26.06.2012 - Education Sector

RIO + 20 recognizes key role of education

©UNESCO/Hoda Baraka

The outcome of the Rio+20 conference, in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “provides a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being”. The crucial role of education, in particular Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is underlined as follows:

“We resolve to promote education for sustainable development and to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.”

This and other references to education reflect UNESCO’s priorities, with a clear call to continue ESD beyond 2014 when the UN Decade ends 

Although many felt that the outcome did not go far enough, education was frequently mentioned as an important area of sustainable development. UNESCO’s leadership in education generally and ESD in particular was widely recognized by stakeholders such as Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, during the Organization’s successful and well-attended ESD side event, “Educating for a Sustainable Future”, where considerable interest was shown in UNESCO’s latest report on the UN Decade of ESD.

In addition, the Organization’s message was successfully shared at the side-event on the Higher Education Initiative for Sustainable Development where UNESCO partnered with UN DESA, the Global Compact Secretariat, UNU, UNEP and others. A large amount of the 700 pledges to promote sustainable development (to the tune of $513 billion or €410 billion), came from this initiative.

Education came out strongly from the start. At the Sustainable Development Dialogues, organized in the lead-up to the conference, three of the top ten key actions stakeholders voted on – out of a total of 100 - concern education. UNESCO’s ESD work was also shared at a UNICEF-led side-event on multi-stakeholder partnerships.  

UNESCO will continue to ensure that ESD is taken into account in the drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals launched at Rio, as well as in the overall post-2015 discussions regarding international development goals.

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