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Democratising Education for Global Sustainability and Justice

Hughes Hall joins six institutions across Cambridge to launch a new programme, developed to address the most pressing global challenges, and to support global delivery of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The urgency of its subject matter, coupled with a progressive and accessible course design mean a range of critical issues can be explored and implemented by current and future leaders around the world, from international politicians and legal professionals to students and policymakers.

Hughes Hall Fellow, Dr Markus Gehring (far right), and Professors Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger (5th from left) and Laura Diaz Anadon (4th from left) lead a supervision on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Biosphere.

Dr Markus Gehring, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Law at Hughes Hall, helped design the programme and leads part of its teaching:

“We are facing a convergence of global crises, including anthropogenic climate change and fast-paced biodiversity degradation alongside rising levels of poverty, inequality and risks to health and human rights.”

“Global justice and climate challenges cannot be addressed by one country, one organisation or one group of researchers. And we cannot allow critical international treaties and decades of progress in sustainable development to fail.” said Dr Gehring.

Dr Markus Gehring: “Our programme is unique in bringing leading expertise and research to key individuals around the world, regardless of nation, culture, access, seniority or wealth, in order to effect change. Urgently.”

Global inequalities and converging challenges are holding back achievement of critical global agreements including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and there are too few law and policy specialists with the knowledge, skills and training to implement essential treaties on all levels, and on a global scale. To bridge this ‘capacity chasm’, several University of Cambridge and international organisations have created a new partnership, supported by a generous gift from Dr Gabrielle Bacon, to launch the Democratising Education for Global Sustainability and Justice programme.

The programme delivers free, accessible education on the law and policy dimensions of sustainability through digital courses for current and future law and policy leaders around the world. It convenes and supports global engagement and practice to advance the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals, worldwide. The courses are provided on a scholarship basis to successful applicants, prioritising those from highly climate vulnerable and least developed countries (LDCs).

Hughes Hall student Alexa Magee (LLB Affiliate, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge), discusses the Sustainable Development Goals related to the global economy during a pilot module.

Applications open now

Current and future law and policy leaders from any sector and any country, anywhere in the world, and especially in the global south, are now able to register to be considered for selection using the links below. The programme is free of charge and enables learners to advance the implementation of crucial international agreements and to address global sustainability challenges. The deadline to register is 8th August 2023:

Each short online course provides tailored recorded modules featuring: renowned professors and experts in key fields, carefully curated open-access resources, digital summaries of key materials, and assessments. Through live sessions, learners meet experts and course instructors and have the opportunity to engage with fellow members of their cohort, building and strengthening new communities of practice, and professional networks worldwide.

More than 2,012 individuals from 112 countries around the world expressed interest in helping to pilot the first courses. Through a global, competitive selection process, a cohort of over 540 future and current law and policy leaders from more than 90 countries were successfully granted places as pilot learners.

From left to right, Lydia Young (Coordinator, Biodiversity Law and Governance Initiative, CISDL), Surya Sathujoda (MASt Student, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge) and Adv Nada Gadalla (Associate Fellow, CISDL) lead breakout discussions with peers.

Course information

To understand and lead attainment of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), learners explore the law and policy dimensions of SDGs related to poverty and economic progress, human rights and society, and the Earth’s biosphere, examining good practice legal innovations, Voluntary National Reports and global partnerships.

To support implementation and compliance with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change under the UNFCCC, learners examine good practice reforms to strengthen local, national, regional and international law and policy regimes on climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and finance, and explore how legal frameworks can help achieve their country’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the global response to climate change.

To strengthen law and policy leadership to address the world’s ‘biodiversity emergency’, implementing the new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) under the Convention on Biological Diversity, learners analyse and test legal and policy means to deliver on commitments to conserve and restore natural systems, to promote sustainable use and ensure equitable access and benefit-sharing, and also to exponentially mobilise and invest new financial resources.

Finally, to improve the way the world values and deploys physical, social and natural capital, learners explore a global Wealth Economy approach to tracking progress, and discover how to use novel systems of accounting and investment to understand and measure economic development and sustainability.

The Programme Committee and operational team

The Cambridge-based Programme Committee, under the leadership of Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Visiting Chair in Sustainable Development Law and Policy at the University of Cambridge, with the advice and guidance of Dr Markus Gehring, is shaping and strengthening capacity to address global sustainability challenges, worldwide, through these efforts.

Thanks also to Alexa Magee (LLB Affiliate, Hughes Hall), Jelena Solovjova (LLB Student, Hughes Hall), Emmanuel Sowatey (PhD Student, St Edmund’s) and Maeve McDermott, Programme Coordinator; Tejas Rao, Research Coordinator and Assistant Editor; and Thalsa-Thiziri Mekaouche, Research and Programme Assistant.

Support the programme

To find out more, especially if interested in supporting the new programme, please write in the first instance to the Programme Coordinator, Tejas Rao:  tr465@cam.ac.uk.