UN Interagency Committee for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (IAC DESD)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
  • Name: UN Interagency Committee for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (IAC DESD)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Biodiversity (1 hits),

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IAC-DESD points for Rio+20 Compilation Document
Proposed text for the Rio+20 Outcome Document

Living in a world of 7 billion , with the largest ever youth population in our history and limited natural resources, is both a challenge and an opportunity. While addressing long-term perspectives, it is crucial to put in place holistic approaches that promote relevant teaching and learning towards a globalised world ensuring effective transitions to a green economy and more sustainable and equitable societies, whether in rural or urban settings. Hence, the dominant education systems supporting such a transformation need to undergo radical change to effectively address current and future global sustainability challenges and ensure access for the most marginalized. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) - with its focus on holistic approaches, contextualisation, life-long learning processes, values orientation, community engagement and participation - is central to facilitating change towards a better future for humanity.

Background / Rationale

The current mode of development is unsustainable and is perpetuating the cycle of poverty, inequity and the destruction of ecosystems. To achieve sustainable development and to break the cycle of poverty and inequity, one needs sustainable education systems and education for sustainability. That is, the world needs men and women who are educated to think and act responsibly and respectful towards environment and the society. Today, mainstream education does not adequately represent values related to sustainability, nor do they provide the knowledge and skills necessary for putting those values into action.

Education has the potential to be transformative. It can change people?s values and behaviours encouraging them to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. It can contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty and it can build the resilience of the most vulnerable. It plays a critical role in the development of knowledge, attitude and skills required for transiting to green economy. In this context, education for some groups, and rural people in particular - which today are the majority of the world poor and illiterate people - has to take a priority in the policies of the nation states. At the same time, it is important to recognise that the world of poverty is rapidly urbanising and requires urgent measures that develop capabilities of poor to live decent life. Such an inclusive education is most equitable and effective when it starts from childhood and leading to life-long learning in adulthood. While efforts should be directed towards increasing the access of the most marginalized people, including youth, to education systems, the importance of informal and inter-generational learning, building on culturally sensitive approaches, can also not be under-estimated, particularly when taking into account that access to quality and relevant education is not guaranteed for large populations of boys, and more so, for girls. We know that for education to be transformative, it must be based on active, inclusive and participatory learning and teaching processes, be supported by qualified teachers, take place in enabling and safe learning environments and be linked to local communities and local issues. Quality and relevant education demands changes toward sustainable thinking and action across the entire education system.

Furthermore, transformative education needs to build the skills of learners in critical thinking and innovation and to strengthen the core values of respect for themselves, others and the environment. In order to break the cycle of poverty and build resilience, education must reach the poorest and most vulnerable children and adults through complementary formal, non-formal and informal approaches. Such education should empower children and young people to take informed decisions on all matters that affect them and participate fully and freely in society.

Society today has become a risk society which, in addition to old risks, is facing new global sustainability challenges. Constantly and rapidly changing realities present a special challenge to educational institutions. With so many social, economic and technical innovations for sustainable development available, many of them remain just good examples and require upscaling. Education is key to this challenge. Implementing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is an inter-sectoral endeavour, requires high-level government support and political will to make it happen in all types, levels and settings of education and learning. Sowing the seeds of ESD we can advance the rights, health and well-being of current and future generations.
Concrete measures / recommendations

1. Mainstream the integration of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) by all countries? education sectors with a strengthened focus on key sustainable development issues (such as climate change, Biodiversity, disaster risk preparedness, sustainable consumption and production, gender equality, equity and tolerance), skills for resilience and dealing with complexity, innovation, creativity as well as participation and cooperation.

2. Reinforce support for and facilitation of cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder ESD initiatives at all levels (in particular at the sub-national level), as a means not only to develop locally relevant learning systems but also as a mechanism to upscale and mainstream sustainable practices.

3. Focusing on vulnerable populations, including youth, rural and urban poor, migrant workers, immigrants and marginalised minorities, and their learning needs through formal , non-formal and informal education through all their lives and strengthening their abilities for life and their capacity to succeed and to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

4. Further develop ESD initiatives beyond the 2015 target of the MDGs by mobilizing capacities and resources of all the relevant governmental agencies in particular Ministries of Education as a key actor.

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