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2023 Global Sustainable Development Congress



For the first time since its inception, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology hosted the annual Global Sustainable Development Congress on May 30th through June 1st, 2023, where two KGSP students had the opportunity to attend and participate. The Congress brought together over 1,600 global thought leaders and innovators to discuss pressing issues around sustainability. The Congress event served as a call to action for universities around the world to pivot their educational, research, and innovation programs towards tangible outcomes in meeting the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  

“This Global Congress is one of the first opportunities for KAUST to fully open its doors to the world, and to showcase its extraordinary campus, faculty and administrators,” KGSP Manager Colm Lynch, said. “To have KGSP students on campus during this major event is invaluable in showing them that the Kingdom is gaining an ever more important seat for issues that affect the world.” 


Zahraa Alkhayat, junior at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Engineering.Image 1: Zahraa Alkhayat, junior at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Engineering.

Along with the hundreds of educators and experts in attendance, KGSP students Zahraa Alkhayat and Taha Alnufaili had the opportunity of participating in and presenting at the event. Zahraa, a junior majoring in Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said being a part of the Congress presented an [incredible] opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals, experts, and to gain insight from other participants in improving her understanding and perspectives of sustainable development. Zahraa participated in a roundtable discussion on “supporting youth-driven solutions for our sustainable future” where attendees explored topics such as the role of higher education in fostering sustainable solutions, as well as the ethical considerations surrounding consumption practices, the potential for innovation through artificial intelligence, and the integration of sustainability principles into corporate strategies. “It was inspiring to witness the diverse range of perspectives and innovative approaches presented during the sessions,” Zahraa said. “The networking opportunities allowed me to connect with individuals who shared similar goals, fostering potential collaborations for future projects. Additionally, the congress reaffirmed the significance of holistic and multi-stakeholder approaches in tackling global sustainability challenges.” 


Taha Alnufaili, junior at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Computer Science.

Image 2: Taha Alnufaili, junior at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Computer Science. Taha gave a presentation on a machine learning model used to improve the detection of harvest events in Ukrainian grain fields. Taha said the model could help farmers, especially in war-torn regions, avoid resource waste.


Taha, a junior majoring in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park, gave a presentation at the Exhibition Hall in which he discussed his experience building a machine learning model to improve the detection of harvest events in grain fields in Ukraine using satellite imagery. “I wanted to join the congress to amplify the voice of the younger generation,” Taha said. “The younger generation should be more involved in the Congress because [its] goal is to highlight the importance of following sustainable practices to ensure a bright future.” 

“The KGSP is a platform that will realize the potential in the Kingdom’s most impressive young people in STEM,” Colm said, adding, “For their potential to be realized, our platform needs to be given opportunities to shine. In giving thanks to the Kingdom’s wise leadership, we are so proud that Zahraa and Taha are demonstrating to the global sustainability community that the future of the Kingdom is very bright indeed.” The KGSP is proud to see students at the forefront of a better, sustainable future, and the Program looks forward to supporting and amplifying the voices of the Kingdom’s youth as they push to secure a brighter future. 


KGSP students represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s future scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and thought-leaders. As both individuals and as a community, they reflect the KAUST mission of driving scientific discovery through excellence in education and cutting-edge research, and share a commitment to fostering innovation, economic development, and social prosperity throughout the Kingdom and the world.  


Selection to the KGSP is extremely competitive, and currently by invitation only. Successful applicants are Saudi Arabian students in their final year of high school who demonstrate impressive academic credentials within STEM fields, meaningful extra-curricular achievements, and who share the KAUST ethos of continuous discovery.  Learn more here.


The KGSP is administered by the Office of Strategic National Advancement at KAUST, under the direction of Vice President & Senior Associate to the President, Dr. Najah Ashry. Strategic National Advancement directs the university's strategy to serve Saudi Arabia's transformational priorities: Through initiatives in young talent and Saudi workforce development, social responsibility, and national engagement, the Office contributes to a thriving innovation ecosystem by building knowledge capacity, creating opportunities, and strengthening impact.