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What is Sustainable Development?

UNESCO and WSSD
Background & Preparations
UNESCO at Johannesburg
- SPEECHES
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UNESCO's Priorities
Educating for Sustainability
Scientific Dimensions
Ethical Principles
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Some Action Themes
Biological Diversity
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Gender
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Home > Scientific Dimensions - Updated: 09-01-2003 1:56 pm
Science for Sustainable Development  
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Promoting the goals of a transition to sustainability is a major challenge for science and technology. Housing natural and social and human sciences under one roof, UNESCO promotes multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the wise use of natural resources and to the improved understanding of human –environment relationships. UNESCO helps inform sustainable development policies and practices, especially through its five intergovernmental scientific programmes.

Photo: © Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Earthfrom above/UNESCO

  • Developing approaches for sound water management is a long-term objective of the International Hydrological Programme(IHP), whose present activities emphasize a more people-oriented approach to the management and development of water resources and recognition of the special vulnerability of “aquatic systems at risk”. In line with the widely shared view that water resources will be one of the most critical environmental issues of the coming decades, “Water resources and ecosystems” is the principal priority of the Natural Sciences sector during the present (2002-2003) biennium, with IHP and MAB together addressing the need for integrated approaches to the sustainable use of land and water.

    In cooperation with 23 other UN agencies and programmes, UNESCO is taking the lead in developing the tools and skills needed to achieve a better understanding of the basic processes, management practices and policies that will help improve the supply and quality of global freshwater resources. As part of this UN-wide World Water Assessment Programme, a wide-ranging assessment of freshwater resources is underway, which will culminate in the publication of the first World Water Development Report in early 2003.

  • Improving scientific knowledge and understanding of oceanic and coastal processes, with a view to informing policies and practices for oceans and coastal zones, is a major goal of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). Key activities include the development of an innovative programme on ocean science, addressing such topics as harmful algal blooms, coral bleaching, and small pelagic fishes and global change. Monitoring and forecasting capabilities in the open and coastal ocean are also being developed as part of an integrated international strategy for observing the global environment . In December 2001, an international conference held at UNESCO House assessed progress on oceans and coasts in the implementation of Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 and related instruments, as part of IOC’s contribution to the Johannesburg summit.

  • Ongoing work in the earth sciences includes collaborative studies within the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP) on such issues as medical geology and the study of the effects of natural geological factors on animal (including human) health, landslide hazard assessment and cultural heritage, plate tectonics in the Caribbean, anthropogenic impacts on weathering processes, the carbon cycle and hydrology in palaeo-terrestrial environments, and continental shelves during the last glacial cycle. Related programmes deal with natural hazards and risks, the geological application of remote sensing, and the preparation of a new geological map of the world.

  • Promoting integrated ecosystem approaches to the conservation and sustainable management of land, water and biodiversity is a major goal of the programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB), and its concern with people living in and caring for the biosphere. Biosphere reserves provide both a concept and a tool for testing approaches to sustainable development, through the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (currently comprising 409 reserves in 94 countries) and associated regional and thematic networks.

  • As part of the programme on the Management of Social Transformations (MOST), special attention is given to problems of multicultural and multi-ethnic societies, urban development and local governance in a context of globalization. Recent products include multi-contributor studies on young people growing-up in an urbanized world and the impact of natural disasters upon the poorest urban populations.


    Addressing the special problems of coastal regions and small islands is a challenge shared by the five integovernmental scientific programmes mentioned above, each of which has actions and activities in these vulnerable areas. The Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) platform provides a focus for intersectoral field projects, for a web-based forum on wise practices in coastal resource use, and for contributions to the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

    Furthering renewable energy technologies as a tool for sustainable development in rural regions provides the focus of UNESCO’s contribution to the United Nations World Solar Programme (1996-2005). Component activities include support to the development of “solar villages” and other high priority national projects on renewable energies.


    News
    United Nations Atlas of the Oceans - (UNESCO)
    04-06-2002 10:00 pm 12adelie100w.jpgAs part of activities marking World Environment Day on 5 June 2002, a ceremony at UNESCO House in Paris served to officially launch the UN Atlas of Oceans - an Internet portal containing a wealth of information relevant to the sustainable development of the oceans. More


    Projects
    World Water Assessment
    UN-wide assessment of freshwater resources is underway, which will culminate in the publication of the first World Water Development Report in early 2003. >> More


    Websites
    Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI)
    CSI serves as a platform for environmentally sound, socially equitable, culturally respectful and economically viable development in coastal regions and small islands.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Earth Sciences and International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP)
    Ongoing work includes collaborative studies on such topics as landslide hazard assessment and cultural heritage.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Environmental Education - UNESCO
    The roots of education for sustainable development are firmly planted in environmental education, which in the early 1970s was given a powerful boost by the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
    Improving scientific knowledge and understanding of oceanic and near-shore processes, with a view to informing policies and practices for oceans and coastal waters.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    International Hydrological Programme(IHP)
    Developing approaches for sound water management emphasizing a people-oriented approach and the special vulnerability of "aquatic systems at risk".
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems in a Global Society
    LINKS
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB)
    Promoting integrated ecosystem approaches to the conservation and sustainable management of land, water and biodiversity, through the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and a concern for people living in and caring for the biosphere.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Management of Social Transformations (MOST)
    Research on contemporary social transformations, addressing such issues as multicultural and multi-ethnic societies, urban development and local governance in a context of globalization.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    People and Plants
    WWF-UNESCO initiative promoting ethnobotany and the sustainable use of plant resources.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Renewable Energy
    Furthering renewable energy technologies as a tool for sustainable development in rural regions - the focus of UNESCO’s contribution to the United Nations World Solar Programme (1996-2005).
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Science and Technology Education - UNESCO
    In a world increasing shaped by science and technology, education in these fields is a universal requirement for all citizens.
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future
    A Multimedia Teacher Education Programme
    >> More info   >> Go to website

    World Water Assessment
    For development, capacity-building and the environment
    >> More info   >> Go to website


    Documents
    World Conference on Science (Budapest, June 1999) - by
    Sustainable development concerns are reflected in many of the conclusions and recommendations of the UNESCO-ICSU ‘World Conference on Science for the Twenty-First Century: a New Commitment’, which brought together some 1,800 science stakeholders from 155 countries. More


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    Features

    Documents
    World Conference on Science (Budapest, June 1999)


    Websites
    World Water Assessment (Go)


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