Europe and North America
Under the leadership of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), a Regional Strategy was prepared to facilitate the introduction and promotion of ESD. The Strategy was adopted at the UNECE high-level meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, to launch the DESD in the region in March 2005. It not only places ESD high on the political agenda, but is also the driving force for creating structures and provisions for ESD in the region. However, it is necessary to strengthen existing regional and sub-regional alliances and networks working on ESD; to encourage twinning programmes, bilateral cooperation and partnerships; and to use existing international legally-binding instruments such as the Aarhus Convention and other relevant agreements.
Key themes of SD in the region include among other things poverty alleviation, citizenship, peace, ethics, responsibility in local and global contexts, democracy and governance, justice, security, human rights, health, gender equity, cultural diversity, rural and urban development, economy, production and consumption patterns, corporate social responsibility, environmental protection, climate change, prevention and adaptation, natural resource management, biological and landscape diversity. ESD themes will no doubt vary from country to country in the future. Traditionally, the region has focussed on nature, ecology and the environment rather than the social and economic dimensions of SD and this will need to be addressed through ESD as well.
A key challenge identified in the region is the need to raise the level of stakeholder competences to implement ESD programmes in an interdisciplinary and holistic manner. This was recognized as a persistent bottleneck by Ministers of Education and of the Environment in Belgrade in 2007. Other challenges include the absence of a consensus on what ESD means, confusion regarding the differences between environmental education and ESD, the need to adapt legislative and policy frameworks to integrate ESD, scarcity of appropriate ESD teaching tools and research, and the need to strengthen civil society involvement in governance at multiple levels (e.g. school, community, region and country).