Institute for Sustainable Development Studies

Humans have, by the 21st century, become a geologic-scale force of nature, compromising Earth’s natural support systems. Business as usual is no longer an option. Urgent and radical changes are needed to avoid that the overwhelming megatrends of our era – overpopulation, urbanisation, climate change, water shortages or the depletion of other non-renewable resources – jeopardise the prosperity of present and future generations. The concept of sustainable development, expressed through the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has emerged in response to these multiple challenges aiming to reconcile economic, social and environmental considerations in a balanced way. 

Sustainable development has therefore become a core task of modern government. In recognition of the importance of the issue, the National University of Public Service has established a Institute for Sustainable Development Studies (ISDS) whose mission is to introduce sustainability considerations into the entire spectrum of the University’s educational, research and community activities as well as to contribute to the environmentally friendly operation of the University itself.

The ambitions of the Institute for Sustainable Development Studies, however, go beyond traditional educational and training objectives. As a bridge among the major stakeholders of government – the public administration, municipalities, the economy, academia, and civil society – it aims to become a prominent change agent in Hungary’s transition to long-term sustainability.

The Institute, established in July 2015, plays a significant role in the interdisciplinary research of sustainability. The Development Plan of the University has long acknowledged the emerging need for a think tank connected with the conventional fields of sustainability and its applications in public decision-making and administration. This applies particularly to the preparation of legislative proposals and the planning of governmental decisions where taking into account the results and requirements of sustainability is a fundamental imperative. The Institute thus acts in a dual capacity both as a support group for decision-makers as well as a scientific hub. The Institute also aims to introduce new subjects into the various curricula of the University, offering robust scientific results, best practice methods and hands-on assistance for their application.

Since its foundation the Institute has been active in expanding its academic and professional relations worldwide with a view to becoming a think tank of recognized international standing. Driven by the fundamental mission of bridging the gap between science on the one hand and public policy and administration on the other, the Institute aims to translate state-of-the-art scientific findings on sustainability into the language and culture of public administration and political decision-making. To that end, the Institute is cooperating with a diverse range of stakeholder institutions and scientists from all relevant natural, social and human sciences in and outside Hungary.

The first conference organized by the Institute in October 2015 was focusing on the water-related issues like the security of supply, water quality and waste treatment in the Danube basin. The second conference, held in November 2015, focused on food waste and food security in the light of the potential impact of climate change.

In view of the fundamental role of water in human life, the economy and international politics, a dedicated research subgroup was created within the Institute under the name of International Water Governance Centre (IWGC). The focus IWGC is the comparative study of international water law and policy.

One of the last year’s flagship projects of the University was the completion of the Government performance review entitled “Good Governance Report”. This report contained a sustainability chapter that was prepared by the Institute's experts. This project was just the first stage of establishing and using a new set of indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of governance.

The Institute can fulfil its mission only in close partnership with renown international research hubs and networks active the field of the sustainability. In that context the Institute participated in several programmes of the EU's main climate innovation initiative, the Climate KIC. The University hosted the Pioneers within the Pioneers into Practice programme and took part in the Transition Hub pilots. The Institute also organized workshops for decision-makers on the transition into low carbon society with two lead lecturers of Climate KIC. Moreover, the Institute intends to generate new projects by way participating in national and international tenders. E.g. this year the Institute has already been invited as a partner into a LIFE+ proposal of Green Campus project. In this process Institute will cooperate with the Dublin Institute of Technology (consortium leader) and some other European universities as participating partners.

Besides projects, research and education of sustainability it is also crucial to foster the change of the attitude of our colleagues, the infrastructure and operation of the University itself. In that regard the mission of the Institute is to set an example on how to play a key role in accelerating the wider change locally and/or globally. To that end the Institute organized, in 2015, the first stakeholder meeting for the members of the University. The meeting attracted an outstanding attendance from the management, the scientific and the student community of the University.

Finally, the Institute also intends to reach out to administrative, professional and local organisations. To open new avenues for future joint activities the Institute has signed cooperation framework agreement with several public and private bodies, such as the National Food Chain Safety Authority or the Association of Climate Friendly Municipalities.