Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is being increasingly recognized as an indispensable element for achieving sustainable development. It is a dynamic concept that utilizes all aspects of public awareness, education and training to enhance the understanding of the linkages between the issues of sustainable development.
ESD has a critical role in making individuals and communities
- Understand the complex nature of the natural and built environments and the inter-linkages
- Acquire knowledge, values, attitudes and practical skills in a responsible and effective way
- Anticipate and solve problems and manage the quality of the environment
ESD seeks to balance human and economic well-being with cultural traditions and respect for the earth’s natural resources. ESD addresses the key sustainable development issues such as biodiversity, poverty, climate change into teaching and learning.
The United Nations General Assembly declared the Decade from 2005 to 2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD 2005- 2014) with the objectives of
- Facilitating networking linkages, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD;
- Fostering increased quality of teaching and learning in ESD;
- Helping countries make progress towards and attain the Millennium Development Goals through ESD efforts;
- Providing countries with new opportunities to incorporate ESD into education reform efforts.
UNESCO as the lead agency has been promoting and facilitating the implementation of the objectives of the Decade. As 2014 marked the end of the UN Decade of ESD (2005-2014), the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD was launched at the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development organised by UNESCO at Aichi- Nagoya, Japan in November 2014. This conference "Learning Today for a Sustainable Future", while celebrating the achievements of the decade also identified the lessons learnt setting the stage for the GAP.
GAP is expected to scale up ESD actions at all levels and areas of education facilitating the actions towards sustainable development with twin objectives:
- to reorient education and learning so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development – and make a difference;
- to strengthen education and learning in all agendas, programmes and activities that promote sustainable development.
and five priority action areas:
- Advancing policy;
- Integrating sustainability practices into education and training environments (whole-institution approaches);
- Increasing the capacity of educators and trainers;
- Empowering and mobilizing youth;
- Encouraging local communities and municipal authorities to develop community-based ESD programmes.