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Symposium Report

Paris Symposium Promotes Cooperation in Sustainability Science

Contact: Contact: Osamu Saito, UNU-ISP:

On 19 September 2013, UNU-ISP, The University of Tokyo’s Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) and UNESCO co-hosted a joint symposium on Promoting Integration and Cooperation through Sustainability Science at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

Sustainability science—an emerging approach emphasizing solution-oriented, interdisciplinary scholarship—provides useful tools, methodology and a basis to integrate knowledge from social and natural sciences into policies, strategies and plans. This symposium aimed to discuss the issues, concepts, approaches and methodologies of sustainability science, in order to reframe it within the broad political process, and to explore ways to strengthen international collaboration for enhancing the science–policy–society interface. The outcome of the symposium can be used for inform decision making of future strategic goals and action plan of UNESCO.

Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi Director, The University of Tokyo IR3S and Senior Vice-Rector, UNU. Photo:UNU

The symposium brought together representatives from key institutes and UNESCO member states, as well as scholars and policymakers, to discuss the state of the art of sustainability science. The symposium was opened by Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuch, who thanked the participants and organizers. This was followed by opening remarks from several prominent UNESCO representatives: Dr. Gretchen Kalonji, Dr. Pilar Alvarez-Laso, and Dr. Mitrasen Bhikajee, as well as Dr.Isao Kiso. These speakers shared the state of art of sustainability science, highlighting the Future Earth program and UNESCO’s programmes focusing on water, ocean and ecological sciences, as well as social and human sciences.

Prof. Carl FolkeProf. Carl Folke, Director, Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Science Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. Photo:UNU

The opening session was followed by keynote lectures from prominent speakers. Prof. Mohamed Hassan talked about future strategies for sustainability to address two interrelated infrastructure challenges—increasing investments in green technology infrastructure, and improving institutional and educational infrastructure to ensure adequate numbers of innovative and problem-solving sustainability scientists. Elaborating on his ideas Prof. Makoto Usami emphasized the need for research on fundamental knowledge in addition to the comprehensive integration of disciplines. Prof. Carl Folke remarked on the opportunities and challenges for humanity in a new biosphere terrain, and highlighted knowledge generation and resilience thinking for persistence, adaptability and transformability. Prof. Shankar Sastry stressed the urgent need for a multi-pronged, cooperative international approach for transforming our energy systems from low efficiency and high carbon usage to high efficiency and low carbon usage. He described a systems approach to building technology roadmaps for addressing both the demand side and the supply side of the technology innovation portfolio, to effect such a change.

This was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, featuring several short presentations on the theme of “Addressing interconnected global challenges demands for Sustainability Science”. The first of these was delivered by Dr. Pablo Gentili, on the role of social science for creative and innovative public policymaking, and combining development and social justice, human rights and equality for overall wellbeing. The second presentation was by Dr.Lutz Möller, sharing a German perspective on re-focusing research and monitoring of biosphere reserves for co-design and co-production. Dr. Rudy Herman presented his ideas in the domain of ocean sciences and services about the need for innovative capacity building, intergovernmental collaboration, strengthening of knowledge transfer and encouragement of networking. Prof. Takeuchi then highlighted the changing landscape of sustainability science in last 5 years and efforts to enhance knowledge innovation in developing countries.

The session was wrapped by Dr. Anantha Kumar Duraiappah speaking on the topic of inclusive wealth, and Dr. Lidia Brito advising on effective structures for science–policy interface.

Participants at the symposium. Photo: UNU

The second session was moderated by Prof. Kazuhiko Takemoto, and featured a panel discussion on “Institutional challenges and opportunities for integrating sectoral and disciplinary activities”. Dr. Alexander Leicht spoke about how sustainability science and education for sustainable development reinforce each other by overcoming fragmentation of knowledge though inter/trans-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches. This was supported by Dr. Francesca Farioli, who shared ideas on enhancing networks and collective action for transformational change. Prof. Des Gasper then advocated for responsible science in order to make knowledge “response-able” participated through video conferencing to highlight the need for real-world teaching and epistemological literacy. Dr. Yuto Kitamura then placed emphasis on international cooperation for higher education in Asia for sustainable development. The symposium concluded with closing remarks from Prof. Takeuchi and a note of thanks from Dr. Salvatore Arico.