By Prof. Victor Britez Chamorro, Ph.D., M.Sc.
As the first item, I will be analyzing and referring to sustainability, as a term that has suffered – and will continue to suffer – various transformations in the course of time until arriving to a modern and emerging concept based in the development of the socio–ecological systems and in the three central dimensions of sustainability which are economic, social and environmental development.
The first time when sustainable development was taken into account was in 1987 in the report of Brundtland, in “Our Common Future” at the heart of the United Nations, which had defined “as a sustainable process”, the one that has developed an infinite production in a rhythm through which resources that it uses are not finished, and is required to function properly and does not produce more contamination substances than its possible absorption allowed by the environment.
As a result, from this perspective the sustainable development makes reference to the capacity that a human system has developed in order to fulfill the needs of recent generations without harming resources and opportunities for the growth and development of future generations.
Scandinavian nations and, in particular, Sweden, are the leading countries in the area of sustainability and they present a definition a little bit more integrated in order to define a sustainable society such as: “a society in which economic development, social welfare and integration are united with an environment of high quality. This society has the capacity to satisfy its actual needs without harming the ability for future generations to enjoy what this generation has today.”
Many times, this definition has caused much debate and confusion. Sustainability is mistakenly understood as a return to the previous conditions of humanity in order to be in “harmony with nature” and, as a result, many people think that sustainability and progress are not aspects that go hand in hand.
However we are looking for sustainability practice in order to advance towards a different relation that brings together, economy, environment and society. There is neither a need to halt progress nor return into a primitive state. In fact the opposite is true: there is a need to foster progress but through a different focus which brings greater abundance, and there is where true challenges lie upon.
Now, what is Paraguay’s position in these issues? Well, there are other global institutions that set the tone for sustainable development, but my goal is to present the position of the National University of East in Paraguay, in regards to these issues, considering my role as the head of the second largest public university in Paraguay.
It is certain that a university can provide a strong influence in some of the dimensions mentioned above, that are exactly “the social dimension” or “society”, which maintains relations with education and training of the citizenry, cultural aspects, preparation of a global citizen, among others, considering that the foundation of education – in all its levels – is the principal agent of transformation towards a sustainable development. A university is not only the transmitter of knowledge, but also is the engine of knowledge and is focused towards research and science. Another priority of our university is to train and educate students so that their aspirations and goals are accomplished.
Taking into these goals into consideration, the official report of the “United Nations’ Ten Year Program of Education for Sustainable Development” (2005-2014)” stipulates that in order to develop a sustainable development, it is necessary to assume collective responsibility and to be constructively associated, embark in voluntary actions and believe in the dignity of every human being without exception.
To achieve these objectives, an educational process based on a widely integrated concept of education is required and it is currently is articulated in the “Education for Sustainable Development” action plan, which is known as “EDS”.
In Paraguay we have the following programs related to EDS:
– In the first item of this action plan entitled as the Strategic Plan of Education in Paraguay 2020, it says in the introduction that: “education should generate conditions so that people can develop their life at their full potential and the society should be capable of a full and sustainable development.”
– In the second item “the concept of sustainable development and treatment of problems related with the understanding and care of environment are part of the curricular foundations of the core curriculum of various disciplines.
– The National Commission of Cooperation with UNESCO – Paraguay chapter formed recently the educational community in the meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Rally denominated “Schools with Sustainable Future” which will take place under the framework of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, where registration is open until March 15th, 2014.
Since 1990, the Itaipu Binational Hydroelectric Dam has implemented the Environment Education Program with the objective to disseminate knowledge, values and experiences that give incentive to change of personal attitude and a positive behavior towards environment. Among its major projects are: 1) leadership training of teachers; 2) workshops in environmental education; 3) courses of training for environmental specialists; 4) shaping the Agenda 21 Local; 5) A program named “improving my community,” which looks into encouraging and mobilizing youngsters and community members to clean the roads and open fresh water sources, creeks, planting of trees in public spaces and the areas of fresh water sources.
In the field of public universities there have been significant changes:
- Legislative reform of the higher education sector, with the approval of the Law 4995, of Higher Education in August, 2013;
- Implementation of careers related to ‘human ecology’ in which the profiles of study are expressed in those aspects of sustainable development and doctorate programs in education, with a specific emphasis in “Education for Sustainable development;”
- Various Paraguayan Universities are reshaping the study of science: from the traditional science to the actual science. Actual science is based on fundamental epistemological forms: it is purely produced in university campuses and looks for original and significant “truths.” Virtual Science is one where their norms are subject to political and economic considerations; it can be produced not only in a university but also in government agencies and laboratories of industrial investigation in search of useful “truths;”
- Paraguayan universities have the role of a moderator in the generation of debates with many topics related to environment, climate change, and management of resources, as well as promote the dialogue between different agents: politicians, entrepreneurs and citizens;
- Facilitate information and prepare all citizens on the scientific and technological research which are related to sustainability.
There is no doubt that this is a decade of education for sustainable development which is poised to impulse a multi-dimensional education policy that contributes to a correct perception of the world. A world that is capable to prepare citizens with positive attitudes, ethical values and responsible commitments, in order to undertake decisions directed towards a sustainable development. Paraguay and its institutions are very well versed with these matters, it is certain that only recently there have been numerous initiatives implemented in order to be an active leader in the global stage.
Biography of the author:
Prof. Dr. Victor Alfredo Britez Chamorro, Chancellor of National University of the East, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, has served for many years as a Professor of the College of Polytechnic Sciences in the National University of Asuncion, Paraguay. Dr. Britez graduated in 1998 from the American University, Paraguay, with the degree in Business Administration and Management. Received a Doctoral Degree in Business Administration from the Autonomous University of Asuncion and a second doctorate in Business administration at the University of Jaen, Spain (2014). Was an adviser and consultant for the implementation of quality to many public and private companies such as theParaguay Refrescos S.A. and Itaipu Binacional. Attended many graduate courses and national and international seminars in the field of Information Technology, Administration, Higher Education and Human Resources in Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Is a member of the founding committee of the Polytechnic College of National University of Asuncion, Branch in Ciudad Del Este as well as a co-founder of the National University of the East. Was a professor of the Organization of Organizational Methodology in the Faculty of Business and Accounting in the National University of Asuncion. Is a member of the MERCOSUR Educativo Related to the definition of evaluation of Higher Education in the field of Engineering. Administrative and Financial Operations Director in the Winner S.R.L. a private company. President and founding member of the BOETEIA Foundation. Member of the National Commission for a Legislation Project for Higher Education in Paraguay, a co – author of the Law 4990/13, nominated by the Council of Universities. Was a Provost of the National University of the East. Has published five books in English and Spanish as well as over one hundred articles in the Paraguayan and International Journals, newspapers and Public Media. Was president of the Paraguayan Public University Association and Former Vice President of the University Council of Paraguay. Was a Vice President of the MERCOSUR University Integration Structure known as ZICOSUR.
Translated from Spanish: Peter Tase, Foreign Policy News Analyst