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University leaders worldwide sign sustainability declaration

Source : University World News
May 31, 2012

 

Date: 31st May 2012

Academic leaders and institutions around the world have been called on by United Nations agencies to commit to developing sustainable practices in higher education and to help build more sustainable societies, by signing a declaration ahead of the global Rio+20 conference.

The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative for Rio+20 – the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, being held in Rio de Janeiro from 20-22 June – says the sector has a “special responsibility to provide leadership on education for sustainable development”.

As institutions that educate decision-makers, higher education institutions play a key role in “building more sustainable societies and creating new paradigms”, according to the initiative.

“As educational institutions, they have the mission to promote development through both research and teaching, disseminating new knowledge and insights to their students and building their capabilities.”

The initiative is supported by the UN Academic Impact, UNESCO, the UN Environmental Programme, the Global Compact, PRME – Principles for Responsible Management Education – and the United Nations University.

So far some 129 universities and 29 networks, associations and student organisations in 43 countries have signed the declaration and the list is growing.

The document acknowledges the responsibilities of higher education leaders in “the international pursuit of sustainable development”. It commits institutions to:



Teach sustainable development concepts, “ensuring they form part of the core curriculum across all disciplines”.
Encourage research on sustainable development, to improve understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge.
‘Green’ campuses by reducing their environmental footprint, adopting sustainable procurement practices, sustainable mobility options and effective programmes for waste minimisation, recycling and reuse, and encouraging more sustainable lifestyles.
Support sustainability efforts in local communities, in collaboration with local authorities and civil society.
Engage with and share results through international frameworks – such as the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, the UN University and the UN Academic Impact – in order to exchange knowledge and experiences and to report on progress and challenges.


Mitch Leventhal, vice-chancellor for global affairs at the State University of New York (SUNY), told University World News: “As the largest comprehensive university system in the world, with 64 diverse campuses and nearly a half million students, the SUNY system, by signing this declaration, is committing its time, talent and resources to the sustainable development objectives outlined in the document.”

He hoped that participation in the declaration, following the university’s involvement in American higher education sustainability initiatives, would enable it to “expand from campus-to-community scales to national and international scales of promoting sustainable development”.

Asked about ways to implement the declaration on the ground, Martin Hall, vice-chancellor of the University of Salford in the UK, told University World News: “If sustainable development is to be achieved, we have to establish practical ways of translating broad principles and international declarations into good practice at the local and institutional level. This is why the declaration is important for us.

 

 


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