Transforming Thinking: Over the Next 10 Years, Millions of People in Both Developed and Developing Nations Are Likely to Gain a Greater Knowledge of Sustainability through Education Initiatives under the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, or DESD, (2005-2014). Its Global Objectives Are Ambitious and Uplifting
Davidson, Steve, Ecos
'The vision of education for sustainable development is a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from quality education and learn the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation.' (UNESCO, October 2004.)
The United Nations (UN) practice of designating International Decades to draw attention to major issues and to encourage international action on questions of global importance began in 1985. With the world facing a multitude of ongoing problems and challenges, it seems timely to have a decade in which the global community will focus on sustainability and, in particular, on education for sustainable development.
As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the designated international lead agency for the Decade, states in its draft International Implementation Scheme, the vision sets 'a sustainable future' at the heart of our common human endeavour.
So what is the Decade all about, can it really make a difference, and how?
The evolution of education
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) points out that, unlike most education movements, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) did not begin with the education community. Its main thrust came from international political and economic forums, such as the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The concept of ESD was crystallised when world leaders agreed that sustainable development should be actively pursued as a global goal.
Sustainable development was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987 and, since then, the parallel concept of education supporting sustainable development has been explored too. A series of important UN conferences helped to further refine the concept of sustainable development during the 1990s.
ESD is an evolving concept that has especially developed since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Among the historical documents signed at Rio was Agenda 21, in which countries committed themselves to promoting sustainability through a variety of means, including education.
The recommendation for a UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development was endorsed at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002. This confirmed the importance of education for sustainable development and recommended that the UN General Assembly 'consider adopting a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development starting in 2005'.
It was on 20 December 2002 that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing a UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), emphasising that education is an indispensable element in achieving sustainable development. UNESCO is promoting the Decade and providing a clear framework for implementation, following consultation with the UN and other international organisations, governments, non-government organisations, and others. It will mobilise and 'shepherd' action over the 10 years. The draft Implementation Scheme was released in October 2004.
The Decade's objectives
The basic vision of the DESD translates into five objectives to:
* give an enhanced profile to the central role of education and learning in the common pursuit of sustainable development;
* facilitate links and networking, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD;
* provide a space and opportunity for refining and promoting the vision of, and transition to sustainable development--through all forms of learning and public awareness;
* foster increased quality of teaching and learning in education for sustainable development; and
* develop strategies at every level to strengthen capacity in ESD.
The Decade focuses on ESD in all parts of the world and UNESCO says it 'provides an opportunity for developing countries to define for themselves the kind of path they wish to follow. …