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UNEP-Tongji University offer new approach to 'sustainability'

Shanghai, Bangkok, July 25, 2004 - A new leadership programme designed to deliver a deeper and more integrated understanding of sustainability was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme and Tongji University in Shanghai on Sunday.

Thirty-six participants from 25 countries in Asia and the Pacific – from Afghanistan to Palau - are taking part in the course offered by the UNEP-Tongji Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development at Tongji University.

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, who announced the creation of the institute alongside Chinese Environment Minister Xie Zhenhua in May 2002, said the seven-day course was the first initiative of what will become a regional hub for environmental research and training.

“With China’s double-digit economic growth and the commitments in its current, Tenth Five-Year plan to address industrial pollution, cleaner production, sustainable urban development, environmental protection within agriculture, institutional strengthening and transboundary issues, the timing and setting for the first course is ideal,” Mr Toepfer said.

The leadership course is being run by a faculty drawn from a dozen universities and educational institutes in the region, as part of a teaching consortium created by the UNEP-Tongji Institute.

Course architect and UNEP Regional Director Surendra Shrestha said “the course has been designed for our future leaders, integrating different perspectives and expertise through a consortium of universities which share a common commitment to sustainability.”

He said the course would add a new dimension to the traditional three pillar - environment, society and economy - approach to sustainability teaching and learning.

Course coordinator Mahesh Pradhan of UNEP said the experimental nature of the course put it at the leading edge of sustainability education.

He described the curriculum as having a “3 by 3 structure: integrating the themes of body, mind and soul; economy, society and environment; and land, air and water.”

He said classroom learning would be mixed with personal reflection, case studies and field trips, then integrated through a pyramid construction exercise requiring the themes and layers of analysis to be integrated into a collective agreement.

The participants have been identified as having the potential for leadership and are drawn from Government agencies, community and activist organizations, the private sector, educational institutes and UN agencies.

Most faculty members are members of the university consortium and are providing their teaching inputs on a voluntary basis, expecting to learn from each other’s approaches and the improvisations the course will demand.

Attending the opening were Professor WU Qidi, Vice Minister of Ministry of Education, Professor QU Geping, Chairman of China Environmental Protection Foundation, Professor XU Zuxin, Director of Environment Protection Bureau, Shanghai Municipal Government and Ms Tokiko Kato ,UNEP Special Envoy and Japanese folk singer.

President of Tongji University Professor WAN Gang thanked UNEP for the partnership.

“This is another step in realizing our vision of hosting a top collaborative research, technical and managerial training facility for the developing countries of this region; one which contributes significantly to UNEP's global and regional environmental assessments as well as to the environmental dimensions of China’s major development projects,” Professor WAN said.

The Leadership Programme on Environment and Sustainable Development outcomes will also be used by UNEP as contributions to the UN International Decade for Education for Sustainable Development, which starts next year.

The course, which runs from July 26-31, will be offered annually and will help develop Masters-level courses at the UNEP-Tongji Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development.

In addition to Tongji University, which serves as the hub, the regional consortium includes the universities of New South Wales and Wollongong, and Griffith University in Australia, the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Yale University in the United States and the Asian Institute of Technology. The Thai Environmental and Community Development Association (or ‘Magic Eyes’), a non-governmental organization in Thailand, and the Hanns Seidel Foundation office in Jakarta are also providing support.

For more information:

See www.rrcap.unep.org/uneptongji/

Or contact

Tim Higham, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Bangkok, phone 0 2 2882127, 09 1283803, email higham@un.org or Dr.May LI, Deputy Director, International Office, Tongji University, phone 86-21-65982612, Email: may@mail.tongji.edu.cn

UNEP ROAP News Release 2004/11