have an organisation called the International Engineering Alliance, which is a partner of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. And this alliance, IEA, is the acronym, provides


governance over multilateral agreements between countries to recognise engineering qualifications and professional credentials.

This is absolutely critical for engineers to be able to work seamlessly around the world.


So for example, Australia, Canada, United States, UK, and South Africa, for example, signatories to these agreements, there are seven in all, which deal with engineers, technicians, technologists, and their professional credentials to match. But you can see from the list that I’ve mentioned, they’re all countries from the developed world. And


it has progressed very slowly in the developing world.


At the same time, there’s a huge shortage of engineers in the developing world. And in some countries, which have a huge demand, there’s a few thousand engineers. The engineers that are produced also aren’t of international standards. So you, you have some countries like India, for example, produce about a million engineers a year, but the standard varies enormously. At the top tier there are international class. But, you know, it ranges right down the bottom where those engineers really don’t have qualifications that would make them employable at an international standard. So what’s needed is a process to accredit, or verify the graduate outcomes for these engineers and to have a process that brings them up to international standards. So for this, you need two types of institutions, you need independent bodies or organisations that accredits the universities and secondly, you need to bring the universities themselves, the teaching programmes, up to standards. So the World Federation of Engineering Organisations is working with IEA on the second part on the accreditation of organisations.

Firstly, to establish accreditation organisations in countries where there are none, and secondly, where there are accreditation bodies, to bring them up to international standard. The absolute crying need for this and I personally worked to bring, for example, Sri Lanka to the international standard. And they achieved the international standard in 2014 and it’s had an enormous economic impact. They now have Engineers Act and all engineers are required to be registered. They’ve expanded the number of engineering students that now graduate and there are now more universities and engineering courses for engineers. But most importantly, those engineers are employed with confidence within Sri Lanka on infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka without importing foreign engineers.


This is absolutely critical for economic development.


So we’re working at the World Federation, with a few small number of countries. Because this, of course, always requires money, and we don’t have a lot. But what we’re doing in this seeding, we’ve got our hub-and-spoke model. So we are seeding this project, so that in certain regions of Africa, we’re supporting the those that are most advanced, for example, in East Africa, Kenya is most advanced and Ghana in the West. At the moment in Africa, we have only one country, South Africa, that is at international standards. And our goal is to get three more, at least, after standards in the next four years. And once we get those three, we hoping that they will then support other African nations in the region. And we are working out a process, a flow chart if you like, to develop the pipeline of institutions that we can support. We’re also doing this in Asia and also in South America. In South America, we don’t have any. So we’re going to bring, hopefully bring Peru and Brazil up to that standard, and also, hopefully Mexico. So it’s a big, big plan.

  Dom 12:16

Yeah, big job.

  Guest 12:17

But you can see it’s going to have enormous impact on engineering. And of course,


engineers are critical to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.


So we’re hoping this SDG 16 and the work that we’re doing will then help to progress further work on the other SDGs by engineers.

  Mel De Gioia 12:35

So you’ve had your first project was a very global and I’m assuming it was more than just engineers dealing with that ISO, so that was a quite a wide net. And then your second project that you just mentioned, was about putting strong institutions in to allow the education of engineers to be more globally aligned to each other so we can get more engineers in on a really good quality because as you said that we need the engineers to progress society. So what was your third project?

  Guest 13:08

So the third project is really in terms of diversity and women in engineering. It may surprise you, or it may not, that there’s very few institutions, engineering institutions around the world that have chapters for the women engineers. And some countries have networks of women engineers, which aren’t aligned with the professional engineering institutions. But within the professional engineering institutions, less than 10 members of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations have Women in Engineering groups. And adding these groups is quite important for diversity because it does a number of things. Firstly, it’s a network and a support mechanism for women who are often isolated in workplaces where they are a minority. So it


always helps for women to get together and talk about the problems and realise that many of the problems and issues they face are systemic.


It’s not about them personally, it’s a systemic issue. Secondly, having these networks helps to do other things like raise the profile of women engineers who are achievers, encourage them into leadership, mentor and support them, and also to encourage more girls to become engineers. So, these women in engineering networks are extremely important. So I am encouraging the World Federation of Engineering Organisation’s Committee for Women in Engineering to sponsor the foundation of Women in Engineering groups among the members of the Federation. This is a project that is still in its infancy, but has a long way to go. But again, it’s about developing institutions in a particular sector of engineering to address in fact, Goal 5, which is Greater Diversity and Inclusion, which is again vital for innovation and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

  Mel De Gioia 15:08

So some of these projects that you brought to our attention, like, they have a long lead-in so they’ve been running for a number of years now, what specifically are you hoping to achieve on any of those projects in 2020?

  Guest 15:23

So in 2020, I’m hoping that we will have the ISO 37,000 standards completed and released. I think that will be a very big project to have in place and it’s a global project. It covers all types of organisations, corporate, private sector, not for profit, and professiona,l and government and we can continue to build on that. That’s a foundation for which we can take off and go further. Similarly, with the engineering accreditation bodies, we’re not going to get there this year, but we’ve made a step bringing together all the parties has been an enormous amount of work. It’s taken a lot of goodwill, but it’s a lot of talking as well. We’ve now brought them together under the auspices of UNESCO. And it’s just a work in progress.

  Mel De Gioia 16:14

Thank you.

  Dom 16:14

Thank you so much for joining us.

  Mel De Gioia 16:16

I feel like I’ve really learned a lot about the scale and the magnitude of what is being done by engineers towards SDG 16. And I’m a little bit daunted by the amount of work that needs to be done.

  Dom 16:30

It’s an amazing amount of work. But it’s, it’s also it’s so encouraging that these things go by and just to hear about those particular projects as well. The things that we don’t know about, the we don’t know about, even in the engineering fraternity unless we sort of talk about those things. And it’s so wonderful to think that there’s these frameworks that are being set up, but actually is really encouraging for the future.


Yeah. So thank you. And thank you for joining us today on our special mini series.


Yeah, thank you so much.

  Guest 16:58

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Transcribed by

Until very recently Dr Marlene Kanga was the President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. It is thanks to her campaigning efforts that the we are all about to celebrate our very first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development.

She is on the board for the Sydney Water Corporation and Air Services Australia, as well as numerous other boards.

Marlene has been listed among the Top 10 most influential women engineers in Australia, the Top 100 Women of Influence and the Top 100 Engineers in Australia. And she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia.