U.N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) Are we 'on board?'
The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable De-velopment (2005-2014, DESD) was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 2002 in resolution 57/254. In the following year, UNES-CO, designated coordinator of the Decade, initiated wide ranging consultations in order to prepare an international implementation scheme for the Decade
Given the scale of implementation of the Decade local, national, regional and international as well as the large number of stakeholders involved in order to ensure success, a framework had to be devised enabling all stakeholders to make their contribution. The International Implementation Scheme is, thus, "designed not only to facilitate collective ownership of the Decade, but it also invites us to build bridges between various global initiatives to promote education."
The basic vision of the Decade is a "world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from education, and learn the values, behaviours, and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation." This translates into four objectives: facilitate networking, linkages, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD); foster an increased quality of teaching and learning in ESD; help countries to make progress towards and attain the Millennium De-velopment Goals (MDGs); provide countries with new opportunities to incorporate ESD into education reform efforts.
This vision is reinforced by the 2003 General Conference 32 C/Resolution 17 "reaffirming UNESCO's support to the Earth Charter and recognizing it as an important ethical framework for sustainable development."
Creating synergies with other earlier international initiatives is also an important feature of the Decade be-cause the DESD. These include MDGs, which are geared to poverty reduction; Education for All (EFA), which focuses on universal access to education; and the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD), which is devoted to adult education. All such global initiatives share a common vision: education is the key to sustainable development.
UNESCO is "committed to environmental sustainability as a key element in attaining the MDGs." It does this primarily through the work of its Science Sector and through its leadership of the DESD. The DESD is one of the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002) and it is "a World Program to reorient education around the three pillars of sustainable development economic, social, and environmental."
It is clear that "there can be no long-term economic or social development on a depleted planet. Education to develop the widespread understanding of the interdependence and fragility of planetary life support systems, and the natural re-source base upon which human well-being depends lies at the core of education for sustainable development."
Building on more than 30 years of experience in environmental education, "ESD must continue to highlight the importance of addressing the issues of natural re-sources (water, energy, agriculture, housing, biodiversity, for example) as part of its broad agenda. In particular, the links with social and economic considerations will enable learners to adopt new behaviours in the protection and use of the world's natural resources, which are essential for human development and, indeed, survival." A key challenge, however, is to "ensure that the emphasis on environmental sustainability is no longer limited to environmental concepts alone" we have learned that "it is the complex interactions among environment, society, and economy that have brought us to this unsustainable state in the world and we must work from an understanding of these interactions to learn how to live sustainably." To learn to ensure environmental sustainability, within this larger framework, will re-quire a "reorientation" of education systems. It is also recognized that "this reorientation is essentially about content, the quality of education".
The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development proposed "to promote values education at all levels and in all forms to ensure that the concept is amalgamated into existing work and education becomes part of an essential ethos for sustainable human development."
ESD requires the "active participation and support of all governments to engage civil society" if we are to meet the challenge of ensuring the "development of thriving, inclusive and sustainable" communities in all parts of the world. Education, broadly understood, "is therefore inextricably linked to well-balanced development, which takes into consideration the social, environmental and economic dimensions of an improved quality of life for present and future generations."
Of vital importance, therefore, is the involvement of people themselves. Our various partners are well positioned to play a major role in encouraging and facilitating this participation through capacity building and outreach conducted through Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities. The Decade will be a success if and only if all of us governments, international organizations, associations, communities, educators, the private sector and citizens contribute to it together, for no institution, no organization, no government will succeed on its own in making sustainable development a reality Each of us therefore has responsibility at the local, national, regional or international level for the implementation of the De-cade. Throughout the Decade ESD will contribute to enabling citizens to face the challenges of the present and future and leaders to make relevant decisions for a viable world.
Where do our educational institutions, private and public, stand come September 2010?
The DESD will be a success if we collectively manage to take up the following challenges.
One of the hardest challenges is to keep the focus on ESD this decade is about "education for sustainable development," not on just "sustainable development." Hence, all stakeholders need to keep focusing on education because what needs to be done is "to learn our way out of where we are." It is important to work on the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development (en-vironment, economy, society).
Stakeholders of the Decade all come from different places and points of views. Some are educators, others are environmentalists or eco-nomists. It is much easier to work on one single area, but from experience, it has been shown that all the pillars have to be brought together for a more just and decent life for everybody. Thus all these varied pieces must be "pulled together to integrate them into a holistic vision for the future." Once the focus is on education, and the three pillars are put together, how does one actually change education? All stakeholders must really become "partners in education." It is not just about "schools and schooling," but more important, "learning." The big challenge is ultimately how to reorient education. One must go be-yond environmental education to reach ESD. The concept of sustainable development has been closely related to environmental protection.
Bahamian politico/socio-economic challenges: Fixing the problem ....not assigning blame
The Decade is not limited to environmental education, but also encompasses social and economic pillars. Developing adequate teaching approaches are, thus, an immediate challenge. There is a need to learn from what already exists and build on it. Identifying these, evaluating the results, and disseminating information about them will allow for quicker integration of this new vision of education into national plans. The media represent a powerful means of awareness-raising and dissemination. It has to be mobilized. Making the media an ally for transmitting quality information to citizens is a pledge of success.
What all stakeholders need is to work together and create dynamic synergies. Learning is seeing the connections, discovering the interconnections between issues and items. The Decade requires everyone to work on this, all stakeholders need to dialogue in and out of their respective fields of competence. Stakeholders have to put principles and values in practice in all education and learning settings (schools, companies, communities, etc). Of course, ESD must be more than just a logo or a slogan. It must be a concrete reality for all of us individuals, organizations, governments in all of our daily decisions and actions, "so as to promise a sustainable planet and a safer world to our children, our grandchildren and their descendants" (Koïchiro Matsuura, Direc-tor-General of UNES-CO, at the International launch of the UN DESD in New York, March 1, 2005). Presented, as always, in the best interest of The Bahamas. Freeman wthurston4907@hotmail.
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