Chair UNESCO to Sustainable Development

The United Nations’ UNITWIN, through UNESCO fosters inter-university technical cooperation, particularly in developing countries. To this end it is implementing UNESCO Chairs in different countries, as part of a successful program of UNESCO’s Higher Studies Division.

The Chair UNESCO/UFRJ/EICOS related to sustainable development was created by a covenant signed by director Federico Mayor and UFRJ’s representative in October 1993 at the Unesco headquarters in Paris. The Chair’s Scientific Council has both Brazilian and foreign experts from many fields, appointed by then Dean Professor Nelson Maculan. It also has a Technical Executive Council coordinated by Professor Maria Inácia D´Ávila Neto, officially appointed by UFRJ.

The EICOS Program – Communities Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Ecology Program– is in charge of providing an institutional basis for the activities of UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Development EICOS/UFRJ, complementing both socially and culturally UNESCO’s network of Development Chairs, as per our conception of working with communities, so as to join existing Chairs such as the University of Laval, in Canadá (environmental policies component). Others will also associate themselves to our network, as well as the from Universidad de la Habana, Casa de las Americas, Instituto de Ecologia Social (Frankfurt), and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Scientific Council

Bertha Becker (Geography/UFRJ)
Celia Ribeiro Zaher (BIREME/SP)
Darcy Ribeiro (Senator and anthropologist/UFRJ) in memoriam
Eduardo Portella (Languages/UFRJ)
Gilberto de Oliveira Castro (Biophysicist/UFRJ)
Henrique Rattner (USP/SP)
Jose Pellucio (IBECC/ Academy of Sciences)
Jose Seixas Lourenço (Univ. of Pará)
Luis Pinguelli Rosa (COPPE/UFRJ)
Maria Inácia D’Ávila (EICOS/UFRJ)
Nelson Maculan (Mathematics/UFRJ)
Silvano Santiago (UFF/RJ)
Tania Maria de Freitas Barros Maciel (EICOS/UFRJ)

Christine Von Fürstenberg (UNESCO, Paris)
Denise Jodelet (EHESS, Paris)
Egon Becker ( Inst. Sozial Ekologische, Frankurt)
Luiza Campuzano (Univ. de La Habana)

Technical Consulting Council
Eduardo Coutinho (Language/UFRJ)
Josimar de Almeida (Biology/UFRJ)
Lena Vania Ribeiro Pinheiro (IBICT/CNPq)
Maria Lucia Coutinho (EICOS/UFRJ)
Marisa Cassim (CNPq/UFRJ)
Valdo S. Marques (Geosciences /UFRJ)


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was created on November 16, 1945 and started operations one year later.

Its main purpose is to contribute to the maintenance of peace and safety in the world by promoting collaboration among nations trough educational, scientific, cultural and communications programs. Its creed involves the respect for justice, law, human rights and freedom for all the people in the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, as established in the United Nations Charter.

In order to achieve these goals, UNESCO integrates 5 key strategies:

- Prospective Studies – investigation of the forms of education, science, culture and communications that could prove effective in the future world.

- Knowledge Transfer and Sharing - emphasizes research, teaching and training activities.

- Action Planning – prepares and adopts international tools and recommendations.

- Expertise – directed to development policies and projects, such as technical cooperation.

- Exchange of Information – emphasis on ongoing specialized exchange of information.

UNESCO’s main forum of decisions is the General Conference held every other year, which determines the Organization’s policies and approves its program and budget. Program coordination is responsibility of the Executive Committee, composed by 58 Members, who meet twice a year.


A Chair is created as a separate teaching and research unit at a university (or another institution of higher studies) directed to a specific theme. It must include a Coordinator, a group of researchers from the institution itself and from other organizations part of the project, and a group of students who will major on this subject.

It encompasses a group of coordinated activities involving research, information and documentation, as well as advanced studies on this theme.

The work is done by a teaching and research program where the subject matter is emphasized, and where special attention is given to the dimension of international cooperation.


The UNESCO/UNITWIN Chair Program introduced in 1991 is an innovative undertaking in higher education directed to strengthening international partnerships among higher studies institutions by establishing cooperative networks with developing countries.

A partnership project including different Chairs has been ratified in the World Conference for Higher Education (UNESCO,1998), where was stressed the importance of creating centers of excellence in developing countries as part of UNITWIN’s program goals. Higher education has become an imperative in today’s world, in a society where information and advanced training are key elements to social and economical development. It is understood that developing countries will only be able to overcome their distance from the developed world when they have their own advanced study and research programs, conferring them a certain autonomy and reducing their scientific and technological dependency.

In this context, the main characteristics of the UNITWIN Program are the exchange of knowledge and the institutional development of higher education, fostering the emergence of inter-regional networks capable of contacting educational institutions located in different parts of the world.

In its ten years of existence, the UNITWIN Program obtained significantly positive results, including the establishment of more than 380 Chairs and 60 inter-university networks.

What stands out in this scenario is the essentially inter-disciplinary characteristic of cooperative networks, such as education, sustainable development, environmental and educational issues, peace, democracy, human rights and culture.


The MOST Program - Management of Social Transformations – was created by UNESCO in 1994 to promote research in different cultural contexts, and specifically focused on development and social transformations. Its main goal is to increase knowledge of such processes, and at the same time, to highlight the importance of social research in the formulation of public policies.

The need for this kind of Program had already become apparent during the Earth Summit discussion (Rio, 1992), with the realization that the increasing inequality in the distribution of economical and technological products has not been a consequence of a shortage of goods, but of a misdirected political and social organization. Such realization led to the creation of the term "bad development", referring to processes excessively centered around economical theories that have growth as their sole purpose. Later it became obvious that there was a need for policies and actions capable of focusing on development without forgetting the 5 central themes: peace, economy, environment, justice and democracy.

This is the scenario where the MOST Program appeared, bringing the understanding that psychosocial research should be at the basis of development strategies and should be part not only of the scientific production involved in the knowledge of such themes – through scientific cooperation networks – but also of the exchange between researchers and final users, with emphasis on the social participation aspect. Furthermore, all projects part of the MOST Program must include an item related to the knowledge transfer to those responsible for the formulation of social actions and policies, defining clearly the strategies and recommendations resulting from the knowledge produced.

Operating under this format, the MOST Program considers as priorities three (3) areas of social research/action:

I– The management of transformations in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies
- The understanding that cultural and ethnic diversity is a fact in most societies. Therefore the MOST Program attempts to foster the development of policies capable of assuring equal rights and citizenship to different groups of people as well as resolution of their ethnic conflicts. To this end, context-oriented and inter-disciplinary projects are necessary, focusing on the following aspects: education, culture and religion, identity, forms of democratic government, and conflict and cohesion in complex scenarios.

II – Urban development and governance
-- Understanding that urban centers are the places where fast social change takes place, the United Nations recognize that such transformations create new and numerous issues related to the sustainable government of such centers. Thus, aspects such as demographic growth, urban planning, education, unemployment and marginalization, social conflicts, health, and environment are considered priority research themes capable of producing guidelines for local governments.

III – Globalization and governance
--- Considering that the international transactions, the dynamics of technological innovations, and the global communication networks are creating a global and interdependent society, the MOST Program considers it important to study the local impact caused by transformations resulting from the globalization process. In a scenario where the internal and external levels interact dynamically, research must provide input so that government authorities are able to propose policies where global changes are in harmony with local sustainability.

The Most Program is funded by the Intergovernmental Council, formed by 33 states, and by the Scientific Council, formed by 9 international researchers.