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Special event on Higher Education for Sustainable Development (POSTPONED)
Sep 2013 (To be confirmed)
New York

NOTE: Advance online registration is required for this event.

It is universally acknowledged that education is a fundamental determinant of human development. Making the quantum leap to a sustainable development paradigm will depend heavily on higher education institutions (HEIs), namely in preparing citizens to participate in green and inclusive economies, and to advance implementation of education for sustainable development principles in curricula and research. However, HEIs have long been marginalized across the global development agenda in favour of achieving universal targets for primary school enrolment and basic literacy.

A special event will be held in the margins of the 68th session of the General Assembly (high-level segment) to examine the role of higher education institutions in achieving sustainable development. The event will feed directly into the first meeting of the High-level Political Forum, which takes place in the afternoon of Tuesday 24 September. A rapporteur will therefore be invited to present recommendations to the Forum during its opening session. A few of the central questions to examine:

  • What are the main challenges for HEIs in becoming a driving force behind the transition to sustainable development?
  • Are there good examples of HEIs integrating sustainable development into their curricula, campus management and community engagement? How can HEIs elaborate and improve upon such practices?
  • Have HEIs been successful in preparing global citizens to adopt sustainable lifestyles? What role should academia have in the post-2015 development process?
  • What opportunities exist for HEIs to interface more regularly with governments and policy makers, as well as other stakeholders such as Major Groups, on the sustainable development agenda?

These questions will be considered in the context the Higher Education for Sustainability Initiative (HESI). The Initiative remains open to new signatories, and those HEIs that joined HESI at the Rio+20 Conference will be invited to accelerate the implementation of their commitments, as well as other activities that support UN initiatives for sustainable development such as the UN Global Compact and the Principles for Responsible Management Education. Furthermore, HEIs will be invited to explore avenues for partnerships with governments and stakeholders for the completion of the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development, which will be presented alongside the 2014 conference in Nagoya.


The special event will be held at UN Headquarters on Monday 23 September, from 3:00 to 6:00 P.M., and is preceded by another special event on sustainable cities taking place in the morning, which convenes mayors and other high-level local government authorities. This occurs during the opening of the high-level segment of the 68th session of the General Assembly, a time when access to UN Headquarters is restricted to delegates and their staff; staff members of the UN Secretariat and its funds, programmes and agencies; accredited media; and affiliates who are wearing a UN grounds pass. In addition, members of civil society and the general public who are invited to attend the special event will be required to be in possession of a meeting-specific pass at all times.

All participants are therefore requested to register online for this event so that we may transmit all your details to UN Safety and Security in advance.


The format for this multi-stakeholder event is currently under development, and will aim to be highly inclusive and interactive for participants. We are also looking at universities to host live viewing parties of the event with Q&As from students. Support is provided by the following sponsoring partners from the UN and its related agencies:

  • The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  • Principles for Responsible Management Education (an initiative of UN Global Compact)
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • United Nations University (UNU)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


    From government:

  • Ministers for Education
  • Ministers for Finance
  • Diplomatic staff

    From higher education:

  • University Presidents, Deans, Chancellors, Rectors
  • Both HESI signatories and new partners
  • University students, mainly those active in policy formulation at the international level
  • Webcast viewing parties of students set up on campuses worldwide

    Other stakeholders:

  • UN agencies
  • HESI endorsers
  • Relevant civil society (e.g. Major Groups)

Outreach and Communications Branch
DESA/Division for Sustainable Development
27 August 2013