The Earth Charter Volunteers Network is bringing about very positive results! An example is the fruitful partnership that the Earth Charter Secretariat is starting with an Austrian-based NGO called INEX (International Network of Educational Exchange).
INEX offers summer university programs to several European universities; one of the programs is a short course on Sustainable Development for Master’s students of different disciplines, which takes place in Costa Rica. This year, it brought in 19 students from Austria, Finland, Germany, Rumania and Spain. The general aim of the summer programs is “to prepare leaders of tomorrow for the challenges of a globalized world”.
Philipp Schoeffmann, Program Manager of INEX, joined our volunteers’ network early this year. While he was thinking about how to collaborate with the Earth Charter Initiative, he proposed that the research component of the summer course on sustainable development focused on an aspect relevant to the Earth Charter.
Following this idea, we proposed that the students undertook an assessment that compared the level of commitment and level of action of different stakeholders of the tourism sector, towards practicing ethical principles for sustainability. They used the EC-Assess tool for conducting this research, which focused on a very touristic area of the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica (Quepos and Manuel Antonio).
The EC-Assess allowed the students to identify, for each of the stakeholders, which principles of the Earth Charter presented more promising opportunities to bring about change towards sustainability in Quepos and Manuel Antonio. The students identified different workable solutions that could be implemented by the stakeholders in areas such as wetlands and national park management, solid waste management, transportation, environmental education and community consciousness, water resources management, and industrial and commercial social responsibility.
In preparation to conduct the research, on 12 July 2008 the Earth Charter Secretariat offered a workshop where the students not only learned about how to use EC-Assess, but also learned about the Earth Charter Initiative, the activities that our Affiliates and Partners are doing around the world, and, also had a very interesting and long discussion about ethics and sustainability.
After they conducted their research, the students presented their results in a Conference that was held at the University for Peace campus, on 23 July. A panel with several recognized personalities in the sustainable development field in Costa Rica heard and commented the presentations of the students. Among the panelists was Lorena San Roman, who was the Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Earth Council, and now is Vice Rector of the University of International Cooperation (UCI). Mirian Vilela, Director of Earth Charter Secretariat also participated in this panel, as well as Milton Clarke, who has been professor in different universities around the world, and Mike Bresnan, eco-tourism entrepreneur and environmental activist.
We hope that the experiences lived with this course in Costa Rica will help the students to become leaders in bringing the notions of sustainability in their future work place. And, we welcome INEX as a new partner that will for sure stir many actions with the Earth Charter in Austria.