40 years of building bridges across nations

Authors: Adrian Lauer, Aliya Orozakunova, Natalia Jiménez

On 16 May, the UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB Centre for International Postgraduate Studies on Environmental Management (CIPSEM) celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Alte Mensa ballroom in Dresden. Together with partners UNEP, UNESCO, BMUB, UBA; CIPSEM Secretariat, current fellows, alumni, supporters, facilitators of the Program and other guests celebrated the success of environmental education. During these decades of steady work, this programme has trained specialists from 140 countries, coming from government, civil society, specialized consultancy, and academia, empowering them to become change makers.

The ceremony started with welcoming inspiring speeches made by Prof Dr. rer. nat. habil. Hans Georg Krauthäuser, Vice-Rector for Academic and International Affairs of TU Dresden, Ms Jame Webbe, Head of UNEP Environmental Education and Training, Dr Harry Lehmann, General Director of Division I “Environmental Planning and Sustainability Strategies” at the German Environment Agency (UBA) and Mr Uwe Gaul, State Secretary, Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts. Prof Krauthäuser emphasised the strong focus of TU Dresden on environmental research, as the work of ca. 25% of professors is related to environmental affairs. Ms Webbe mentioned the need for skilled professionals in the field, praising the practical and interdisciplinary approach of CIPSEM and the programme’s contribution to UNEP’s global training platform, while Dr Lehmann highlighted to role of CIPSEM in building professional capacities for specialists around the world in a context of evolving environmental institutions and frameworks and the urgency of preserving science as the prime source of knowledge for decision making in environment. Finally, Mr Gaul pointed out to the gender-balanced selection of fellows as an advantage for building a fair discipline and society.

After the first part, two CIPSEM alumni, who came to Dresden on the occasion of the anniversary, took the podium: Prof Dr Bert Kohlmann (Costa Rica/Mexico), participant of the 5th environmental management course (1981/1982) and Ms Rachel Boti-Douyoua (Côte d’Ivoire) participant of the 38th long course (2015). With exciting speeches, they shared their own experiences at CIPSEM, and the impact the programme continues to have on their professional life. They, like over 2200 participants who have been involved in CIPSEM’s trainings over 40 years, are nowadays agents of change in numerous disciplines around the world.

At the end of the ceremony, Prof. Dr. Rattan Lal, distinguished Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management Sequestration Center at the Ohio State University, gave a lively keynote speech in emphasizing the importance of environmental education and “building bridges across nations”. Supporting the CIPSEM approach he also highlighted that environmental education is not only giving information and raising knowledge, but also training and creating awareness, inspiring responsible attitudes, fostering sensitivity and imagination, providing practical learning by bringing nature indoors and the class outdoors, and, by all means, linking these aspects with ecological, economic, social and political issues. ​

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Photo: by Harald Schluttig

The uplifting, innovative music by Roger Tietke (saxophon) and Moritz Töpfer (piano) invited the audience to reflect on the importance of a humanist approach to environmental education, involving culture and art. Everything is connected.

The celebration was also a candid space to share. “Friendship”, “connections”, “international exchange”, “inspiration for changing the world”, “experience from Germany” were some the impacts of CIPSEM trainings named during an informal exchange held by CIPSEM alumni and current participants before the ceremony. They all agreed that this programme was the starting point for taking action and making the difference.