Education for Sustainable Development: Building Forward, Building Better
New York, 26 February 2021 – The Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning teamed up with UN Member States, UNESCO, UNFCCC and education experts to put the spotlight on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as an enabler for the COVID rebuilding process and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning and UNESCO organized a virtual briefing entitled “Education for Sustainable Development: a driver for building back better”. Bringing together key stakeholders, the briefers discussed pathways to create a momentum for strengthening ESD in “building forward better, more sustainable and more inclusive” - amidst the international community’s concerted efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The panel stressed the need for establishing a conducive ‘environment’ to change mind-sets and equip learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes required to contribute to a more sustainable world.
Hosting the briefing on behalf of the Group of Friends, H.E. Mr. Ishikane Kimihiro, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN, highlighted the transformative role of ESD for building sustainable world founded on solidarity and harmony. Ambassador Ishikane called upon the international community to address without delay the aggravating factors such as digital divide and insufficient teacher training that impede the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda. Echoing him, Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education, stressed that education must give learners the knowledge, skills, values and attributes to build lasting peace on earth. In light of the upcoming UNESCO’s World Conference on ESD, she called upon Member States to commit to ‘ESD for 2030’ global framework by adopting the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development which will underline key points of action in the next decade. “We need your support and strong leadership to make 2021 a year which is remembered for re-defining education and taking the future of the planet in a new and more sustainable direction,” said Ms. Giannini.
Champion countries added their voice in recognizing the global urgency to mainstream ESD into national curricula and pedagogical approaches. Germany put out a national plan on ESD in 2017 to scale up ESD in all areas - a milestone that directly engaged all participants of its national multi-stakeholder process. Representing the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, Ms. Karin Goebel, underlined the key importance of setting up a multi-stakeholder network for implementing ESD recommendations on national and global levels. As the host country of UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in May, Germany reaffirmed its commitment to scaling up its efforts in integrating sustainability into education systems and to deepening the interlinkages between digitalization and ESD. On its side, Italy has invested into leveraging education to achieve a more sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, Mr. Stefano Stefanile, highlighted his government’s dedicated efforts in hosting COP26 in partnership with the United Kingdom and stressed the commitment to actively involving youth in climate change actions.
Key experts and practitioners outlined the progress achieved during the ESD Decade and ways forward to capitalize on ESD as a key enabler for building forward, building better. Ms. Vibeke Jensen, UNESCO Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development, briefed on the preparations for the upcoming ESD Conference and invited Member States to launch national initiatives, building on existing work and creating a new momentum together with diverse stakeholders. Mr. Arjen Wals, UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development and Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University, underscored that ESD can be a catalyst for transformation and that unleashing its potential would require reframing sustainability not as a goal but as a moral quest for a better world for all. He said “ESD is a continuous life-long mission; we should replace a culture of fear and powerlessness with a pedagogy of hope and space for action,” Ms. Fleur Newman, Action Empowerment Unit Lead at UNFCCC, introduced the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). This international framework aims to educate, empower and equip learners with the understanding that climate change is tied to poverty, equality, and biodiversity. “We are convinced that this willingness to engage on the topic will result in a robust decision at COP 26 that can catalyse action and deepen understanding of the critical role that education plays in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement,” concluded Ms. Newman.