We have selected some important terms around UNESCO’s and the ASPnet’s work, which will help you understand global citizenship and sustainable development.

Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet)

Founded in 1953, the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet), commonly referred to as UNESCO Associated Schools, is a global network of about 10,000 educational institutions in 180 countries. Member institutions – ranging from pre-schools, primary, secondary and vocational schools to teacher training institutions – work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice.


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Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity designates the coexistence of many different human social groups, belief systems and ways for adapting to situations in different parts of the world. It refers to the manifold ways in which the cultures of groups and societies find expression. These expressions are passed on within and among groups and societies.  Language is a good indicator of cultural diversity, with over 6,000 languages currently being spoken across our Planet.

Cultural diversity exerts strong influence on Education for Sustainable Development in that:

  • ESD must always be locally relevant and culturally appropriate;
  • Culture influences what the current generation chooses to teach the next generation, including what kind of knowledge, which skills, ethics, languages and worldviews are valued and fostered;
  • ESD requires intercultural understanding if people are to live together sustainably and peacefully, tolerating and accepting differences among cultural and ethnic groups and learning from each other.

Promoting intercultural dialogue is one of the four priority themes of the ASPnet.

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Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD)

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2002 for the period 2005-2014, “emphasizing that education is an indispensable element for achieving sustainable development”. It also designated UNESCO as the lead agency to promote and implement the Decade.

In the framework of the DESD, ASPnet schools have conducted pilot projects to better prepare children and young people to tackle effectively the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world, as well as pilot-tested and developed ESD methods and materials, and provided examples of good practices for others.

The DESD ends at the World Conference on ESD to be held in Japan in November 2014 with the launch of the post-2014 follow-up: the Global Action Programme on ESD.

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Education for All (EFA)

The Education for All (EFA) movement is a global commitment to provide quality basic education for all children, youth and adults. At the World Education Forum (Dakar 2000), 164 governments identified six Education for All goals to be achieved by 2015. As the lead agency of EFA, UNESCO promotes policy dialogue and facilitates the mobilization of funding in order to sustain political commitment to EFA and to accelerate progress towards the 2015 targets.

The six EFA Goals of the Dakar Framework for Action:

  • Goal 1: Expand early childhood care and education
  • Goal 2: Provide free and compulsory primary education for all
  • Goal 3: Promote learning and life skills for young people and adults
  • Goal 4: Increase adult literacy
  • Goal 5: Achieve gender parity
  • Goal 6: Improve the quality of education

The ASPnet particularly supports goal 3 and 6 and takes part in the Global Action Week Campaign for EFA each year.

In May 2015, a Global Conference will be held in Seoul, South Korea, to determine the post-2015 Global Education Agenda.

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Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction and biodiversity, but also poverty reduction, conflict resolution and sustainable consumption. Sustainability is not only focused on the environment but also includes the key areas of society and economy, with culture as an underlying dimension.

ESD requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practised today: It requires participatory teaching and learning methods which motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development. ESD consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way, allowing every learner to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. In this respect, Education for Global Citizenship and Education for Sustainable Development are very closely interlinked and mutually reinforce each other: sustainable development challenges often motivate the promotion of global citizenship through education, and emphasize the linkage from the local to the global and from the global to the local. More

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Global Action Programme (GAP)

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, the participating countries acknowledged the importance of ESD in the outcome document, and made a commitment to strengthening it beyond the end of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). UNESCO, in consultation with Member States and other relevant stakeholders, developed the follow-up to the DESD, the Global Action Programme on ESD (GAP), which was endorsed by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2013. It will also be brought to the attention of the UN General Assembly in 2014 for consideration and appropriate action.

The GAP seeks to generate and scale-up ESD action. It is intended to make a substantial contribution to the post-2015 agenda. The overall goal of the GAP is to generate and scale up action in all levels and areas of education and learning to accelerate progress towards sustainable development.

The GAP has two objectives:

  • to reorient education and learning so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development – and make a difference;
  • to strengthen education and learning in all agendas, programmes and activities that promote sustainable development.

The GAP will focus on five priority action areas:

  1. Policy support: advancing policy
  2. Whole-institution approaches: integrating sustainability practices into education and training environments
  3. Educators: increasing the capacity of educators and trainers
  4. Youth: empowering and mobilizing youth
  5. Local communities: encouraging local communities and municipal authorities to develop community-based ESD programmes.

The Global Action Programme will be launched at the World Conference on ESD at the end of 2014 (10-12 November, Aichi-Nagoya, Japan). UNESCO Associated Schools will play an important role in its implementation and piloting.

