Broadening the Application of the Sustainability Science Approach

Rationale and purpose

This project aims to help UNESCO Member States and other stakeholders introduce or reinforce a sustainability science approach into transdisciplinary research and education, to enable them to better respond to global challenges. The main output of the project is a set of guidelines on sustainability science – from definition to application. These have been identified and developed through three symposia that served to foster dialogue and collaboration among experts and policy-makers. The finalized guidelines are well presented during the SC Commission (6 - 7 November 2017) in the 39th Session of the General Conference. The guidelines will also be presented to UNESCO Member States in the first quarter of 2018.

Implementation of the project

The project benefits from the guidance of a multidisciplinary steering committee and a drafting sub-committee.

The guidelines on sustainability science are identified and developed through three symposia that served to foster dialogue and collaboration, based on the joint efforts of UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector, Social and Human Sciences Sector, Education Sector and Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in Jakarta. The finalized guidelines will be presented to UNESCO Member States in the first quarter of 2018.

The Steering Committee has an advisory role in relation to the organization of the three symposia, especially in defining the scope and targeted audience of each symposium. The Steering Committee provides scientific advice to UNESCO on the project and assists with the dissemination of the project’s results.

Meetings of the Steering Committee takes place on a regular basis via teleconferences. Physical meetings are to be held immediately after each of the three symposia.

Steering Committee members

  • Maik Adomssent, Leuphana University Luneburg
  • Eduardo Brondizio, Indiana University and Future Earth
  • Mathieu Denis, International Social Science Council (ISSC)
  • Yosuke Kobayashi, Japan/MEXT
  • Heide Hackmann, International Council for Science (ICSU)
  • Joanne Kauffmann, Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, University of Tokyo
  • Luiz Oosterbeek, International Council of Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH)
  • Lutz Möller, German National Commission of UNESCO
  • Jan Monteverde Haakonsen, Research Council of Norway
  • Mohamed Saber, National Research Centre (NRC), representative of the Government of Egypt
  • Kazuhiko Takeuchi, United Nations University (UNU)
  • UNESCO Assistant Director-Generals for Natural Sciences and for Social and Human Sciences (or their representatives)
This sub-committee is in charge of outlining the guidelines and supervises their finalisation.

Drafting Sub-Committee members 

  • Maik Adomssent, Leuphana University Luneburg
  • Mathieu Denis, International Social Science Council (ISSC)
  • Joanne Kauffmann, Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, University of Tokyo
  • Lutz Möller, German National Commission for UNESCO
  • Pedro Manuel Monreal-Gonzalez, UNESCO
  • Mohamed Saber, National Research Centre (NRC), representative of the Government of Egypt
  • Kazuhiko Takeuchi, United Nations University (UNU)

The three symposia benefit from the inputs and expertise of scientists, policymakers, other relevant experts that focus on research, education and sustainability, and UNESCO Member States.

The inception symposium, held on 5 and 6 April 2016 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, provided an opportunity for the steering committee project members to exchange and debate with other experts in sustainability science and representatives of UNESCO Member States. Significant key lessons learned and recommendations emerged from the symposium through the presentation of scientific perspectives and case studies on sustainability science.

The second symposium hosted by the Office of the Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) on 19-21 December 2016, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It focused on how to apply a sustainability science approach in UNESCO’s five regions. The symposium allowed to identify specific regional characteristics, priorities, needs and gaps; and to consider these for the policy guidelines on the application of sustainability science. It also provided an opportunity to feature topical issues related to sustainability science which may be specific to each region.

The third symposium served to present the policy guidelines to UNESCO Member States. It took place on 31 May and 1 June 2017 at UNESCO Headquarters..

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