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Sustainable Development Vital to Nation
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The Second Asia-Pacific Leadership Program on Environment for Sustainable Development jointly organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Tongji University kicked off in Shanghai yesterday.


The program aims to reinforce environmental awareness of the young and emerging leaders in government organizations, NGOs and private enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region, and to direct them to integrate the concept of sustainable development into their decision-making.


"China as well as many parts of Asia are following the pattern set by developed countries - to get rich quickly and clean up later," said Surendra Shrestha, Regional Director and Representative of the UNEP in Asia-Pacific region.


"To reverse the trend within one generation, we have to think outside the box and work across boundaries so as to find new methods for sustainable development," he said.


The seven-day program will incorporate lectures, workshops and field trips including one to Anji County, Zhejiang Province in east China, which demonstrates eco-friendly development.


All the courses are taught in English by experts from the UNEP Asia-Pacific offices as well as the Asia-Pacific University Consortium.


Commenting on the curriculum design which includes three dimensions - human, environment and development, Co-ordinator of UNEP in China Shao Xuemin said: "Other than being solely scientific or social, our program takes an holistic approach. By doing so, we expect the participants to find it a value-added program rather than a normal business workshop."


In the program, the most pertinent environmental issues in the region will be discussed, including the series of problems caused by high-speed urbanization such as air pollution and acid rain, and food, water and energy security.


Zhang Huatian, the Senior Program Officer at the State Environmental Protection Administration, is one of the 25 participants from 13 countries attending this year's programme.


"I consider the program to be the best opportunity to learn about the environmental issues our Asia-Pacific neighbors are facing, and more importantly, the ways they are handling these issues," she said.


"As creativity is much needed in addressing environmental issues, I believe that the exchange of ideas will be very conducive in forging creative solutions," she added.


Such an event can also lead to regional co-operation in addressing environmental challenges, which will be all the more important when co-operation worldwide is having difficulties, said Shao.


The program was first held in July 2004, two years after the establishment of the UNEP-Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development (IESD) in May 2002.


From September this year, the IESD also started running a Master's Program in Environment for Sustainable Development, a two-year course incorporating an internship at one of UNEP's worldwide offices.


According to Zhao Jianfu, Vice-President of Tongji University, the IESD initiative is part of the university's plan to become an international education institution.


(China Daily September 5, 2005)

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