UNESCO Management of Social Transformations Programme
Humanities for the Environmental (HfE) Global Network of Observatories is one of three founding partners of BRIDGES, the humanities-driven Sustainability Science Coalition of UNESCO’s MOST program. The BRIDGES coalition places the humanities at the forefront of sustainability research and projects, a focus HfE has been modeling since it was founded in 2013.
The establishment of BRIDGES involved a two-year visioning process (2019-2020). Among over 40 organizations attending, representatives of HfE’s African Observatory, Asia Pacific Observatory, North American Observatory, and Circumpolar Observatory were in attendance. BRIDGES was formally approved by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s MOST program on March 31, 2021.
The coalition’s Inaugural General Assembly was held in May of 2021, setting in motion a process to establish an international secretariat for BRIDGES by the end of the year and expand significantly on the coalition’s capacity-building activities and engagement during 2021. Five international hubs launched in 2022, including the Flagship Hub at Arizona State University and sister hubs at University of Pretoria, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, The Club of Rome and City University of New York/Princeton University.
1 These four workshops were: 1. Maçao, Portugal (March 2019); 2. UNESCO Headquarters, Paris (June 2019); 3. Sigtuna, Sweden (October 2019); and 4. Cappadocia, Turkey (July 2020).
The purpose of BRIDGES is to operationalize the UNESCO Guidelines for Sustainability Science in Research and Education in a variety of contexts, by connecting diverse communities of knowledge and action throughout societies in project-based activities. BRIDGES is committed to helping higher education and research institutions, in collaboration with non-academic partners, as they work to address the greatest challenges facing societies during the UN Decade of Action (2021-2030) to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Coalition is the first ever humanities-driven international sustainability science initiative within UNESCO. Not limited to the humanities, the coalition works to promote potentially transformative collaborations across cultural, historical, philosophical, and aesthetic disciplines, in meaningful cooperation with social and natural sciences and diverse communities of knowledge and practice. The coalition’s transdisciplinary principles extend to integration of research, education, outreach and applied solutions for sustainability as co-produced together with non-academic partners in society.
BRIDGES acknowledges, first and foremost, that potential solutions and resolutions to global challenges must be part of comprehensive approaches rooted in processes of social, economic, institutional and cultural transformation. These processes must in turn respect the integrity, agency and inherent value of diverse communities of knowledge and practice.
The BRIDGES Coalition promotes open science, intellectual freedom, cultural diversity, gender equality, respectful collaboration of academic researchers with local and indigenous communities, and equitable, balanced approaches to Global South-Global North knowledge exchange and cooperation in support of sustainable futures.
Over the course of the present decade the coalition, with its scores of member organizations, will work together with a number of educational programmes and scientific organizations, including the Humanities for the Environmental Global Network of Observatories, to lead international efforts to achieve the 17 SDGs, including Future Earth, the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences, the International Science Council, the Club of Rome, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and several of UNESCO’s international science programmes.