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About ESD

Message from the Secretariat ESD Efforts of ACCU

● Education for Sustainable Development: ESD

Photo copyright (middle) © Mr.Nagata Yoshiyuki

Some people feel apprehensive about the future course of mankind and the Earth, and advocate a change in our behavior while watching world news coverage in an air-conditioned room. Others walk a long distance to fetch water for their family's subsistence needs of the day. At present, the world is full of unconscionable acts, with wars and conflicts taking a toll of people's lives and souls, and the planet's ecosystem increasingly under threat.

It is fair to say that no single individual, whether living in economically developed or less developed countries, can claim exemption from having a stake in the complex problems of today's world. That is why “Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)” is needed more than ever before.

On a brighter note, there are individuals who are making a tide of change in the world by thinking hard and acting in search of solutions to the problems closely touching their hearts with like-minded people. In appreciating the blessings of nature, others take pride in leading a lifestyle that passes the blessings onto future generations.

Increased vulnerability to natural disaster, aggravated by senseless human behavior, has been scientifically revealed. Many are beginning to see the connections and recognize that one cannot assume the responsibility of global citizenship and be accountable to future generations without ensuring social justice and peace. It is thus vital to be conscious of ESD and to translate its principles into action.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a teaching and learning practice that enables us to anticipate, tackle and resolve our common issues in hopes of averting a problematic scenario for our children and their offspring down the generations as they continue to live on the planet.

ESD is a holistic agenda as it involves the three interrelated spheres of the environment, society, and economics, necessitating an approach that takes into account the complexity of their interdependence.

Further, one needs to ask how culture can be addressed vis-à-vis the above-mentioned three spheres and how the inner aspects of humankind such as spirituality and soul can be accommodated in the framework. Indeed, this question is often raised and discussed at ESD and other relevant international fora.

Among the specific themes covered by ESD are water resources, waste management, employment, human rights, gender, peace and human security, eradication of poverty, HIV/AIDS, migration, climate change and urbanization. However, these issues will have to be dealt with not singly but as a complex environmental, social and economic issue in a given cultural context.

ESD is education that instills values and code of conduct as a basis for sustainable development. In other words, the objective of ESD is to nurture people who are capable of taking action for sustainable development with necessary skills and compassion. This can be achieved by being aware of issues at stake, by learning about the issue, understanding it in a comprehensive manner and making an effort to relate it to oneself. Moreover, ESD encourages people to exchange views, reaffirm the validity of the path to take, and to work in harmony with others.

A fundamental feature of ESD is to establish a linkage between offshore problems on a global scale and community-based issues that can be sensed firsthand in one's daily life.

● Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014)

In December 2002, a draft resolution (57/254), proposed by the Government of Japan, along with a group of forty-six nations, to the United Nations General Assembly was adopted, proclaiming 2005-2014 as the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) to advance ESD globally. Prior to this, the Government of Japan, with the cooperation of Japanese NGOs had tabled the initial proposal at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) which was convened in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002.

With the adoption of Resolution 57/254, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was designated as the lead agency of the DESD and prepared the International Implementation Scheme (IIS) for the Decade.

According to the IIS, the overall goal of the DESD is to “integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning”. The IIS further mentions that “this educational effort will encourage changes in behavior that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations”.

  International Implementation Scheme   Logo of The UNDESD   Logo of The ESD

The IIS lists the following four points as the objectives of DESD:

  • to facilitate networking, linkages, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD;
  • to foster an increased quality of teaching and learning in education for sustainable development;
  • to help countries make progress towards and attain the Millennium Development Goals through ESD efforts;
  • to provide countries with new opportunities to incorporate ESD into education reform efforts.

It is expected that DESD efforts will be pursued by producing synergetic effects with other preceding international initiatives including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Education for All (EFA) and the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD, 2003-2012).

As DESD aims to provide the young and old alike, whether they come from economically developed or less developed countries, with learning opportunities for sustainable development through formal education as well as non-formal and informal education using the media, a broad partnership with the governments, civil society, corporations and the media is vital to DESD's success.

Copyright 2012 Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO All rights reserved.