Higher Education: Advancing Sustainability

Higher education has a key role to play in achieving sustainable development through research, teaching and practice affirmed an international conference in Aïchi-Nagoya organized by the United Nations University in partnership with UNESCO on 9 November 2014.

“Higher education institutions are essential platforms for innovative partnerships, to join together researchers, policy-makers, civil society and the private sector, to design and deliver knowledge and action for sustainable development,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the opening of the Conference, held at Nagoya University, which has six Nobel prizes to its name, including 2 this year in physics for an invention that enables energy-saving.

The Conference aimed to celebrate the achievements of various higher education initiatives throughout the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) and reviewed commitments to make more profound contributions beyond 2014.

“The study of sustainability needs to become more cross cutting even if the focus in the last ten years has been very rich,” said UNU Rector David Malone. From climate change to natural resource management, UNU places a dominant focus on the study of sustainability, with the creation of 8 masters’ programmes.

The President of Nagoya University, Dr Michinari Hamaguchi, noted that despite rapid development over the past decades, Asia still faces the challenges of poverty, inequalities and environmental pollution, calling for deeper cooperation to solve them. Nagoya University is setting up satellite campuses in seven Asian countries and will act as a hub to strengthen relations between universities in the region.

Both Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr Hakabun Shimomura, and the State Minister for the Environment, Mr Shigeo Kitamura, expressed their country’s commitment to promote education for sustainable development through research, training and networking.

The Conference was also an opportunity to highlight major challenges for the transformation of higher education institutions, with a focus on scaling up innovative practices in learning and knowledge development and research.

The outcomes of this Conference will be reflected in discussions at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development that opens on 10 November.

Held under the theme “Higher Education Beyond 2014”, this International Conference was organized by the United Nations University in partnership with UNESCO, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Environment Programme, the UN Global Compact Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative and the International Association of Universities.

On the same day, the Director-General participated in a ceremony for the presentation of the certificate for the inscription of ‘Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, notably for the celebration of New Year’ on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It was inscribed last December joining 21 other elements of Japanese living heritage.

“I wish to express my sincere congratulations to Japan, and pay a special tribute to the Japanese authorities for their relentless efforts to promote the importance of intangible heritage at the global level,” declared the Director-General. “Japan is a champion of cultural heritage, and a vibrant example of how intangible heritage carries our values, our identities along with knowledge and ways to live together.”

She presented the certificate to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the State Minister of Agriculture and the President of Washoku Japan.

“The nation was in exultation when this decision was announced. Washoku reflects Japan’s respect for nature. This will enhance recognition of Washoku overseas and better help in transiting these traditions to future generations,” said Minister Shimomura.