Democratising Education for
Global Sustainability and Justice

Democratising Education for Global Sustainability and Justice

Sharing new law and policy knowledge, skills and networks to empower learners making a difference worldwide.

This programme, co-hosted by Lucy Cavendish College and Hughes Hall at the University of Cambridge, in partnership with leading Cambridge and international expert institutions, engages current and future law and policy leaders especially from highly climate vulnerable countries, in implementing sustainable development commitments.

Global Challenges

The world is currently facing a set of interrelated and converging crises that threaten the stability and sustainability of human societies and have already begun undermining decades of progress on sustainable development.

Extreme Poverty and Widening Inequalities

Despite commitments made by global leaders to leave no one behind in the fulfillment of socio-economic rights, the world is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Under current trends, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030. In this era of polycrisis, the world is facing hunger levels not seen since 2005, with a global cost-of-living crisis affecting billions of people (SDG Report, UNSTATS 2023).

Fundamental law and policy reforms are needed to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate Change​

As human-induced climate change causes global temperatures to rise, the world has already begun to experience more frequent and severe natural disasters, including heatwaves, flooding, droughts, tropical storms and wildfires.

These extreme weather events are displacing communities, destroying homes and infrastructure, and threatening food security. Unless policy-makers come together to hold global temperature increase to well below 2°C above and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, climate change will cause unprecedented economic and non-economic losses.

Biodiversity Crisis

Changes in exploitation of natural resources, in land and sea use, global heating, pollution and the spread of invasive species have led to a human-induced mass extinction. According to the most recent figures, wildlife populations have plunged by an average of 69% between 1970 and 2018 (WWF, 2020; IUCN Red List 2017-2020 Report). The abundance of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles is falling fast, as populations of sea lions, sharks, frogs and salmon collapse.

Human Rights Regression

According to the United Nations, at the current rate, it will take an estimated 300 years to end child marriage, 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments. In education, the impacts of years of underinvestment and learning losses are such that, by 2030, some 84 million children will be out of school and 300 million children or young people attending school will leave unable to read and write. The global number of refugees has reached 34.6 million in 2022, the highest number ever recorded. This represents 429 out of 100,000 people who fled their countries of origin owing to war, conflict, persecution, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing the public order (SDG Report, UNSTATS 2023).

Extreme Poverty and Widening Inequalities

Despite commitments made by global leaders to leave no one behind in the fulfillment of socio-economic rights, the world is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Under current trends, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030. In this era of polycrisis, the world is facing hunger levels not seen
since 2005, with a global cost-of-living crisis affecting billions of people (SDG Report, UNSTATS 2023).

Fundamental law and policy reforms are needed to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate Change

As human-induced climate change causes global temperatures to rise, the world has already begun to experience more frequent and severe natural disasters, including heatwaves, flooding, droughts, tropical storms and wildfires.
These extreme weather events are displacing communities, destroying homes and infrastructure, and threatening food security. Unless policy-makers come together to hold global temperature increase to well below 2°C above and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, climate change will cause unprecedented economic and non-economic losses.

International Commitments​​

Countries around the world have recognized the urgent need to address the converging crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and poverty, and have made commitments to tackle these challenges through international treaties and agreements. The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted in 2022, which seeks to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainable use of natural resources, and ensure equitable sharing of benefits derived from genetic resources. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015 by all United Nations Member States, included 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which call for urgent action by all countries to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequalities and promote economic growth, while addressing climate change and protecting the environment. 

These commitments, along with many other international agreements, are crucial for achieving a sustainable future, and countries must continue to work together to implement them effectively.

Capacity

However, implementation of these agreements and countries’ corresponding commitments under them remains a critical challenge and effective, accountable national and international law on sustainable development has never been more important. 

Of the 80,000 individual lawyers and 190 bar associations and law societies in the world, only a few offer a committee on sustainable development law, and of these, most were founded in the last five years. Across the lowest income countries represented in international judicial training networks, very few offer courses on dispute resolution related to global sustainability challenges, and even fewer focus on the contributions of courts to implementing their country’s treaty obligations in relation to sustainable development. Among the world’s public service schools in over one hundred countries, very few offer courses for government officials on implementing their country’s sustainability related treaties, or advancing the global Sustainable Development Goals through policy innovation. Across the world’s forty most highly climate vulnerable, low-income countries, few have their own university law school, and even fewer of these offer legal or public administration courses for the students – as the next generation of law and policy leaders – on global sustainability challenges and solutions.

Compliance

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Capacity

However, implementation of these agreements and countries’ corresponding commitments under them remains a critical challenge and effective, accountable national and international law on sustainable development has never been more important. 

Of the 80,000 individual lawyers and 190 bar associations and law societies in the world, only a few offer a committee on sustainable development law, and of these, most were founded in the last five years. Across the lowest income countries represented in international judicial training networks, very few offer courses on dispute resolution related to global sustainability challenges, and even fewer focus on the contributions of courts to implementing their country’s treaty obligations in relation to sustainable development. Among the world’s public service schools in over one hundred countries, very few offer courses for government officials on implementing their country’s sustainability related treaties, or advancing the global Sustainable Development Goals through policy innovation. Across the world’s forty most highly climate vulnerable, low-income countries, few have their own university law school, and even fewer of these offer legal or public administration courses for the students – as the next generation of law and policy leaders – on global sustainability challenges and solutions.