International Association of Universities

Building a worldwide higher education community


IAU first HESD Global Survey

The first edition of the IAU Global Survey on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development (HESD) was developed in 2016 in order to: connect with IAU Members; research and analyze what their approaches are to sustainable development; determine how IAU can exchange and enhance such initiatives; advocate for HESD worldwide. The survey was opened from June 2016 to October 2016 and the results were presented by Dr. Hilligje Van't Land, IAU Deputy Secretary General, in various fora, including during the IAU 15th General Conference in Bangkok in November 2016. We received 120 responses in total (97% from IAU Members); 18% of our Members participated and all continents were represented. Take a look at the results here.

IAU 15th General Conference “Higher Education: A Catalyst for Innovative and Sustainable Societies”

From November 13 to 16 2016, the IAU held its 15th General Conference in Bangkok; it was hosted by a consortium of Thai universities. More than 300 participants from 85 nations worldwide took part in the event and engaged in lively debates. The Conference presentations and other conference materials are available on the Conference website.

IAU is Key Partner to the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (GAP) on Action Area 2: Transforming learning and training environments

IAU 2014 International Conference on Blending Higher Education and Traditional Knowledge for Sustainable Development
Organized in collaboration with the Universidad Científica del Perú, Iquitos, Peru, the Conference addressed key Education for Sustainable Development issues and helped shape IAU’s position with regard to the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Presentations and other conference documents are available online.

IAU 2014 Iquitos Statement on Higher Education for Sustainable Development

Following the IAU 2014 International Conference on Blending Higher Education and Traditional Knowledge for Sustainable Development, held in Iquitos, Peru,and through this Statement, Members of the International Association of Universities (IAU) as well as representatives of the broader higher education community, reaffirm their commitment to the role of higher education in the transition to more sustainable societies and to pursuing sustainable development within and through their respective institutions.

As the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development comes to an end, and the Millennium Development Goals near their scheduled completion, the post-2015 Agenda is being shaped. The higher education community is ready to contribute to the development and implementation of the post-2015 Agenda.

It is IAU's community's shared belief that only with the full engagement of higher education in the post-2015 Agenda will it be possible to create the intellectual, economic, environmental and cultural conditions required for a sustainable future for all. IAU applauds the commitments and promises made at the world events held in Stockholm, 1972, Rio de Janeiro, 1992, Johannesburg, 2002 and "Rio + 20", 2012, to make our world better for all, for present and future generations. It renews its commitment to Higher Education for Sustainable Development and agrees to develop new actions and strengthen current initiatives to respond proactively to these resolutions and recommendations.

Promotion of Sustainable Development by Sub-Saharan African Higher Education Institutions

The Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI), the International Association of Universities(IAU) and the Association of African Universities(AAU) developed a project on the Promotion of Sustainable Development by Sub-Saharan African Higher Education Institutions. The project was financed in part by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.

The final report of the project is available on the GUNi website. It presents an overview of actions, experiences and practices developed at sub-Saharan higher education institutions (HEIs) to integrate sustainable development considerations within their activities; it identifies the emerging trends and the priority lines of action for the integration of sustainable development considerations in the work of Sub-Saharan African HEIs and raises awareness about the important role of HEIs for promoting sustainable development in the region.

Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles

A research project aiming at analyzing student perspectives on Sustainable Lifestyles was undertaken in 2009. The Project, coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with the support of the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, was developed in partnership with the IAU. The Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles was an ambitious initiative meant to explore how sustainable lifestyles, a challenge for present and future generations, are perceived, envisaged and shaped by young adults from different cultures and backgrounds around the world.

The project was part of the activities carried out in the framework of the Marrakech Process, a global multi-stakeholder platform aimed at promoting the shift towards Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP). The Marrakech Process builds cooperation between governments and various stakeholders for the development of SCP tools, methodologies and concrete activities such as the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles.

A selection of 50 Higher Education Institutions, Members of IAU, took part in this project.

The publication: Visions for Change - Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles: Country Papers is available online

Sustainability Communications - A Toolkit for Marketing and Advertising Courses- A IAU-UNEP CD-Rom.

IAU and the United Nations Environment Programme - Paris (UNEP) jointly produced a CD-ROM on Sustainability Communications - A Toolkit for Marketing and Advertising Courses.

It provides resources on Sustainability Communications for educators training tomorrow's marketing and communication professionals as well as for marketing and advertising trainers in the corporate field. It is a flexible, interactive tool which provides a synthesis of theoretical and methodological knowledge illustrated by specific case studies. It offers numerous pedagogical resources - short presentations, campaign analyses, exercises, web links, bibliographies and more than 300 downloadable documents - to encourage students and communication experts to engage with sustainable development-- one of the major issues facing society today.

The CD-ROM: 1. Demonstrates and analyzes the marketing and communications potential of sustainable development in the framework of corporate social and environmental responsibility; 2. Allows the current and future marketing and communication professionals to become fully aware of the key role they could and should play by responding to new consumer demand for sustainability through the promotion of sustainable products and services; 3. Provides the necessary tools to develop both effective corporate communications strategies that build confidence in greener brands and powerful marketing campaigns on sustainable goods.

The CD-ROM contains both English and French versions. It is downloadable online

GHESP - Global Alliance to promote higher education for sustainable development (2002-2007)

In 2002, four international organisations with a strong commitment to making sustainability a major focus of higher education formed a Global Higher Education for Sustainability Partnership (GHESP).

