President of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) Dr Marlene Kanga announced that, starting next year, 4 March will be celebrated annually as World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development.
Kanga made the announcement as part of her welcoming address at the World Engineers Convention, which opened in Melbourne on 20 November.
A vote Tuesday at the UNESCO General Conference confirmed the declaration of the date, which followed the adoption of a resolution supporting the proposal by the UNESCO Executive Board this past April.
The 4th of March has a particular significance for the WFEO, which was founded on that date in 1968. The peak global body represents 30 million engineers and 100 organisations.
“World Engineering Day is an opportunity to celebrate engineering and encourage young people to consider engineering as a career for a better world,” Kanga tweeted after the announcement.
“Let’s start planning our celebrations on 4th March.”
Engineering the future
If the world is going to successfully adapt to a carbon-constrained future and produce enough resources for all its inhabitants, engineers will be crucial.
Each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a set of targets for 2030, will require engineering to be successfully met.
Raising awareness of this — as well as overall importance of the profession — is part of the reason for adopting 4 March as World Engineering Day.
As WFEO President, Kanga has personally led the initiative.
“It was a remarkable process, with many twists and turns,” Kanga said.
“We had to learn along the way, receiving support and advice from the UNESCO Secretariat as well as various ambassadors from the UNESCO delegations to UNESCO. This is important because the proposal is put to UNESCO by member nations. It was supported by 80 engineering institutions from around the world with total membership of approximately 23 million engineers.”
Kanga wrote the explanatory note for the April session of the UNESCO Executive Board and the proposed decision.
“This eventually went through with little modification,” she said, adding that it seemed “touch and go” at the April meeting, though Namibia, China, Nigeria, France and UK supported the decision before “many countries from every continent followed”.
A worldwide celebration
World Engineering Day will celebrate the essential role of the engineering profession to a modern economy, its role in advancing the 17 SDGs, and its role in both modern and ancient history.
The day will also encourage engineering as a career in which science and mathematics can be applied to solve problems.
Proposed outcomes also include demonstrating high-achieving female engineers throughout the ages, addressing the gender imbalance, engaging with industry and government, and building awareness of the need for extra engineering capacity in developing countries.
“In all countries there is great deal to be done — to deal with the impacts of climate change, environmental issues, our growing cities and the challenges of new technologies including artificial intelligence,” Kanga said.
“There are many opportunities and the day can be used to engage with young people and say, ‘If you want to make change for a better world — become an engineer’.”
Kanga is currently in her second and final year as WFEO President.
“I am very proud that this will be one of the significant legacies of my term,” she said.
“Although there are 11 days in the calendar that celebrate various aspects of science, and a World Science Day on 11 November, there was no day that celebrated engineering.”
At the UNESCO Executive Board meeting, WFEO Executive Director Jacques de Méreuil, speaking on Kanga’s behalf, told the UNESCO Executive Board that World Engineering Day would be an opportunity to engage with society and young people, especially girls.
”You cannot have a modern nation without engineering,” he said.
“Engineers are critical to advance the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and we commend this decision that will enable focus on how engineering can create a better world.”
Kanga said it was important to put the profession forward.
“Look around you. Everything you see is nature. The rest is the result of the work of an engineer,” she said.
“World Engineering Day will be an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of engineers and engineering.”