History and Background of the IUNCBD University Network initiative



The International University Network on Cultural and Biological Diversity (IUNCBD) has been established under the MoU and Cooperation (2010) with the United Nations Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The initiative has a special focus on developing countries. The innovative mission, objectives and strategy of the IUNCBD are based on the following social science analysis and methodology developed in the Research Programme “Cultural and Biological Diversity Policy and Management” (Sapienza University of Rome – Research Centre of Development Studies SPES) in response to the deep concerns expressed by the International Organizations on the gap of coordination and knowledge between education and the International Conventions and Organizations. In the Decision VI/19 the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed on two fundamental principles:

  • the three objectives of the CBD biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources “call for social change”
  • “education and public awareness are long-term investments towards this change”However the COP Decision recognized that “despite repeated stated support for education and public awareness, education and communication instruments fail to be effectively utilized in the processes of the Convention”, underlining that “education and communication instruments ………… are inadequately advised by relevant professional expertise”.

In order to effectively address these crucial issues the Conference of Parties approved the Programme of Work on Communication, Education, Public Awareness (CEPA) in partnership with UNESCO, UNEP, Multilateral Environmental Agreements(MEAs). The establishment of the IUNCBD Network wanted to give a scientific and operative contribution to the call of the CBD, focused on unexplored interactions and characterized by the lack of specialized studies and dedicated organizations.

The following are the main issues addressed in the study that constitutes the background of the IUNCBD Network:

  • the institutional processes of the international conventions/organizations and the complex implementation of their policy agenda and programmes of work
  • the gap of communication and knowledge between international conventions and academic institutions
  • the gap between education and capacity building
  • the gap between academic institutions and local society and the very limited role universities play in disseminating and linking the CBD policy agenda and programmes of work to the local context to which they belong
  • the innovative strategy that can allow universities to face these challenges and play a fundamental role as local social drivers – inclusive institutions – opened to society
  • the transdisciplinary scientific contribution that universities can offer through the inclusion of the CBD and related policy agenda and programmes of work in the academic system of studies
  • the academic benefits that universities can receive in terms of international relationships and networking opportunities, advanced and updated studies and curricula, connections with high level International Organizations and Conventions

The success of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) policies is ultimately evaluated by the impact they have on the ground, but the ‘implementation chain’ remains an hard challenge in particular in developing countries. Universities are the only institutions: (1) time by time present at local level, (2) with a long lasting and very appropriate mission (3) with the largest and most suitable human resources and target — researchers, teachers, students, young people who represent the future of a country. Universities are of paramount importance because they play a key role for capacity building and public awareness which are the milestones for good governance and effective policy making.