On 9 November 2014, UNU organized the International Conference on Higher Education for Sustainable Development: Higher Education Beyond 2014 in Nagoya, Japan. Marking the final year of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) 2005–2014, the conference celebrated achievements throughout the decade and reviewed commitments to education for sustainable development (ESD) beyond 2014. With approximately 750 participants from 66 countries, it highlighted the major challenges and pathways for transforming higher education, with a focus on mainstreaming innovative practices in learning, knowledge development, and research.
The conference was organized in collaboration with UNESCO, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UN Environment Programme, the UN Global Compact Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative and the International Association of Universities (IAU). The co-organizers of the event were the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan and Nagoya University.
The conference resulted in the Nagoya Declaration on Higher Education for Sustainable Development, in which conference participants reaffirmed and renewed commitments made within the framework of the UN DESD. The declaration also serves as a call upon world leaders to support the transformative role of higher education towards sustainable development, and to recognize the essential role and responsibility of higher education institutions (HEIs) towards creating sustainable societies. The declaration and the outcomes of the event were shared at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, also held in Nagoya on 10–12 November.
The conference opened with remarks by David M. Malone (Rector, UNU), Irina Bokova (Director-General, UNESCO), and other high-level speakers. In the first high-level panel on the “whole-institution approach”, Hans Van Ginkel (former UNU Rector) called for HEIs to implement a matrix organization principle by which disciplines are connected through breakthrough science. The whole-institution approach to ESD would need to go beyond education and research in order to reach society more broadly.
Kazuhiko Takeuchi (Senior Vice-Rector, UNU) emphasized that UNU was committed to advancing ESD beyond 2014 through promoting sustainability science, conducting policy-relevant research, implementing capacity development for leadership, and strengthening networks.
The second high-level panel focused on “engagement across boundaries and working with critical sectors”. Prof. Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (President, IAU) shared the three pillars of sustainability and multi-stakeholder partnerships: respect for knowledge systems, relevance in terms of societal needs, and reciprocity.
Dr. Anantha Kumar Duraiappah (Director, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development/UNESCO) called for transformative learning and the development of “knowledge commons” between HEIs. He stated that today’s challenge lay in implementing these two components to address global sustainable development issues.
Discussions following the panel sessions focused on advancing policy, transforming learning and training environments, building capacities of educators and trainers, empowering and mobilizing youth, and accelerating sustainable solutions at the local level.