THE UNIVERSITY CHARTER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Geneva, May 1994
Man's exploitation of the biosphere is now threatening its very existence and delicate balance. Over the last few decades, the pressures on the global environment have become self-evident, leading to a common outcry for sustainable development. In the words of the Brundtland report, we must learn to care for the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations everywhere to meet their own needs.
The awareness is there. What is required is a comprehensive strategy for building a sustainable future which is equitable for all human beings, as highlighted by the Rio Conference (UNCED) in 1992. This requires a new frame of mind and new sets of values.
Education is critical for promoting such values and improving people's capacity to address environment and development issues. Education at all levels, especially university education for the training of decision-makers and teachers, should be oriented towards sustainable development and foster environmentally aware attitudes, skills and behavior patterns, as well as a sense of ethical responsibility. Education must become environmental education in the fullest sense of the term.
The role of universities
Universities and equivalent institutions of higher education train the coming generations of citizens and have expertise in all fields of research, both in technology as well as in the natural, human and social sciences. It is consequently their duty to propagate environmental literacy and to promote the practice of environmental ethics in society, in accordance with the principles set out in the Magna Chart of European Universities and subsequent university declarations, and along the lines of the UNCED recommendations for environment and development education.
Indeed, universities are increasingly called upon to play a leading role in developing a multidisciplinary and ethically-oriented form of education in order to devise solutions for the problems linked to sustainable development. They must therefore commit themselves to an on-going process of informing, educating and mobilizing all the relevant parts of society concerning the consequences of ecological degradation, including its impact on global development and the conditions needed to ensure a sustainable and just world.
To achieve these aims and fulfill their basic mission, universities are urged to make every effort to subscribe to and implement the ten principles of actions set out below.
Principles of action
Universities shall demonstrate real commitment to the principle and practice of environmental protection and sustainable development within the academic milieu.
Universities shall promote among teaching staff, students and the public at large sustainable consumption patterns and an ecological lifestyle, while fostering programmes to develop the capacities of the academic staff to teach environmental literacy.
Universities shall provide education, training and encouragement to their employees on environmental issues, so that they can pursue their work in an environmentally responsible manner.
Universities shall incorporate an environmental perspective in all their work and set up environmental education programmes involving both teachers and researchers as well as students - all of whom should be exposed to the global challenges of environment and development, irrespective of their field of study.
Universities shall encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative education and research programmes related to sustainable development as part of the institution's central mission. Universities shall also seek to overcome competitive instincts between disciplines and departments.
Universities shall support efforts to fill in the gaps in the present literature available for students, professionals, decision-makers and the general public by preparing information didactic material, organizing public lectures, and establishing training programmes. They should also be prepared to participate in environmental audits.
Universities shall promote interdisciplinary networks of environmental experts at the local, national, regional and international levels, with the aim of collaborating on common environmental projects in both research and education. For this, the mobility of students and scholars should be encouraged.
Universities shall take the initiative in forging partnerships with other concerned sectors of society, in order to design and implement coordinated approaches, strategies and action plans.
Universities shall devise environmental educational programmes on these issues for different target groups: e.g. business, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, the media.
Universities shall contribute to educational programmes designed to transfer educationally sound and innovative technologies and advanced management methods.
This document is a follow-up to a number of university initiatives concerned with environmental awareness and responsibility, recent examples of which include:
Principles of action
Endorsing the Charter
The CRE Bureau invites university rectors to endorse the Charter on behalf of their institutions. Their signature will constitute a commitment to secure the support of their university, teachers and students alike, in adopting and implementing environmental guidelines which are consistent with the Charter.
The principles of action listed above are general and open-ended. It is left to each individual institution and its students and staff to give them substance compatible with local circumstances. Expressed in terms of specific guidelines, they should form a key element in the mission statement of the university concerned.
The Conference of European Rectors (CRE) is the association of European universities. Its membership comprises 500 universities or equivalent institutions of higher education in 36 countries. It provides a forum for discussions on academic policy and the institutional development of universities, including their role within European society.
As a non-governmental organization, it represents the universities' point of view in governmental and non-governmental circles concerned with higher education in Europe. CRE organizes bi-annual conferences, training seminars for newly appointed university heads, and other meetings on issues of interest to its members. It also runs a number of inter-university cooperation programmes.
COPERNICUS (CO-operation Programme in Europe for Research on Nature and Industry through Coordinated University Studies) is a programme of CRE designed to bring together universities and other concerned sectors of society from all parts of Europe to promote a better understanding of the interaction between man and the environment and to collaborate on common environmental issues. The aims of the programme are:
Priority areas for the time being are comparative environmental law, resource economics, and public health. To encourage the bridging of former divisions between eastern and western Europe, COPERNICUS has set up trans-national projects involving institutions from the Baltic and Danube regions. Future plans involve launching environmental networks in other regions of Europe.
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