Strengthening sustainability worldwide
Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) receives UNESCO Chair for Promoting Global Understanding
UNESCO honours the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) with a Chair on Global Understanding for Sustainability. This means that a total of twelve UNESCO chairs in Germany and over 700 worldwide have been established to support the teaching and research goals of the world cultural organization. The social geographer Prof. Dr Benno Werlen will hold the chair in Jena.
Sustainable development requires research
“Sustainable development requires research. The newly established UNESCO Chair at the University of Jena is an excellent example of how scientific cooperation can succeed in strengthening sustainability across disciplines and international boundaries. Thanks to its research on social and cultural backgrounds of sustainable and unsustainable ways of life around the world, it lays the foundation for a sustainable life for every individual. I would like to congratulate Professor Werlen on the successful establishment of this chair,” says Prof. Dr Gerd Michelsen, Spokesman of the UNESCO Chairs Network in Germany and Board Member of the German UNESCO Commission.
Understanding one’s own life in the global context and in doing so, strengthening internationality is a key task of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, emphasizes its President Prof. Dr Walter Rosenthal. “Bringing bridge-building ideas into the world also has a peace-building dimension, something that must be advocated every day. We are aware of these tasks and the responsibility that comes with them,” emphasizes Rosenthal, who is pleased that the activities of Jena University are now also being commended by UNESCO with the new chair.
Getting social sciences and humanities more involved in sustainability research
Over the next four years, the new chair will primarily encourage getting social sciences and humanities to become more involved in sustainability research. Benno Werlen has already started on this in recent years. As the initiator and director of the International Year of Global Understanding (IYGU), he campaigned for a transdisciplinary approach to the challenges of globalization rather than primarily addressing them from a scientific perspective. “Many initiatives have been launched worldwide, for which Jena will remain an important coordinating body thanks to the UNESCO chair,” says Benno Werlen. “The IYGU’s programme to help better understand globalized living conditions with the help of science will therefore be carried on and consolidated.”
In the meantime, a network of approximately 40 regional centres has been established. They provide a wide variety of information on sustainable lifestyles and consequently promote them. “Globalization has posed many fundamental problems, which also have to be solved at local level. To do so, we also need to consider the respective contextual social and cultural conditions and backgrounds. Only in this way can the idea of sustainability be incorporated into the routines of every individual, and only in this way can sustainable lifestyles be established,” explains the Jena social geographer. “The new UNESCO chair offers a unique opportunity to strengthen precisely this interface between science and everyday life at which the regional centres operate.”
Sustainability as a fundamental criterion for political decisions
Werlen views the interaction between research and society as a huge opportunity to establish sustainability as a fundamental criterion for political decisions – and to align it: globally – with the respective culture all over the world. Therefore, as chair holder, he wants to support and implement research projects as well as educational campaigns in the respective regions, thereby also aiming to intensify intercultural cooperation between individual centres.
In cooperation with the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Delhi, the École Normal Supérieur Lyon and the Paolo Freire Institute of UCLA in Los Angeles, Werlen also focuses on integrating an understanding of globalized living conditions into the education of young leaders. In this way, sustainability concepts can be developed into a global perspective that incorporates the particularities of different cultures, and passed on to the decision-makers of tomorrow.
Prof. Dr Benno Werlen
UNESCO Chair Global Understanding for Sustainability
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Loebdergraben 32, 07743 Jena
Phone: +49 (0)3641 948840