Sustainable Development Diplomacy: On the Road to Achieving the SDGs online course

Sustainable Development Diplomacy: On the Road to Achieving the SDGs online course

Start date: 14 October 2024

Sustainable development is one of the great challenges of our time. The unprecedented global challenges that we cross today are a blunt reminder of the need for cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations. More than ever, international assistance is needed to deal with the multiple health and security crises intensified by the deepening climate emergency and their economic and social impacts. Yet these shocks are putting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at risk, and they are still far from reach.

We currently face the danger of famine levels worldwide as the result of the war in Ukraine and the resulting shortage of grain export. This situation, among others, calls for a stronger approach toward aid assistance (i.e. development cooperation) and development diplomacy. A new understanding of the required steps and new modes of action are needed to make the fight against poverty sustainable.

Both diplomats and practitioners in the field are crucial in making these changes, and they need a good knowledge of what development cooperation is and how it functions since their tasks may include the support of formulating policies and strategies, mobilising and allocating funds, and negotiating and monitoring development interventions.

Most diplomacy programmes cover development issues only briefly so the knowledge and skills offered to diplomats in this field are often limited. This Sustainable Development Diplomacy online course aims to help close this gap.

The 10-week online Sustainable Development Diplomacy course explores aid assistance and sustainable development as important dimensions of international relations. It looks at various types of development cooperation at national, regional, and global levels from the perspectives of both donor and recipient countries.

The course covers the path to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs. Additionally, new approaches that are crucial for achieving the SDGs are described.

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What will you learn?

  • Describe major issues and dilemmas in international development cooperation from the perspectives of both donor (provider) and recipient (partner) countries
  • Understand the strategies, forms, and principles for facilitating cooperation among partners and implementing programmes
  • Assess development needs and cooperation opportunities
  • Argue for and defend the role and potential of aid assistance in today's international relations
  • Understand the new skills and tools available to development professionals
  • Advise on the preparation of an ‘aid request’ to be submitted to a donor, and assess cooperation proposals submitted by partner governments or local organisations
  • Select the most appropriate type for different activities (bilateral, multilateral, or private sources)
  • Support the monitoring and evaluation of development projects and recommend changes if needed
  • Understand the scope of the SDGs, the roles of different parties in achieving them, and the societal changes required to meet them
  • Foster the win-win aspects for both developed and developing countries

How will you learn?

In this course, you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance and personalised feedback on your classwork from the course team.

How long will you learn?

The course lasts 10 weeks:

  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 1 week for the final assignment and completing pending tasks

Who should apply

This course will be of interest to:

  • Practising diplomats, civil servants, and others working in international relations
  • Postgraduate students of diplomacy or international relations wishing to gain deeper insight through interaction with practising diplomats
  • Postgraduate students or practitioners in other fields seeking an entry point into the world of diplomacy
  • Journalists, staff of international and non-governmental organisations, translators, business people, and others who wish to improve their understanding of diplomacy-related topics


The course consists of 8 modules:

  1. Introduction: Rationale for the course; goals and structure; definitions and basic concepts (including sustainable development, poverty alleviation, and participation); overview of important modes of bilateral, multilateral and private cooperation
  2. Types, Forms, and Instruments of Development Cooperation, Including the Nexus Approach: Definitions and characteristics of humanitarian aid, development aid, peace activities, and economic measures, including the interplay among them; analysis of the main methods for each of these forms
  3. The Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus
  4. Multilateral Development Cooperation and Diplomacy: Main characteristics of multilateral development cooperation; critical discussion on the future of multilateralism, multilateral actors, and stakeholders; the roles of multilateral development institutions at country, regional, and global levels; governance of multilateral development institutions; provider and partner country perspectives; recent trends and challenges
  5. Partner and Provider Country Perspectives: Reasons for both partner countries and for public and private providers to implement development programmes; positive and negative consequences of development cooperation; expectations for improvements
  6. The Role of Diplomats in International Development Cooperation - Tasks and Tools: The specific tasks of a diplomat in development cooperation activities; introduction to some simple tools to assess development cooperation projects and evaluate implementation; reflections on possible dilemmas between traditional diplomatic tasks and those of development cooperation activities
  7. The Main Principles of the 2000s - The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the SDGs: The main principles and characteristics of the SDGs; similarities and differences between the MDGs and the SDGs; progress towards the SDGs; the role of civil society and the business sector in advancing global development; planning, finance and societal change required to meet the SDG
  8. The Debate on Development Aid: The question of whether international cooperation works; the most important challenges of development cooperation and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Course lecturers

Dominique Hempel Rodas

Independent Senior Advisor in International Relations, Development Cooperation, and Capacity Development

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Hamish Low

Assistant Lecturer


The Sustainable Development Diplomacy: On the Road to Achieving the SDGs online course is based on a collaborative learning approach, involving a high level of interaction over a period of 10 weeks. Reading materials and the necessary tools for online interaction are provided in a virtual classroom.

