UN General Assembly discusses UNESCO’s Report on Education for Sustainable Development
At the 76th session of the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly (Economic and Financial Committee), representatives of member states and the UN system discussed ways towards the achievement of sustainable development, including the implementation of international commitments on climate change and agreements on financing for development, as well as efforts for advancing education for sustainable development worldwide.
As part of the discussion, Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development at UNESCO, presented the Report on the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 74/223. In introducing the report, Ms. Jensen highlighted the findings of UNESCO’s new report “Learn for our planet” which called for a more systematic approach to promote ecological transition in education as to prepare teachers and learners to address current and future environmental challenges.
She also recalled that in May 2021, at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, more than 70 ministers of education and close to 3,000 education and environment stakeholders committed to taking concrete steps to transform learning for the survival of our planet by adopting the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development. On behalf of UNESCO, she called on all countries to implement a country-wide umbrella initiative on ESD for 2030 for the next 10 years in order to generate impact at country level and invited all UNESCO Member States to green their curricula so that topics such as climate change is taught and practiced in every school across the world.
Ms. Jensen also reiterated UNESCO’s commitment to harnessing partnerships for education, especially in the COVID-19 context where nearly half the world’s students are impacted by partial school closures in 50 countries, and 55 million students are still affected by full school closures in 14 countries. Against this troubling backdrop for the achievement of SDG4, UNESCO is working to reform and strengthen the Global Education Cooperation Mechanism (GCM). As part of the reformed GCM, a remodeled SDG4-Education 2030 High-Level Steering Committee, consisting of a political “Leadership Group” and a corresponding ‘Sherpa Group’ of senior technical representatives, will serve as the global education apex body by providing strategic guidance, review progress and make recommendations on priorities/actions; monitor and advocate for adequate financing; and encourage harmonization and coordination of partner activities.
While discussing advancements towards sustainable development, member states recognized that the unprecedented disruption in education had led to significant learning losses and increased drop-out rates, especially among the most vulnerable groups. They further highlighted the importance of “harnessing the potential of new, digital and ‘green’ technologies to ensure that the access, development and use of technologies is safe, inclusive and based on critical thinking and sustainability principles, as well as to promoting open educational resources, open science and affordable eLearning facilities for ESD. Many urged the international community to prioritize addressing the dramatic interrelated challenges the world is facing, in particular, the environmental, social and economic crises that endanger life on our planet. The urgency of these challenges, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, would require a fundamental transformation that sets us on the path of sustainable development based on more just, inclusive, caring and peaceful relationships with each other and with nature.
The Group of 77 and China will introduce an updated General Assembly resolution on education for sustainable development to be negotiated and adopted later this year.
The report offers a review of the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the launch of the UNESCO road map for Education for Sustainable Development. It also includes an account of the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development organized in May 2021 in Berlin, as well as findings from consultations with Member States, key stakeholders and United Nations organizations. It further makes recommendations for education for sustainable development implementation in the future.