The four founding partners of the initiative - the IAU, the University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF) and UNESCO - joined forces to mobilise universities and higher education institutions to support sustainable development in response to Chapter 36 of Agenda 21.

The partnership which came about as a result of the work program of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and in anticipation of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), was based on the consensus that higher education must play a central role within the overall process of achieving sustainable development. The partnership ended due to lack of funding yet former partners are still convinced that the leaders of higher education institutions and their academic colleagues in all disciplines are to adopt sustainable development as a central academic and organizational focus to create a just, equitable and ecologically sound future. This requires the generation and dissemination of knowledge through interdisciplinary research and teaching, policy-making, capacity-building, and technology transfer. It is critical that higher education institutions understand and accept their responsibility within the broader context of social and economic development, and the building of democratic, equitable and ecologically-minded societies.

The objectives of the partnership were to:

  1. Promote better understanding, and more effective implementation of strategies for the incorporation of sustainable development in universities and other higher education institutions, beginning with the over 1000 signatories to the charters and declarations sponsored by the partner organizations. Emphasis is put on the need for interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and research;
  2. Undertake a global review and assessment of progress in making sustainability central to curriculum, research, outreach and operations in institutions of higher education. In so doing, assist UNESCO in its role within the UN system with respect to education for sustainable development;
  3. Identify, share and disseminate widely, via internet, in print, through seminars and other venues, effective strategies, models and good practices for promoting higher education for sustainable development (HESD);
  4. Make recommendations on HESD based on the partnership's research and review and in consultation with key stakeholders from North and South, including business, governments, other UN bodies such as the United Nations University (UNU), as well as other relevant non-governmental organizations;
  5. Demonstrate that it is possible to form a partnership of non-governmental organizations working closely with the UN system to develop and implement a joint action plan addressed to achieve common goals; and analyze this experience as an international demonstration project.

After having initiated projects and other activities for more than 5 years, the partnership ceased its activities due to lack of financial support.

IAU 2003 International Prague Conference on Education for a Sustainable future Shaping the practical role of higher education for sustainable development, was hosted by Charles University, in Prague, and helped shaped IAU work in support of HESD.

IAU 1993 Kyoto Declaration on Sustainable Development

Following the Ninth IAU Round Table, in Tokyo, Japan, on 19 November 1993, Participants adopted, the IAU Kyoto Declaration committed to the following:

  1. To urge universities world-wide to seek, establish and disseminate a clearer understanding of Sustainable Development - "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations" - and encourage more appropriate sustainable development principles and practices at the local, national and global levels, in ways consistent with their missions.
  2. To utilize resources of the university to encourage a better understanding on the part of Governments and the public at large of the inter-related physical, biological and social dangers facing the planet Earth, and to recognise the significant interdependence and international dimensions of sustainable development.
  3. To emphasize the ethical obligation of the present generation to overcome those practices of resource utilisation and those widespread disparities which lie at the root of environmental unsustainability.
  4. To enhance the capacity of the university to teach and undertake research and action in society in sustainable development principles, to increase environmental literacy, and to enhance the understanding of environmental ethics within the university and with the public at large.
  5. To cooperate with one another and with all segments of society in the pursuit of practical and policy measures to achieve sustainable development and thereby safeguard the interests of future generations.
  6. To encourage universities to review their own operations to reflect best sustainable development practices.
  7. To request the IAU Administrative Board to consider and implement the ways and means to give life to this Declaration in the mission of each of its members and through the common enterprise of the IAU.

It is recommended that each university, in its own action plan, strive to:

  1. Make an institutional commitment to the principle and practice of sustainable development within the academic milieu and to communicate that commitment to its students, its employees and to the public at large;
  2. Promote sustainable consumption practices in its own operations;
  3. Develop the capacities of its academic staff to teach environmental literacy;
  4. Encourage among both staff and students an environmental perspective, whatever the field of study;
  5. Utilise the intellectual resources of the university to build strong environmental education programs;
  6. Encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative research programs related to sustainable development as part of the institution's central mission and to overcome traditional barriers between discipline's and departments;
  7. Emphasize the ethical obligations of the immediate university community - current students, faculty and staff - to understand and defeat the forces that lead to environmental degradation, North-South disparities, and the inter-generational inequities; to work at ways that will help its academic community, and the graduates, friends and governments that support it, to accept these ethical obligations;
  8. Promote interdisciplinary networks of environmental experts at the local, national and international level in order to disseminate knowledge and to collaborate on common environmental projects in both research and education;
  9. Promote the mobility of staff and students as essential to the free trade of knowledge;
  10. Forge partnerships with other sectors of society in transferring innovative and appropriate technologies that can benefit and enhance sustainable development practices.

In adopting this Declaration, delegates underlined specifically the following points:

  1. That sustainable development must not be interpreted in a manner that would lead to sustained undevelopment; for certain systems, thus blocking their legitimate aspiration to raise their standard of living.
  2. That sustainable development must take into consideration existing disparities in consumption and distribution patterns, with unsustainable over-consumption in some parts of the world contrasting with dramatic states of depravation in others.
  3. That global sustainable development implies changes of existing value systems, a task UN which universities have an essential mission, in order to create the necessary international consciousness and global sense of responsibility and solidarity.
  4. That university cooperation for sustainable development must also assure that universities from countries with insufficient proper resources may play an active role in the process.
  5. That IAU, through the intellectual and organisational potential of the Association, its clearinghouse, catalyst and network function, has a major role to play in the implementation of this Declaration.

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