Each week, participants study and discuss course materials and complete additional online activities. At the end of the week, participants and lecturers meet to discuss the topic of the week. For successful completion, this course requires a minimum of 5 to 7 hours of study time per week.

Participants who successfully complete a certificate course receive a certificate issued by Diplo which can be printed or shared electronically via a permanent link. Participants who successfully complete an accredited course will receive 9 ECTS credits from the University of Malta.


All course applicants must have regular internet access; dial-up connections are sufficient, but broadband is preferable.

Applicants for certificate courses must have:

  • An undergraduate university degree OR 3 years of work experience and appropriate professional qualifications in diplomacy or international relations
  • Sufficient English language skills to undertake postgraduate-level studies

Applicants for accredited courses must meet the University of Malta prerequisites:

  • Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject with at least Second Class Honours
  • Proof of English language proficiency obtained within the last 2 years (minimum requirements: TOEFL paper-based – 650; TOEFL internet-based – 95; IELTS – 6.5.; Cambridge – Proficiency Certificate with Grade C or better). If when applying you are still waiting for your English language proficiency results, the University may issue a conditional letter of acceptance.

Fees and scholarships

Course fees depend on whether you wish to obtain university credit for the course or a Diplo certificate:

  • University of Malta accredited courses: €850
  • Diplo certificate courses: €690

Note: Diplo alumni can benefit from a 15% discount on the fee for this course.

A limited number of partial scholarships are available for diplomats and others working in international relations from developing countries. Discounts are available for more than one participant from the same institution. 

You can apply for this course as:

How to apply

Fill out the short form to start your application process for this course. You will receive an instruction email on how to continue.

Applying for financial assistance? Please indicate this on the application form, upload your CV, and a motivation statement that should include:

  • Details of your relevant professional and educational background
  • Reasons for your interest in the course
  • Why do you feel you should have the opportunity to participate in this course? How will your participation benefit you, your institution and/or your country?

Please note that financial assistance from Diplo is available only to applicants from developing countries! 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available in the course.


Apply for a University of Malta accredited course

Complete application packages must be received by specified application deadlines in order to be considered.

  1. Two copies of the University of Malta application form filled out in full
  2. Certified copies of original degree(s) and official transcripts
  3. English translations of degree(s) and transcripts if they are not in English, signed and stamped by a translator
  4. English language proficiency certificate obtained within the last two years (minimum requirements TOEFL paper-based – 650; TOEFL internet-based – 95. IELTS – 6.5.; Cambridge – Proficiency Certificate with Grade C or better). Please indicate on the application form if you are still waiting for your English language proficiency results
  5. Photocopy of personal details pages of your passport
  6. If you are requesting financial assistance, please include your CV and a motivation letter with your application. The motivation letter should include details of your relevant professional and educational background; reasons for your interest in the course; and why you feel you should have the opportunity to participate in this course (i.e. how will your participation benefit you, your institution and/or your country). Financial assistance from DiploFoundation is available only to applicants from developing countries.
  7. Application fee or proof of payment (€100, non-refundable – see methods of payment).

Please send the complete application package by email to or by post to:

Anutruf, Ground Floor
Hriereb Street
Msida, MSD 1675, Malta

Please note that by sending your application package, you are confirming that you have read Diplo's Privacy Policy. Please note that Diplo will process and share your personal data with third parties (including the University of Malta) for admissions and academic matters, administering finance, and administrative purposes in accordance with the Privacy Policy.


Cancellation policy

Diplo reserves the right to cancel this course if enrolment is insufficient. In case of cancellation, Diplo will notify applicants shortly after the application deadline. Applicants who have paid an application fee may apply this fee towards another course or receive a refund.