International Association of Universities

Building a worldwide higher education community

Higher Education and Research for Sustainable development


IAU recognizes the key role higher education and research could and should play in the overall process of achieving sustainable development. Leaders of higher education institutions, the academic and administrative staff, the students and other stakeholders are in a key position to contribute to an equitable and ecologically sound future by making sustainable development a central academic and organisational focus.

This requires the generation and dissemination of knowledge through interdisciplinary research and teaching, policy-making, capacity-building, and technology transfer. It is critical that higher education institutions understand and accept their responsibility within the broader context of social and economic development, and the building of democratic, equitable and ecologically-minded societies.

Against this backdrop, and noting a sense of urgency, IAU adopted Higher Education and Sustainable Development as one of its priority themes since 1993 (See: IAU 1993 Kyoto Declaration on Sustainable Development). This was confirmed in particular at the IAU 2014 International Conference on Blending Higher Education and Traditional Knowledge for Sustainable Development, Universidad Cientifica del Peru (UCP), Lima, Peru, which resulted in the drafting and adoption of the IAU Iquitos Statement on Higher Education for Sustainable Development.

For over twenty years, the Association developed projects, took part in international or regional initiatives and regularly organizes events on this theme to promote and facilitate universities' responsibility with regard to sustainability and mobilises the higher education community it represents to develop initiatives relevant both locally and globally.

The IAU 15th General Conference on Higher Education a Catalyst for Innovative and Sustainable Societies took place in Bangkok in November 2016.

More can be found on in the IAU portal on HESD:


The IAU HESD global portal contributes to facilitate exchange and networking on HESD across the world. Actions and initiatives developed and undertaken by Universities, other Higher education institutions and organisations from around the world are showcased in a synthetic way. The HESD Portal is accessible online at:

Comments, suggestions, news and initiatives are published on the portal – precedence is given to IAU Members.


IAU actions and initiatives contributed in substance to the United Nations - Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (UN-DESD) - 2005-2014. IAU took an active part in the UNESCO World Conference on Education for sustainable development (Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, 2014) and is now in a key partner network of the UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) . IAU’s work plan for the next decade is to contribute to address the Sustainable Development Goals and to the 2030 Development Agenda.

Year round

All through, IAU develops initiatives and projects, contributes to key international events and focuses its international conferences entirely or in part on this topic.

IAU represents its Members on several committees, including: • the UNESCO GAP; • the Ubuntu Committee of peers; • the Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs); * the SULITEST • UNEP / GUPES

To learn more and to get involved please contact:

Dr. Hilligje van’t Land, IAU Director Membership and Programme Development

Frédérique Herzog, IAU Programme Officer

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