The annual ProSPER.Net Forum on Sustainability in Higher Education was held in Tokyo on 10 July 2014, as part of a global series of events marking the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD).
ProSPER.Net, the Promotion of Sustainability in Postgraduate Education and Research Network, is a UNU-IAS initiative focused on integrating sustainability into higher education.
Hosted by Hosei University, the forum brought together speakers from several countries in Asia to discuss the state of higher education and sustainability within the region and beyond. Among the topics discussed were the transdisciplinary aspects of education for sustainable development, and involving stakeholders in policymaking and implementation.
Dr. Ryutaro Yatsu (Senior Advisor, Ministry of the Environment of Japan) delivered a keynote speech on links between science and policy in sustainability, underscoring the need for policies to be formulated and implemented based on the latest scientific knowledge.
This was followed by a panel discussion in which Dr. Kazuhiko Takemoto (Director, UNU-IAS) introduced the Global Action Programme on education for sustainable development (ESD), which is being promoted by UNESCO as the post-DESD framework.
The panellists — Prof. Sivanappan Kumar (Asian Institute of Technology), Prof. Wang Xin (Tongji University) and Prof. Mario Tabucanon (UNU-IAS) — argued that despite the many achievements of the DESD, the vast majority of higher education institutions have a long way to go in implementing ESD. In this context, the implementation of GAP and its focus 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, are crucial in order to involve more higher education institutions.
Panellists were mindful of the role that higher education plays in fostering capacity development, and education and research, and emphasized the need for qualified professionals from different backgrounds to work collaboratively in order to address common issues. The need for various stakeholders to participate in local initiatives —not only to help translate the global agenda into local actions, but also to stimulate significant transformations in higher education to reflect real demands posed by society — was also mentioned.
The discussions begun at the ProSPER.Net Forum will continue in November when the global education sector will mark the end of the DESD with a number of important ESD events.
Among the most significant are the World Conference on ESD and the International Conference on Higher Education for Sustainable Development: Higher Education Beyond 2014 (to be held in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan) and the 9th Global Regional Centres of Expertise on ESD Conference (to be held in Okayama, Japan). UNU-IAS is actively contributing to these events and to the broader policy debate through initiatives such as ProSPER.Net.
See the ProSPER.Net website for a full account of the Second ProSPER.Net Forum on Sustainability in Higher Education.