Adopted in 1974, the Recommendation concerning education for international understanding, co-operation and peace and education relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms is considered a landmark legal instrument that brings together for the first time peace, international understanding, human rights, fundamental freedoms and education.
Long before the notion of global citizenship education (GCED) and education for sustainable development (ESD) were coined, the 1974 Recommendation called on Member States to ensure that their education policies are guided by a global perspective and a commitment to international solidarity. Today, the goals of the Recommendation align closely with Targets 4.7, 12.8, 13.3 and 16 of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development that promote ESD and GCED.
Since 1974, new threats endanger peace and human survival. These include climate change, infectious diseases, pandemics and other challenges to health, the rapid spread of hateful and violent ideologies, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, systemic racism, lingering inequalities.
With the significant expansion of educational research and technological developments, the field of education has also evolved. Educational responses to societal challenges are increasingly evidenced-informed, comprehensive, digital and intersectoral, requiring cooperation across and between societies and beyond traditional borders (territorial and cultural). These developments also offer new opportunities for peace-building and fostering international solidarity.
The revision of the Recommendation constitutes a unique opportunity to revive and update the global consensus around the role of education - in all its forms - to prepare learners of all ages, and future generations, to face future shocks and shape more just, sustainable, healthy and peaceful futures.
About the Recommendation
The 1974 UNESCO Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms formulates principles and norms for the international regulation of education in support of the advancement of justice, freedom, human rights and peace. It promotes the role of education in eradicating conditions that threaten human survival and well-being.
The 1974 Recommendation calls on national authorities and professionals in education all over the world to take action to infuse the aims and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, the Constitution of UNESCO and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26). The objective is to ensure education is directed to the ”full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights).
The monitoring mechanism of the 1974 Recommendation is also used to measure progress on the achievement of Target 4.7, Target 12.8 on access to, and awareness of, information on sustainable development and 13.3. on climate change education.
Why revise the 1974 Recommendation?
Nearly 50 years ago, UNESCO’s Member States committed to promote peace and international understanding through education. There has been progress since, but challenges remain today. The “struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism in all their forms and manifestations, and against all forms and varieties of racialism, fascism, and apartheid as well as other ideologies which breed national and racial hatred, and which are contrary to the purposes of this Recommendation” (Article 6) is relevant today though in different ways.
Our generation is facing threats such as democratic backsliding and the spread of violent and hateful ideologies and conspiracy theories. Our life on our planet is also under threat due to pollution, climate change and the loss of biodiversity which are causing unforeseen tensions, and challenges to health and well-being.
On the positive side, the international community is equipped today with a solid array of normative instruments and technological tools to foster peace and non-violence, which didn’t exist in 1974. We also have data and a rich body of research in education to develop sound policies and monitor their impact.
For all these reasons, UNESCO’s Member States decided to revise the 1974 Recommendation to take into account shifts in the global and educational landscape, in particular the requirements of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Education, with a view to firmly embed the role of education in fostering global peace, international understanding and sustainable development.
The revision will also take into account the recent results of the Futures of Education Report: Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education.
The purpose of revising the 1974 Recommendation is twofold:
- ensure the instrument - its framing and technical guidance - is fit for purpose and able to better inspire the design of relevant policies.
- strengthen the resolve of Member States to implement the guiding principles contained in the 1974 Recommendation, and which are echoed in the 2030 Agenda.
The process at a glance
UNESCO is leading an inclusive and transparent consultative process in view of supporting the development and adoption of a Revised Recommendation.
This process is composed of three main phases:
- Preparation: Review of relevant documents, evidence and research. [December 2021 to January 2022]
- Technical consultations with UN and other global, regional and multilateral partners, donors, civil society organizations, professional networks (including educators), national technical experts, as well as with youth, as appropriate.
An international expert group composed of experts appointed in their personal capacity by the Director–General will be established during this phase in March 2022 to help propose initial revisions to the 1974 Recommendation.
These initial consultations will contribute to the first draft of the revised Recommendation. [March – May 2022]
- More information
- Formal consultations with Member States – as foreseen by the Rules of Procedure concerning recommendations to Member States and international conventions covered by the terms of Article IV, paragraph 4, of the Constitution. First, Member States will be invited to provide written comments on the 1st draft. UNESCO will subsequently convene a Special Committee (Category II) to review the 2nd draft. A sufficient number of intergovernmental consultations will be held in person on the text of the revised Recommendation before it is submitted to the General Conference for adoption. [September 2022 – until the foreseen adoption in 2023]
Monitoring the implementation of the Recommendation
As part of its standard-setting and monitoring role, UNESCO has been inviting Member States every four years to report on progress made in implementing the 1974 Recommendation.
One of the key findings of the report highlights how topics related to learning to live together are more often integrated in laws and legal frameworks than topics related to learning to live sustainably. In both cases, they are slightly more likely to be included in education policies than in laws.
According to the data provided by the 75 participating countries, integration of the guiding principles is especially high in curricula and in more than half of cases the mainstreaming of ESD and GCED is extensive. Although mainstreaming in teacher education is almost as high, it is more likely to be partial than extensive. Mainstreaming in laws, policies and student assessment is lower at 87-88%.
Globally, 97% of countries (73 countries) reported that some or all of the guiding principles of the 1974 Recommendation are reflected in national or sub-national laws and policies.
Despite these encouraging figures, the reporting does not measure the extent to which learning environments are conducive to fostering the principles of the Recommendation. These would be some of the issues to further explore in the revision process.