26 March 2021, Geneva, Switzerland – UNITAR and Franklin University Switzerland (FUS) – a Swiss/American accredited liberal arts university in Lugano, Switzerland – hosted a three-day online hackathon event during the Open Geneva Hackathon Festival. The event was organized and managed by three graduating students: Cristina Elvira Pérez, Jacqueline Lemon, and Ugo Bernasconi, from the Master’s programme in International Management with an emphasis on Responsible Management and Climate Action at FUS in partnership with UNITAR.

The hackathon aimed to foster creative and integrative solutions for strengthening rural and urban relationships while achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participants across seven different time zones came together to rethink and improve food as a linkage for sustainable development in rural and urban areas in developing regions. Four dynamic teams addressed one of three challenges developed and proposed in collaboration with experts from UN-Habitat, FAO, and UNITAR.

These challenges included:

  • Re-naturalizing Cities

As the global population continues to rise, more pressure is placed on agricultural production, especially in rural areas. How can we increase agricultural production in cities and peri-urban areas with sustainable measures that mitigate and adapt to climate change? What new or existing technologies can be used for urban agricultural planning that, in addition, include the recycling of building materials, food waste, and rainwater?

  • Empowering the Rural Youth through Food Security and Resiliency

The rural youth are often the most vulnerable to climate change impacts and food insecurity. Reaching out to the rural youth is a challenge, especially in remote areas with limited internet access. How can they be informed on adapting to climate change in rural areas as well as empowered as climate actors? What innovative ideas or policies can overcome these challenges to promote a more inclusive and climate-resilient economy?

  • Bridging the Gap between Food Availability and Pricing in Rural and Urban Areas

The availability and quality of food are often lower in the rural areas from which it came, compared to its availability at supermarkets in urban settings. How can we bridge the gap between price and availability of food in urban and rural areas to make food more equally distributed, priced, and accessible to people?

Throughout the event, participants could attend various workshops aimed to inspire and provide tools for brainstorming and project development. On the final day, teams delivered a five-minute live pitch of their final solutions and ideas to a panel of UN experts and received feedback. The event successfully brought together a range of knowledge, expertise, and passions that fueled innovative and collaborative mindsets, valuable connections, and impactful learnings.

About Franklin University Switzerland

Franklin University Switzerland is a small, international university located in the southern Swiss city of Lugano. Founded in 1969, Franklin was among the first institutions to bring American Liberal Arts education to Europe, and it is the only liberal arts university in the world accredited in the United States and Switzerland. It is the only university in the world that offers interdisciplinary, experiential learning, placing Academic Travel at the core of its curriculum.


The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a principal training arm of the United Nations, working in every region of the world. We empower individuals, governments and organizations through knowledge and learning to effectively overcome contemporary global challenges. UNITAR was established in 1965 as an autonomous body within the United Nations with the mandate of enhancing the effectiveness of the work of the United Nations and its Member States. In 2020, UNITAR’s reach extended to more than 300,000 beneficiaries through mostly e-learning and webinars, face-to-face seminars and workshops, or other training-related events. (www.unitar.org). 

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