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The Environment and Sustainable
Development Programme

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Mission Statement

Governed by the overall mission of the United Nations University, the Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD) Programme at the UNU Headquarters, focuses on the interactions between human activities and the natural environment and their implications for the sustainable management of natural resources. The basic issues of human survival, development and welfare are at the core of the themes covered within the realm of the ESD Programme. It is also concerned with environmental governance and monitoring tools required for designing and implementing effective environmental policies.

To achieve its objectives, the ESD Programme adopts a multidisciplinary approach combining both natural and social sciences. In implementing its activities, special efforts are made to include perspectives from both north and south as well as from the countries with economies in transition. Capacity building, particularly in the developing countries, is given a high priority.


The ESD Programme operates through an international network of scholars and institutions bridging across both industrialized and developing countries. As the programme is designed specifically to contribute to the work of the UN system, therefore collaboration with United Nations and its specialized agencies features in all ESD activities. Establishing strategic partnerships is the key principle to promote multidisciplinary research and policy analysis at an international level. Such partnerships also play a key role in capacity building and strengthening of regional centers of excellence.

The Programme activities are focused on the following target groups and institutions:

  • UN System - The Programme aims to be relevant to the working mandate of United Nations and its specialized agencies. Particular importance is placed on responding to various Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and their interlinkages.

  • Developing Countries - To assist developing countries in taking effective decisions on environment and sustainable development issues, the ESD Programme focuses on increased knowledge dissemination, training and capacity building. This, in turn, enables these countries to participate in the international arena in a more effective manner.

  • International Academic Community - The Programme fosters multinational and multidisciplinary research collaborations between academic institutions and scholars across the continents with emphasis on south-south and north-south partnerships.

  • International Policy Community - The Program is engaged in a wider dissemination of policy relevant research work to agencies concerned with environmental management in both public and private sectors. It is for this reason that non-governmental organizations are actively involved in various ESD Programme activities.

In an concrete effort to reach some of these target groups, the ESD Programme has established the Global Environment Information Centre (GEIC), in collaboration with the Environment Agency of Japan. GEIC has a commitment to better involve civil groups and people in environmental issues, and undertakes studies and activities that can engage grassroots organizations in international and national environmental processes. GEIC also undertakes preparation and dissemination of information for use and consumption by non-experts.

Implementation of ESD projects is undertaken with financial support from both UNU core funds and partner international organizations and agencies.

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