Education for Sustainable Development

Early 2005 saw the formal launching of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), with UNESCO (as lead agency) and a suite of partners and collaborators working together to put into action the International Implementation Scheme for the Decade.

SIDS have a special role in the Decade, as reflected in one of the information briefs released as part of the preparations for the DESD. This special role includes the contribution that SIDS can make to the global community in learning our way back to sustainability, in demonstrating ways and means of how to live and act in a manner consistent with the notion of sustainability. Among the challenges are those of reorienting education globally and of dealing with smallness in a big and globally interconnected world. Also of how to appreciate and use diversity, and of how to live and work with that diversity.

In terms of implementation, a process of preparing and implementing regional strategies for the DESD is underway.

For the Asia-Pacific region, the UNESCO-Bangkok Office has facilitated the elaboration of a regional implementation strategy, which was launched at Nagoya (Japan) in June 2005. A situational analysis includes entries on 15 Pacific SIDS, and provides a snapshot view of the extent to which ESD has been integrated across various educational settings, including issues involved in moving from environmental education to ESD.

A working paper Asia-Pacific Regional Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development serves to help guide the implementation of ESD throughout the Asia-Pacific region. It is an open document that is adaptable for revision according to the changing needs of stakeholders and emerging issues throughout the Decade of ESD.

In terms of follow-up, a Pacific DESD Teleconference was organized on 2 August 2005 (with 14 persons taking part). Among topics discussed were plans for a Pacific Consultative Meeting on Education for Sustainable Development (Apia, Samoa, 8-10 March 2006), which itself provided an occasion for Pacific ESD practitioners and experts to develop a collaborative mechanism for the UN-DESD in the Pacific islands region. Objectives included:

(a) drafting a strategic paper for ESD in the Pacific islands region, which would serve as a roadmap for ESD efforts in the region;
(b) establishing a regional consultative mechanism through which the draft strategy might be further developed and presented to national leaders;
(c) harmonizing current regional initiatives in ESD and identifying existing resources and potential donors;
(d) assessing options by which to involve non-engaged stakeholders in ESD; and
(e) agreeing on terms of reference for the Pacific ESD Consultative Group. For further information, contact meeting-organizer Seema Deo in the UNESCO-Apia Office (Seema@unesco.org.ws) or Derek Elias, Regional Coordinator for DESD in the Asia-Pacific region (d.elias@unesco.org).

In the Caribbean, from 18-20 October 2005, Kingston (Jamaica) was the venue for a Regional Conference on 'Education for Sustainable Development -- New Approaches for the Future'. The conference was organized by the UNESCO Office for the Caribbean in Kingston and the University of the West Indies, in association with other agencies. Objectives included the nurturing of partnerships among formal and non-formal educators within the region. Challenges include the integration of social, cultural and economic aspects into existing environmental education activities and contexts. Further background is given on the website of the Kingston Office.

In the south-western Indian Ocean region, the Decade provides an overall umbrella for a regional symposium at the University of Mauritius (29-31 May 2006), organized by the Indian Ocean Commission and the project ARPEGE (Appui Régional pour la Promotion de l'Education et de la Gestion de l'Environnement).This symposium is organized with an aim of sharing the practices, reflections and research in education relating to the environment for sustainable development, resulting in particular from the experiences of the ARPEGE project. Special emphasis is being given to teaching practices that put in perspective the interrelationships between environments, cultures, developments and education relating to the environment for sustainable development in the countries of the region.

Among other launches involving SIDS, on 17-18 September 2005, Bahrain hosted the regional launch of the DESD for the Arab region. Participants from individual SIDS in the AIMS region also figured among the participants at launches for the Mediterranean region (Athens, Greece, 26-27 November 2005) and Africa (Libreville, Gabon, 27-31 March 2006).

At the interregional level, from 20 to 22 February 2006 in Paris, researchers from Fiji, Jamaica and Mauritius were among twenty-eight participants at a joint UNU-UNESCO workshop on 'Setting the Stage for a Strategic Research Agenda for the UNDESD'. The overall purpose was to exchange information and experiences on research and development (R & D) issues in ESD and to initiate work on the development of a research agenda for the Decade. Specifically, the meeting addressed the need for coherence in the development and steering of a research agenda for the UNDESD which links research on ESD to the needs of all types of formal/non-formal/informal learning environments and policies and practices. Discussions focused on topics such as:

  • What is the state of research on ESD issues? What are the challenges? 
  • What are the priorities – by country, by region, and/or at the international level?
  • What are partnerships or mechanisms of public-private funding for sustainability to support ESD research?
  • What are ways and means through which UNESCO and UN partner institutions can strengthen and support national research agendas for the UNDESD, and propose innovative partnerships or mechanisms through public-private funding for sustainability?
  • What are the next steps for building a research component for the UNDESD?

Additional information on the DESD, including recent and planned activities and publications, is provided in a periodic overview of 'Highlights on Progress to Date', such as that dated January 2006.

For further information, contact: Mr. Bernard Combes (B.Combes@unesco.org), Communication and Information Officer, Section for Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO, Paris.

These various activities build on long-standing UNESCO interest and involvement in promoting environmental education and education for sustainable development – a synopsis on which is posted under 'Past UNESCO Activities' (right).    

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