Values of Sustainable Development

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The history of the UN carries a host of values related to human dignity and rights, equity and care for the environment. Sustainable development takes these values a step further and extends them beyond the present generation to future generations. Sustainable development values biodiversity and conservation along with human diversity, inclusivity and participation. In the economic realm, some embrace self-sufficiency for all and others equity of economic opportunity.  

The values an ESD programme should promote and put forward is still a matter of discussion. The goal is to promote or encourage the establishment of locally relevant and culturally appropriate approaches and processes informed by the principles and values inherent in sustainable development. The ways in which countries decide how to approach sustainable development are closely linked to the values held by the people, because these values define how personal decisions are made as well as how national legislation is written. 

Understanding values is an essential part of understanding an individual’s own worldview and that of other peoples. Understanding your own values, the values of the society you live in, and the values of others around the world is a central part of educating for a sustainable future. Each country, cultural group and individual must learn the skills of recognizing their own values and assessing these values in the context of sustainability. 

The Earth Charter

The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a fair, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It serves as a base of ethical principles inspiring the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and promotes an integrated approach to global issues.

It is the product of a decade-long, worldwide, cross-cultural dialogue on common goals and shared values. The project began as a UN initiative, but was carried forward and completed by a global civil society movement. It was launched as a people’s charter in 2000 by the Earth Charter Commission. 

The Earth Charter sets out fundamental principles, such as:

  • Building democratic societies that are fair, participatory, sustainable and peaceful and securing the Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations;
  • Protecting and restoring the integrity of the Earth's ecological systems;
  • Ensuring that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner;
  • Affirming gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development;
  • Providing transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision-making and access to justice;
  •  Integrating the knowledge, values and skills needed for a sustainable way of life into formal education and lifelong learning.
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