An exchange between CIPSEM-Dresden and ISNAD-Africa on Environmental Education

CIPSEM Dresden:  In-depth exchange of experience related to environmental management, both with German experts and among fellow professionals from around the world, is a necessity for Sustainable development.

For over 40 years, the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies of Environmental Management (CIPSEM), Germany in partnership with the German government, UNESCO and UN Environment has offered various fully-funded courses on major themes of Environmental Sustainability. Some of themes include Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, Conservation and Restoration Ecology, Water and Atmosphere, Soil and Land Resources, Sustainable Urban and Regional Development, Waste Management and Circular Economy, among others . Since 1977, CIPSEM and its partners have offered full scholarships to 2300 Professionals who are active in various environmental disciplines in developing countries to participate in the courses. In this chat with ISNAd Africa, CIPSEM elaborate on the importance of dialogue, knowledge exchange and capacity building for achieving environmental sustainability.


ISNAD-Africa: Over the last 40 years, the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies for Environmental Management (CIPSEM) Dresden has been organising short courses and diploma programmes on environmental sustainability. Why have you chosen to focus on environmental sustainability and and on Developing Countries?

CIPSEM: Our postgraduate training programme has been set up in 1977 as a contribution to UN Environment in the wake of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, which, for the first time, put the environment in the focus of the global political agenda. Stockholm 1972 established that a healthy environment was essential for the long-term prosperity of developing countries. Afterwards, governments around the world started to establish ministries and agencies dedicated to environmental issues. As environmental and development challenges are still pressing, and are felt most strongly in Developing Countries, there is a continuing need for training of decision makers and leaders in Environmental Management.


ISNAD-Africa: CIPSEM Dresden programmes focus on “professionals” in ministries, agencies or local government units and NGOs who already have a role in environmental sustainability in their countries. Why do you focus on these groups in particular?

CIPSEM: In-depth exchange of experience related to environmental management, both with German experts and among fellow professionals from around the world, is a necessity for sustainable development, as environmental challenges are often related and therefore solutions can be adapted. Other groups, such as students and researchers interested in sustainable development and environmental management, have access to more opportunities, e.g. by German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD Germany, or Research Germany.


ISNAD Africa: Are there ways you can track their impact in their countries after they return to their home countries?

CIPSEM: Yes, we conduct follow-up studies of our alumni 5 and 10 years after their participation in one of our Environmental Management courses to ask how relevant the trainings have been.

Additionally, we are also happy about alumni who share their stories upon returning to their home countries, for example on the CIPSEM blog ( or on social media (


ISNAD-Africa: In terms of Impact Evaluation and beyond training for Action Plans, how well do you think the participants of your courses are using the knowledge they gained from the programme to impact their countries and their professional engagements?

CIPSEM: The ways participants integrate the knowledge and perspectives they have gained in our trainings into their professional activities are as diverse as their backgrounds. This includes policy formulation, a different approach to public participation and research. We also see new approaches in awareness raising and educational activities. A good number of alumni establish long-lasting collaborations with German institutions and fellow participants. Additionally, colleagues from the German Federal Environment Ministry encounter alumni on international conferences and experience and feel how the intense immersion in Germany as well as the exchange of experiences with fellows from around the world has a lasting impact on achieving joint solutions for Sustainable Development.

Lastly, on an individual level, we keep being amazed by the perseverance with which many of our fellows go about implementing their learnings. While the level of personal dedication is important, remaining in touch with other highly motivated participants helps.


ISNAD-Africa: What topics do your trainings focus on? Could you mention some and their relevance to environmental sustainability?

CIPSEM: The rate at which species and habitats are lost is highly alarming, as monitored by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. As such, one focus of trainings is ecosystem management and the conservation of biodiversity, for example through examining ecosystem services. Additionally, we have trainings on soil, a non-renewable resource, and explore land governance. Soil as a basis for life and foundation of all human activities often gets overlooked and is critically endangered in more places than people know. You can find out more through the organisation Global Soil Week.

Furthermore, integrated water resource management, including nature-based solutions, is another key area for our trainings. Access to clean water and sanitation is as crucial as dealing with environmental risks such as flood and drought. Additionally, climate change, its impact, mitigation as well adaptation is addressed in all of our courses. In that line, we also look into Resource Efficiency, especially in the context of Circular Economy and Waste Management.

