Supporting the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
‘Education for Sustainable Development is an investment in our future…
each respective country should ensure that appropriate resources are made available for its development’
1. Achieving Sustainable Development
Governments with support of civil society have made numerous legal commitments and agreements including amongst others to the Conventions on Biological Diversity, Ramsar – Wetlands, Climate Change, Combat Desertification, Aarhus Convention on information, public participation and access to justice, Human Rights, and the Rights of the Child. Along with civil society governments agreed to Agenda 21, the World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation and to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. These (and more) agreements commit governments to take responsibility with the support of other social actors to a suite of actions to change and move society towards sustainable development.
Such progress to sustainable development depends on actions by people in all walks of life, requiring changes in the way of thinking, living and working. Recognizing the changes required by society, all these agreements call for actions to facilitate participation, awareness, education and to develop capacity.
To make a shift to sustainable development the world needs to magnify the number of people who reflect upon the environmental and social consequences of their actions, are able, motivated and active to work towards sustainable development.
To enhance this effort towards social change, the United Nations has resolved to make 2005-2015 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
IUCN Commission On Education And Communication (CEC)
2. What is Education for Sustainable Development - ESD?
‘Education apart from being a human right is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development and an essential tool for good governance’
Statement by the Ministers of the Environment from the UNECE Region on Education for Sustainable Development (2002)
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) motivates, equips and involves individuals, and social groups in reflecting on how we currently live and work, in making informed decisions and creating ways to work towards a more sustainable world. ESD is about learning for change amongst adults and youth.
Education for Sustainable Development has
crystallised as a result of international agreements and the global call to
actively pursue sustainable development. Originally perceived as education about
sustainability it is being increasingly recognised, through the influence of Agenda 21 and the more recent World
Summit on Sustainable Development at
3. Why a UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development?
recognition of the critical role that education for sustainable development
must play in achieving sustainable development, the full potential of ESD has
not been realised even ten years after
ESD provides an umbrella to place all the demands of the various Rio Conventions in a synergistic way. The Conventions call for knowledge sharing between countries as does the Commission on Sustainable Development work programme on ESD. Without engaging our societies, the progress to sustainable development will be halting. It is time to engage more than a small circle in this issue under the umbrella of the Decade.
The societies of the future are going to be learning societies, valuing and drawing on the creativity of their people in businesses, local government, agriculture, transport, energy and tourism. They will be built on sharing knowledge and learning.
4. What actions can be taken for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development?
· Set up a high level Task Force to oversee national plans for the UN Decade, or add this task to existing structures;
· Initiate a dialogue on the UN ESD DECADE at the national level including NGOs and major groups to identify a plan of action to magnify current ESD effort;
· Invite all sectors to consider how to mainstream ESD into their work in recognition of the Decade, reaching out to all Major Groups including those which have not been the focus of ESD initiatives to come up with a plan;
· Develop a national policy with social groups to facilitate the integration of education for SD;
· Establish a national fund to facilitate innovation in ESD;
· Provide (national or regional) coordination of ESD efforts and promote networking;
· Set up an internet portal to link the activities being undertaken in ESD in the country and to make experience available to other countries;
· Draw up and share criteria, methods and approaches for effective ESD that draws on modern ways of learning that are less oriented to content to be taught than to a process that engages people in working on solutions and actions;
· Reflect on and document the experiences and lessons learnt in ESD over the past ten years with a view of consolidating the learning and sharing this nationally and internationally;
· Explore ways to magnify the impacts of ESD – moving pilot projects to scale;
· Address inequalities in ESD, particularly in respect of provisioning and quality of education;
· Integrate sustainable consumption education into ESD in developed countries;
· Integrate ESD into basic education in working towards the Millennium Development Goals;
· Address the education of women in sustainable development as part of the Millennium goals on empowerment;
· Invite bilateral and multi-lateral donors to support the process where required.
UNESCO, as the lead agency of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, is currently engaged in developing concrete planning for the Decade. In the meantime, the UN General Assembly has invited governments to include necessary concrete measures to implement the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development starting from 2005. The plans for the UN Decade will be discussed at the fifty-eighth session of the UN General Assembly in 2003.
The IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, CEC, seeks your support in endorsing and actioning the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The IUCN Commission on Education and Communication champions this initiative as a means to raise this important instrument higher on the global agenda and to focus attention on the process of education as a tool for changes towards sustainable development. The Commission emphasises the importance of focusing attention on adult and community education, of mobilising action by all UN Major Groups to educate their constituencies, besides that of educating children. The world’s adults, the decision-makers of today, must be part of the process now to activate – or heat up – society to find paths to sustainable development.
This Statement was drafted by Daniella Tilbury and Wendy Goldstein (2003) in response to contributions
made by the members of the Education for Sustainable Development Group of the
IUCN Commission on Education and Communication. Special thanks go to
Dr Jinie Dela for collating the comments and to Marta Andelman Charles Hopkins,
Ramy Inocencio, Dieter Gross, Douwe Jan Joustra, Yukio Kamino, Heila Lotz-Sisitka,
Peter Martin, Jean Perras, Pam Puntenney , Rochelle Selby-Neal, Danie Schreuder, John Smyth,
Liu Yunhua for comments on the initial drafts.
Head Education and Communication
IUCN Rue Mauverney
Tel: 41 22 999 0282
Fax: 41 22 999 0025
Web site iucn.org/cec