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What UNESCO does on Education for Sustainable Development


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UNESCO is the lead UN agency for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and is responsible for the overall management, coordination and implementation of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD.

The GAP focuses on generating and scaling up action, around five priority action areas. These are to advance policy, transform learning and training environments, build the capacities of educators and trainers, empower and mobilize youth and accelerate sustainable solutions at a local level. UNESCO supports key partners, raises awareness and visibility, advocates ESD at an international level and supports Member States in integrating ESD into education plans and programmes.

  • UNESCO supports countries to develop and expand educational activities that focus on sustainability issues such as climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, water, cultural diversity, sustainable urbanisation and sustainable lifestyles through ESD . It advises policy-makers on how to integrate ESD into education policies, curricula and teacher training. Empowering learners to live responsibly and to address complex global challenges means that education has to promote critical thinking, imagine future scenarios and make decisions in collaborative ways
  • UNESCO encourages training teachers to ensure that schools integrate ESD. For instance, online courses are available for secondary school teachers on climate change education. To better understand how ESD works in practice around the world, please see our ESD success stories and examples from the UNESCO Associated Schools, a global network of more than 10,000 educational institutions in 181 countries.
  • UNESCO creates discussion around ESD through organizing and participating in international meetings and events; by publishing key resources such as “Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives” on how ESD can support each of the 17 SDGs; and by monitoring SDG target 4.7
  • UNESCO is organizing a series of symposia on the future of ESD, the objective of which is to stimulate discussion on ESD beyond the GAP and in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to help UNESCO plan beyond the first phase of the GAP which ends in 2019. The symposia will space for a cutting-edge debate on non-conventional questions around ESD
  • UNESCO led the UN Decade for ESD (2005-2014). The 2014 UNESCO World Conference on ESD, held in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, marked the end of this Decade and saw the launch of the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration on ESD and the roadmap for the implementation of the GAP on ESD.

In recognition of the important role of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan has contributed to supporting UNESCO since 2005 via the Japanese Funds-in-Trust (JFIT) for ESD. The objective of the Fund is to promote and ensure UNESCO’s leadership in Education for Sustainable Development while recognizing the need for education to be reoriented – within the framework of UNESCO ideals – to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The projects under the Fund aim to support UNESCO’s actions in the implementation of the GAP on ESD, in particular through its work of leading, supporting and coordinating the efforts of key partners at national, regional and international levels. Through these projects and inter-sectoral activities, capacities of Member States, stakeholders and partners are strengthened to play their role in achieving the objectives of the GAP.