ESD climbed up the international agenda

Last year Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) climbed up the international agenda. In September the UN General Assembly endorsed the new worldwide agenda on sustainable development (post-2015-agenda)

with universal goals - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Unlike the Millennium Goals the SDG apply for all UN member states; for the first time education is considered as an explicit goal and ESD is named as a sub-target. Intending to make a substantial contribution to the post-2015 agenda the General Assembly also decided to take up the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) with a five-year Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD. The WAP shall contribute to achieving the vision put forward by the UN Decade of ESD: “a world where everybody has the opportunity to benefit from education and learn the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation”. Its overall goal is “to generate and scale up action in all levels and areas of education and learning to accelerate progress towards sustainable development”.

Two-fold approach
The GAP deploys a two-fold approach to multiply and to scale up ESD action:

  • integrating sustainable development into education; and
  • integrating education into sustainable development. Corresponding to this overall approach, the Programme has two objectives.

Priority action areas
To enable strategic focus and foster stakeholder commitment, the GAP has identified five priority action areas to advance the ESD agenda:

  1. Advancing policy: Mainstream ESD into both education and sustainable development policies, to create an enabling environment for ESD and to bring about systemic change.
  2. Transforming learning and training environments: Integrate sustainability principles into education and training settings.
  3. Building capacities of educators and trainers: Increase the capacities of educators and trainers to more effectively deliver ESD.
  4. Empowering and mobilizing youth. Multiply ESD actions among youth.
  5. Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level: At community level, scale up ESD programmes and multi-stakeholder ESD networks.

Implementation mechanisms
There are two main mechanisms for the implementation of the GAP on Education for Sustainable Development. On national level UNESCO encourages governments to set national targets and action programmes for ESD as appropriate, based on national requirements and aspirations. On international level UNESCO set up a GAP Secretariat to provide overall management and coordination of the GAP at global level.

TVET is explicitly integrated into the GAP, and so the GAP can be seen as an appropriate framework for further developing and implementing TVET for sustainable development into national TVET systems as well as into national sustainable development strategies. In order to ensure acceptance TVET for sustainable development cannot be organised in terms of a top-down approach all relevant stakeholders have to be considered. Crucial is whether and to what extend the relevant stakeholders can be involved and convinced to become advocates for TVET for sustainable development.

More information on the GAP on ESD is available at