» Opening ceremony of the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development a "call to action"
10.11.2014 - ODG

Opening ceremony of the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development a "call to action"

© Ai ItoDirector-General speaking at the opening of the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Aichi-Nagoya, November 2014

To the sound of traditional Japanese drums and the voices of children speaking about sustainable development, the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) opened today in Nagoya, Japan. The three-day event will review the achievements of the UN Decade for ESD (2005-14) and chart the way forward with a new Global Action Programme. It has attracted more than 1,000 participants, including approximately 75 ministers from national governments.

UNESCO's Director-General, Irina Bokova, described the conference as a call to action, since the planet is reaching the limit of its capacity to support life.  "The core message of the UN Decade is one that echoes the opening lines of the UNESCO Constitution.  Building the foundations for lasting peace must start in the minds of women and men.  And this must begin with education. Education is the way to connect the dots between the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development."

His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince of Japan, echoed these sentiments:  "On our earth today, along with economic growth and increasing populations, we are also witnessing the advancing change of climate, loss of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources, increases in poverty and other problems.  For our children and theirs, we have three important tasks: protecting the Earth's environment, which is the wellspring for ensuring lives abundant with blessings, treasuring the Earth's limited resources, and achieving sustainable development."

The most effective way to accomplish these tasks is to merge the education and sustainable development agendas.  Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Hakubun Shimomura, spoke of his country's effort to do just that, and of the challenges that lie ahead.  "I hope the resulting insights will accelerate the promotion of ESD now and in the future, and make a valuable difference to education around the world,” he stated.

The keynote address was given by Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco, President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.  Speaking in French, she outlined the work of her Foundation and also of the values behind it:  "To think and act for the sake of the environment - in the broadest sense of the term - means to be fully aware that the planet is not only a precious legacy, but that it also implies a tremendous responsibility for us in terms of preserving the interests of future generations.  That is why present and future generations are the main focus of the Mohammed VI Foundation's action.  It is for them and through them that we seek to raise awareness and to educate people on values and behaviors conducive to sustainable development."

Over the next three days, conference participants will review successful and inspiring initiatives from the UN Decade that is just ending and discuss ways to further improve education so that ESD becomes one of its core components.  They will also address specific priorities and challenges of the new Global Action Programme for ESD, such as teaching, assessing and promoting 21st century competencies.  At the closing, participants will be asked to endorse the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration, which will accelerate the movement towards ESD.

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