Educating for a sustainable future: UNESCO galvanizes support at RIO+20
Serious investment in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is essential to carry out the commitments of the Rio+20 Conference.
This was the message of the well-attended UNESCO side-event on ESD, “Educating for a sustainable future” which Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO opened on 21 June. The high-profile panel discussion was one of the best attended events at the Conference.
Sustainable development, the Director-General emphasized, "must start with education – education that empowers women and men with new values and behaviours to find solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow, education that develops new and relevant skills. Change must start with Education for Sustainable Development". Ms Bokova explained that this meant revising curricula, integrating key sustainable development challenges like climate change into teaching and learning, and adopting "new methods to motivate and empower learners to change behaviours and become actors for sustainable development."
UNESCO, as lead agency for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, organized the event together with the Government of Sweden and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
Participants in the panel, which was chaired by Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, shared examples of ESD good practice and stressed the crucial need to attune education to address the huge challenges debated at the Rio conference. Panelists included: Shigeharu Kato, Director-General for International Affairs, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and Secretary-General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO; Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba, Canada; Annika Markovic, Environment Ambassador, Ministry for the Environment, Sweden; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University; Kartikeya Sarabhai, Director, Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad, India; Rafael Zulli and Thiago Schlieper, secondary school students from Brazil.
Jeffrey Sachs congratulated UNESCO on its leadership in education in general and in ESD in particular. Shigeharu Kato stressed the importance of good partnership with UNESCO, particularly in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction. Kartikeya Sarabhai reminded participants that ESD concerned the whole community, and not just schools. The student panelists said that ESD made their education exciting, dynamic and relevant. Sweden reaffirmed its long-standing commitment to ESD and Greg Selinger spoke about Manitoba’s newly-launched Green Plan,”TomorrowNow” which aims to make Manitoba one of the most sustainable places to live on earth.
The event saw the launch of the new UNESCO publication Shaping the Education of Tomorrow: 2012 Report on the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The author of the report, Arjen Wals, UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, presented the publication.
On the same day, the Director-General also took part in two side events entitled “Sustainable Development and Water: Global Goal, Targets, Partnerships”, organized by Finland and “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”, organized by the Secretary General’s High-level panel on Global Sustainability. The Director-General also attended the “Women Leaders’ Summit on the Future Women Want” that was organized by UN Women in collaboration with the Government of Brazil.