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Global Citizenship Education (GCE)

In an ever more globalized, interconnected and interdependent world, young learners today are confronted with complex social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges which cannot be understood or solved only locally but require a collaborative response across borders. It is essential that children and youth are empowered to understand and address these challenges and act as responsible global citizens.

Educational approaches, therefore, increasingly put emphasis on the importance of values, attitudes and communication skills as a critical complement to cognitive information processing skills. While in educational planning so far, much emphasis has been put on “learning to know” and “learning to do”, a shift is currently underway to also focus on “learning to be” and “learning to live together”. Global Citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to the global community and common humanity, with its presumed members experiencing solidarity while respecting diversity, and collective responsibility at the global level. More

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) refers to a range of electronic tools for storing, displaying and exchanging information and communication, such as e-mails, text messages, online platforms, social networks, e-learning modules, massive open online courses (MOOC), or mobile applications. ICT can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers professional development and more efficient education management, governance and administration.

It is believed that throughout the 21st century ICT, and particularly the universal access to content and information, will entirely change our way of teaching and learning, and transform the role of educators and students alike.

UNESCO takes a holistic and comprehensive approach to promoting ICT in education. Access, inclusion and quality are among the main challenges it addresses. With this platform on global citizenship, the ASPnet International Coordination reinforces its focus on the promotion of learning and exchanging through and with ICT and encourages daily communication with ASPnet National Coordinators, schools and partners.

Many UNESCO Associated Schools around the world pilot ICT in exchange programmes linking schools of different countries and continents. In addition, several flagship projects at the regional and international level aim at the effective use of ICT to improve quality education.

For example the “Learning For the Future” IITE Pilot Project for UNESCO ASPnet places an emphasis on the integration of ICT in schools and the capacity building of teachers in this respect, and in the framework of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Project (TST), student video conferences are held once a year between participating schools and UN Headquarters.

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Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

In its 2000 Millennium Declaration, the United Nations set eight goals for development, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals set an ambitious agenda for improving the human condition by 2015:

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

In 2012, the Member States of the United Nations launched a process to define a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to follow up to the MDGs beyond 2015.

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Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

At the UN “Rio+20” Conference in summer 2012, the Member States of the United Nations agreed  to launch an intergovernmental process to define ambitious and long-term Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They will build on the MDGs, which will come to an end in 2015, and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. To this end, an open working group (OWG) was established.

It was agreed that SDGs must be:

  • Action-oriented
  • Concise
  • Easy to communicate
  • Limited in number
  • Aspirational
  • Global in nature
  • Universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

In June 2013, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), established by the United Nations, identified 10 priority challenges of sustainable development:

  1. End extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve development and prosperity for all without ruining the environment
  3. Ensure learning for all children and youth
  4. Achieve gender equality and reduce inequalities
  5. Achieve health and wellbeing at all ages
  6. Increase agricultural production in an environmentally sustainable manner, to achieve food security and rural prosperity
  7. Make cities productive and environmentally sustainable
  8. Curb human-induced climate change with sustainable energy
  9. Protect ecosystems and ensure sound management of natural resources
  10. Improve governance and align business behavior with all the goals

These 10 priorities could form the basis for the SDGs that would apply to all countries until 2030. The SDGs shall be determined and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

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Whole-school approach

The whole-school approach involves profoundly more than just teaching sustainability in class. It is cohesive, collective and collaborative. It implies that the whole school – curriculum and teaching, campus management and school culture recognizes diversity and promotes shared commitment to quality teaching and improving student achievements, and that the school interacts with the local community. Sustainability is mainstreamed into all activities of the school, and what is learned s put into action: The whole learning environment must correspond to the principles of sustainable development.

UNESCO and ASPnet promote a whole-school approach which enables principals, teachers, learners and supporting staff to jointly develop a vision and plan to implement ESD in the whole institution. Orienting schools towards sustainable development implies: integrating key local and global issues into the curriculum; designing teaching and learning methods in an interactive way so that critical, analytical thinking, creativity, openness, self-confidence and self-esteem are encouraged; creating the whole campus as a learning environment, for example by ‘greening’ school activities; linking the school’s efforts with respect for human rights, diversity and sustainable development actions in the local community; and, thus, furthering the emergence of globally-minded citizens.

The whole-school approach or the whole-institution approach is one of the priority areas of the UNESCO Global Action Programme on ESD, as well as of the new ASPnet Strategy for 2014-2021.

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