The 6th World Student Environmental Summit (WSES) took place from 16th - 20th September 2013 and was hosted by the Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany. It connected students from around the world and empowered them to engage with creativity in the solution of current and future challenges of mankind.
Universities Acting for Sustainability
The major transition plans of societies around the world towards sustainable, socio-economic systems demand a pro-active role of universities. Academic institutions have the potential to contribute significantly to the solution of problems through research, education, and outreach. However, for most universities there is still a long way to go. A mission statement is not enough and the translation into research, education and management practices is a challenging process.
For this reason, the theme of the World Student Environmental Summit in 2013 was: „Universities Acting for Sustainability“. Aiming to support this transition, the 3 main objectives were:
Visions & practices: Encouraging students to develop their vision of a university that works together with civil society for the social, environmental and economic good as well as to learn how to implement this vision into practice.
Change agents: Improving the capacities of students to contribute to the sustainability transition of their universities and communities.
Strong international community: Connecting sustainability-minded students from all over the world with each other as well as leading experts from science, business and politics.
During the first part of the summit, expert-led lectures and panel discussions focused on the role of universities and scientific education within the concept of sustainable development. The second part consisted of workshops given by practitioners sharing their experience and inspiring the delegates on how to engage and create impact as students and members of a global community of change agents.
72 students from 28 universities from around the world
and with different cultural and academic backgrounds took part in the 2013 summit. They were selected based on their motivation to participate and their ideas to create a positive impact. All of them applied with concrete project ideas and thoughts on how to turn the theme into reality within their home institutions. These delegates represented their respective universities and applied their individual knowledge to the development of recommendations and projects at the WSES 2013.
Who the WSES addressed
As an institution of the international student community, the World Student Environmental Summit gives students a voice in discussions and addresses various stakeholders in politics, economy, society and science:
University management: The delegates developed recommendations for action and are encouraged to present them to their fellow students, professors, university staff and especially university management back home. Each of the participating universities agreed on sending two delegates to the WSES and thereby on taking part in a bottom-up process of identifying ways and opportunities to gear the university into a sustainable direction.
Politicians, business and civil society leaders: The outcomes of the summit will be merged in an official position paper and sent to relevant stakeholders in order to bundle our demand for action that may contribute to finally pave a way to change.
Local and regional stakeholders: Representatives from organizations with good practices have been invited to the summit to discuss the drivers and obstacles they encountered on their path to get where they are today. The delegates also met local residents, learned about Lüneburg and bridged the gap between international and regional perspectives. All expert and podium discussions were open to the public.
The WSES in review: 2008 - 2012
In 2008, students of the Doshisha University in Kyoto organized the first World Student Environmental Summit in Japan in the run-up to the G8-Summit. Since then, students of different universities, supported by the World Student Environmental Network
, organized the WSES each year at a different country: Japan (2008), Canada (2009), Germany (2010), Sweden (2011), and Switzerland (2012). The final report from last year’s WSES in Lausanne, Switzerland can be downloaded here
The World Student Environmental Network (WSEN)
During the first WSES in Japan in 2008, the delegates founded a network to stay connected, to share ideas, resources and inspiration, to support students and their sustainability projects all over the world, and to have an organization that would rather than local initiatives be heard internationally. Years after the foundation, the World Student Environmental Network still pursues this goal.
In order to inspire, the WSEN has set up a "Student Project Database
" with various examples of successful student activities at universities. Furthermore, the WSEN offers mentoring to student groups within the "Future Campus Project
All delegates of the current and past World Student Environmental Summits are part of this community. But everyone interested can also get involved in the network which is coordinated, administered and strategically developed further by a core team. The network communicated through the WSEN facebook page
, mailing list