The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) sought to mobilize the educational resources of the world to help create a more sustainable future. Many paths to sustainability (e.g. sustainable agriculture and forestry, research and technology transfer, finance, sustainable production and consumption) exist and are mentioned in the 40 chapters of Agenda 21, the official document of the 1992 Earth Summit. Education is one of these paths. Education alone cannot achieve a more sustainable future; however, without education and learning for sustainable development, we will not be able to reach that goal.
The overall goal of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) was to integrate the principles, values and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. This educational effort encouraged changes in behaviour that created a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations.
UNESCO was the lead agency for the DESD. In this function, UNESCO coordinated the efforts of the various UN agencies, programmes and organizations related to the DESD. Through its DESD coordination role, UNESCO worked to:
- catalyze new partnerships with the private sector, with youth, and with media groups;
- encourage monitoring and evaluation;
- encourage development of a research agenda and serve as a forum for relevant research on ESD;
- serve as a forum for bringing together important stakeholders in the Decade such as representatives of Member States and key multinationals, faith-based institutions, youth associations, indigenous people, etc.;
- share good ESD practices;
- link Member States that have put in place ESD curricula, policies, research, etc. with those Member States that are requesting help;
- convene flexible working groups on particular topics including the UN Interagency Committee for the DESD (IAC), the DESD Reference Group and the Monitoring and Evaluation Expert Group (MEEG);
- fulfil its strategic role with regard to ESD.
The scope of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) was broad and its potential effects were far-reaching. The DESD aimed to reorient education towards sustainability, which in turn had the potential to impact the way people think. For this reason it was important to look at ways in which one could effectively monitor progress and capture learning in the process of implementation. Given the wide scope of ESD, both quantitative as well as qualitative data were important in monitoring and evaluating the Decade.
Learning for a Sustainable World: DESD M&E Report series
The “Learning for a Sustainable World” DESD M&E report series was published during the Decade in 2009, in 2012 and in 2014.
The reports corresponded to the DESD M&E phases. A well-defined monitoring and evaluation process that included relevant methodologies and indicators was the basis for the development of these reports.