IAU in action

IAU in action

IAU Vision

Future well-being of humanity and the planet depends on successful resolution of the interconnected challenges of economic, social, cultural, and environmental sustainability. The International Association of Universities is an international non-governmental organization and an official partner of UNESCO (Associate Status) that recognizes the key role higher education (HE) plays in the overall process of achieving sustainable development. As of January 2017, the IAU counts 650 Members (Institutions & Organizations) in some 130 countries.

For over three decades, the Association takes part in international and regional initiatives and holds events to promote the integration of sustainable development (SD) into higher education policies, strategies and work.  

IAU HESD strategy for 2016-2020

IAU’s Strategic Plan and related actions in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provide a framework for university leaders to develop inter institutional collaboration in pursuit of sustainable development. The aim is to help HEIs leaders, from our Members and Partners, embed sustainable development concepts and principles in strategic planning, academic and organizational work.

Our objectives for 2016-2020 are the following *:

  • Strengthen IAU’s work in support of the 2030 Agenda and related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Develop and share expertise on the SDGs.
  • Enhance IAU Members’ involvement in HESD. 
  • Encourage peer-to-peer learning using the IAU global network of HE leaders.
  • Foster ‘whole institution’ approaches at the leadership level to integrate sustainable development priorities, and develop guidelines for embedding SD in the whole institution.
  • Monitor trends and issues related to HESD. 
  • Provide leadership training, capacity building and networking services.
  • Map and analyze assessment tools related to HESD.

IAU will pursue its ABC strategy through:

  • Advising & advocating
  • Building synergies & networking
  • Communicating & convening

Download our leaflet IAU for HESD.

* IAU pursues a 4-year Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan was adopted during the 15th IAU General Conference in November 2016. It deepens IAU’s focus on four key higher education challenges, namely Leadership, Internationalization, Sustainable Development, Information and Communications Technologies, while improving support and services to Members as well as enhancing their visibility and engagement.

IAU Actions

This timeline highlights important dates related to HESD as well as the IAU main contributions to the UN-DESD (The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development since 1993.

To know more about IAU's actions, please consult IAU profile. You can also download IAU Horizons, the Association's news and information magazine; these volumes focus more specifically on sustainable development: 

All other volumes are available on the IAU website

IAU's Working Group on Sustainable Development

IAU is working on Higher Education and Sustainable Development (HESD) since its first development in the 90’s and adopted the Kyoto Declaration on Sustainable Development in 1993. The task force aims at mobilizing and helping IAU members to disclose information, learning from each other, and developing strategies in the field of sustainable development.


IAU is active and sits on various committees such as the Ubuntu Committee of peers reviewing the Regional Centers of Expertise (RCEs), the UN-DESD Reference Group.

To carry out its work, the Secretariat works in partnership with the Administrative Board and created a task force (2012-2016). The Members are listed below.

Objectives and strategies 

Developing strategies in the field of sustainable development aims at:

1. Providing advice on on-going IAU activities and projects in the area of higher education and sustainable development,

2. Proposing and elaborating new actions and projects the Association could undertake to mobilize and assist its membership to share information and learn from each other as they develop strategies to:

  • including SD in curriculum
  • developing 'greening' policies and practices,
  • launching public information campaigns about SD,
  • conducting research projects that can contribute to knowledge about SD

3. Advising the IAU Secretariat on requests for partnership and collaboration on SD related projects,

4. Reviewing and considering updating the IAU Kyoto Declaration of principles concerning SD,

5. Bringing key HESD news, events and information on important activities to the attention of the Secretariat for further dissemination to the higher education community,

6. Representing the Association on SD related committees and at topical country specific, regional or international conferences,

7. Helping to raise awareness for HESD in the Members countries and regions.