Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a vision of education that seeks to empower people to assume responsibility for creating a sustainable future. In recognition of the importance of ESD, the United Nations (UN) has declared 2005-2014 as the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). UNESCO was requested to lead the Decade. The goals of DESD are to: (i) facilitate networking linkages, exchanges and interaction among stakeholders in ESD; (ii) foster an increased quality of teaching and learning in ESD; (iii) help countries make progress towards and attain the Millennium Development Goals through ESD efforts; and (iv) provide countries with new opportunities to incorporate ESD into education reform efforts
Two of the major tasks to begin the work of ESD are to improve basic education and to reorient existing education to address sustainable development. However, the concept of ESD is very complex and may mean different things to different groups of people. It is recognized that understandings of and visions for sustainability will be different for different individuals. Therefore, it is essential to deconstruct and analyze this complex concept from different perspectives before it can be operationalized in different cultural contexts. As mentioned earlier, there are many different stakeholders in sustainable development, and each group has a different vision for and role in sustainable development. Some are interested in environmental preservation and protection, others are interested in promoting intercultural and international understanding and yet another group may be more interested in pursuing economic development. All these groups will have to work together to negotiate the process of achieving sustainability
Although ESD carries with it the inherent idea of implementing programs that are locally relevant and culturally appropriate, it is imperative that the complex concept of ESD be fully understood before effective implementation can take place. In reorienting education to address sustainability, it should be noted that many topics inherent in ESD are already part of the formal education curriculum. However, these topics or content areas need to be identified or seen to contribute to the larger concept of sustainability
On 1-3 May 2006, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education, Bangkok held in Kanchanaburi, Thailand an Expert Meeting on ESD. The main purpose of this expert meeting was to identify and recognize the key components of ESD so that educators from different disciplines can examine the curriculum and school activities for existing contributions to ESD. In addition, educators can identify potential areas of the existing school curriculum in which to insert examples that illustrate sustainability and additional knowledge, issues, perspectives, skills and values related to sustainability
The meeting also aimed to discuss the relationship of ESD with other education initiatives such as Environmental Education (EE), Education for International Understanding (EIU), Education for All (EFA), UN Literacy Decade (UNLD), and Millennium Development Goals (MDG); recommend guidelines for reorienting existing education to address sustainable development; and plan the organization of the workshop on "Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability" in 22-25 August 2006.
Experts working on environmental education, peace education, values education, education for social justice, indigenous culture education and human rights education attended the meeting. There were also representatives from the UNESCO ESD partners in the region, namely, Institute for Advanced Studies of the United Nations University, the Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), and the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU)
The participants presented and discussed what would be the appropriate contents of ESD in terms of issues on the environment, social justice, peace and human rights. There were also presentations on existing ESD projects such as the IAS-UNU regional centers of expertise project, and ACCU's project to fund education programs and institutions that will work on ESD
From the point of view of human rights education, the meeting is significant for the following issues:
The meeting provided the opportunity for these issues to be discussed, or at least noted, for future ESD activities of UNESCO and national institutions
The first phase plan of the WPHRE, which focuses on the formal education system, provides for the creation of "synergies with the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), coupling efforts to address issues of common concern." The synergies between WPHRE and DESD will not be difficult to obtain in light of existing collaboration among networks and institutions in the Asia-Pacific on human rights, development and environmental concerns
For further information, please contact: APEID-ESD, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, Bangkok, Thailand; ph (662) 391-0577 ext: 203; fax (662) 391-0866; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also visit www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=4223 (Expert Meeting webpage) and www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=71 (UNESCO ESD website).
1. This workshp is being organized jointly by the Asia-Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development (APEID) and APCEIU.