Currently, we have an ongoing training on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, in which also two Isnad Africa fellows are participating. The need for affordable and clean energy is obvious, while it is urgent to shift toward a Zero Carbon society. The list of topics included in our courses is more extensive and I could go on about it. Essentially, building bridges between sectors, including between science and policy, is a crucial ingredient of all of our courses because we all need to collaborate to arrive at the best solutions and to navigate ever-changing challenges.


ISNAD-Africa: In 2017, you trained about 23 decision-makers from developing countries on Soil and Land Use for Sustainable Development, how do you think fields such as agriculture and forestry, geography, soil science, water management, regional planning impact environmental sustainability?

CIPSEM: The fields mentioned impact environmental sustainability in so many ways. Healthy terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are the basis for the welfare of us humans, including for all economic activities. For example, looking at land from an energy perspective, you’d want to make sure that the slow forming top soil remains in place and is not eroded or sealed. If you remove biomass, make sure that the nutrients that went into the plant are restored to the soil. Land as a finite resource needs responsible, participatory management to balance the conflicting needs for water, food, feed, fibre, infrastructure, housing and many more. In-depth knowledge and good data collection are essential for monitoring and management. The topic is complex and fascinating, for a more in-depth answer I recommend for example Global Soil Week as a resource.


ISNAD-Africa: Which impact does participation in one of your UN Environment, UNESCO or German Federal Environment Ministry training courses have on their individual trajectories of alumni ? Can you comment about the roles and impacts of your Alumni in their countries?

CIPSEM: In our alumni surveys 5-10 years after the training at CIPSEM Dresden the overwhelming majority of respondents (99%) report that participation in one of the CIPSEM courses has benefited their career. Basically all alumni keep working in a field related to the course they participated in, which is an area they have already been active in for some years prior to joining CIPSEM Dresden. We often hear that participants take over more responsible positions after their return, which is also as a result of the exposure they had in our  UN Environment, UNESCO or the German Federal Environment Ministry training.In our alumni surveys, participants share their achievements. Due to the diversity of backgrounds this is challenging to summarise, and all efforts are valuable. Some alumni get to contribute to Sustainable Development as ministers, others do amazing work with children.


ISNAD-Africa: Who are your partners and sponsors on the programme ISNAD Africa?

CIPSEM: The German Federal Environment Ministry together with the German Environment Agency provide most of the funding and also contribute to the contents. The Technical University Dresden (TU Dresden) also pays part of the costs. Additionally, UN Environment and UNESCO provide crucial links to the international processes. Beyond that, many dedicated individuals and institutions are involved. In the ongoing training on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency some of those providing support are for example the city of Chemnitz (Stadt Chemnitz), Deutsche Energie Agentur, Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum, eins Energie in Sachsen, SOLARWATT, VDI Zentrum Ressourceneffizienz, Adelphi Berlin, and the Renewables Academy AG (RENAC).


ISNAD-Africa: How many programmes or courses do you run annually?

CIPSEM: We run four courses per year. Each year we have one comprehensive 6-months course on many interlinked aspects of Environmental Management, which is targeted towards decision makers with a wider field of responsibility. Additionally, we offer three 1-month courses annually. The topics rotate on a bi-annual basis: Integrated Water Resource Management, Ecosystem Management , Soil and Land resources, Sustainable Urban and Regional Development, Waste Management and Circular Economy, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. Additionally, we organise a two-week study tour for the ICP Fellows of the Humboldt Stiftung as part of their international climate protection fellowship.


ISNAD-Africa: Given the various impact of climate change, are there areas that you think stakeholders across the globe could do more to better address the adverse impact on climate change?

CIPSEM: Yes, we are not on track for limiting Global Warming to two degrees and the impact of changed patterns of precipitation and temperature are already being felt around the globe.

As, for example, WRIClimate elaborates, to address climate change we need to dramatically change to how we power our homes and factories and build our cities to how we feed our families and move around. Yet countries, businesses, states and cities have yet to make the deep structural economic and societal shifts that are required. We need to make sure our near-term decisions align with our long-term temperature goals so all people can benefit.  

Many more actors will need to join forces, for an array of interventions. Crucial steps are the alignment of financial flows towards zero-carbon and climate resilient development and an increased ambition for country contributions. Other crucial keywords in the context of the Paris Agreement are mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, transparency, the global stocktake, compliance and cooperative approaches. As you can see, many challenges are related to energy, that’s why we keep running training courses in this field.

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