New Massey and UNESCO Chair to promote sustainable livelihoods

Monday 11 April 2022
Massey University and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have agreed to formally establish a UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Livelihoods.
UNESCO headquarters in Paris

The UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.

Last updated: Tuesday 12 April 2022

Professor Cynthia White, Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Humanities and Social Sciences says the purpose of the Chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on the contribution of sustainable livelihoods to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. "It will facilitate collaboration between high-level, internationally-recognised researchers and teaching staff of Massey and other institutions in New Zealand as well as elsewhere in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and other regions of the world.”

New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Chair Robyn Baker says the Commission is delighted at the creation of a UNESCO Chair for Sustainable livelihoods in Aotearoa New Zealand. "It confirms our continued commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are excited that through this Chair we will be able to support efforts to address the challenges we face in this area within Aotearoa and globally.”

Professor Stuart Carr from the School of Psychology, has been appointed as Chair. He believes that the Chair, like all UNESCO Chairs, is about friendship, human relationships, and working together to make a contribution to meeting humanitarian goals like the 2016-30 UN Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs). “This Chair will focus on SDG eight – Decent Work and Economic Development, and its links to the other 16 SDGs, headed by SDG one – Eradicate Poverty, and guided by SDG-17 – Partnerships for development.”

A group of sustainability scholars, including Stuart Carr.

Professor Stuart Carr (far right) with some of his Project GLOW (Global Living Organisational Wage) colleagues.


Massey has a pre-established relationship with UNESCO through the first UNESCO UNITWIN Network in New Zealand, which was established in 2017 at Massey University, and led by Professor Peter Lockhart. “The original proposal to establish this Chair came from a leading researcher and policy activist in the network of Humanitarian Work Psychologists, Professor Malcolm (Mac) MacLachlan, who was based at the Centre for Global Health (CGH) in Ireland and is now at Maynooth University,” Professor Carr says. “UNESCO subsequently referred the suggestion to our own region and university. Professor Mandy Morgan perspicaciously suggested the named focus for the Chair.”

From that point, with key strong support regionally from the University of Papua New Guinea, internationally from CGH and Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, and nationally from the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, in 2017 Massey’s School of Psychology formally, through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, submitted a proposal to establish a Chair in Sustainable Livelihoods, located in the School’s End Poverty and Inequality Cluster (EPIC).

“Sustainable livelihoods are interconnected, interdependent, and mutually supportive,” Professor Carr says. “The Chair came about from years of collective work by many colleagues – all of us working together in collaboration with key stakeholder groups to help address issues of poverty, and poverty eradication, under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”

“Pre-dating these SDGs, under the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in the run-up to them in the 1990s, I have been part of the international network of Humanitarian Work Psychologists. Together, we have focused on applying research, teaching and service, in partnership with local communities and workforces, to help improve people’s everyday access to decent work, and its central role in combating widespread working poverty and its deleterious effects on wellbeing globally, regionally, nationally, organisationally and locally. The Chair really came about as a consequence of all the momentum that has been generated by this network.”


The new Chair already has a number of projects planned, including:

  • Facilitating a network of collaborative graduate programmes across our region and globally, focused on psychologies of sustainable development.
  • Research on what a living wage is in everyday terms, through the on-going Project GLOW: Global Living Organisational Wage, originally managed by the End Poverty and Inequality Cluster (EPIC) at the School of Psychology. Coordinated today through our MOU partners in South Africa, Project GLOW now has research, service and teaching hubs across more than 28 countries and the supply chains that straddle them globally. The work includes living wage research, service, and teaching, for example in the production and consumption of fair-trade coffee and other basic commodities from which millions of people may make a more sustainable living.
  • Enhance research skills and sustainable livelihoods of young people through short-term courses in collaboration with the various Youth Programs, the Asian Association of Social Psychology/Philippines Psychology Association Summer School and Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa and also in countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as New Zealand’s South Pacific neighbours.
  • Conduct research-based advocacy and education on the issues of sustainable livelihoods, health, and education. The Chair will boost this capability for advocacy and education.
  • Cooperate closely with UNESCO and other UNESCO Chairs on relevant programmes and activities.

Working with others and having hope for the future

Professor Carr says the lifeblood of this new Chair is working with others. “As the proverb says in Malawi, which gave me my first academic job, “Mutu umodzi susenza denga” (One head does not carry the roof). In particular, my closest colleagues in EPIC will continue to be central in the work of the Chair, including EPIC’s co-Coordinator, Professor Darrin Hodgetts, Professor James Liu, who also coordinates new initiatives for the School, and the coordinator of Project SAFE (Security Assessment for Everyone), Dr Veronica Hopner. My focus in SAFE includes the links between decent work and human security, for example through living wages and universal basic income.

“Sustainable livelihoods are all about having hope for the future. They protect people from crises and they enable people to flourish and thrive. That big idea is my personal goal in this position, and I would like to see sustainable livelihoods become adopted as the main work-related goal in the next round of UN goals post 2030.

“Academic work is at heart about giving not taking; about paying it forward to new scholars and activists to whom the future belongs – and is entrusted. For someone like me this is a wonderful way to pass on as much as I can to the next generation.

“The people I work with across the School, College and university/ies, are world-class. They are our future, just as we can be a part of theirs. That is what I feel is Massey’s legacy, and what means the most to me personally, as I take up this hugely humbling honour and privilege. I hope to do it justice.”