EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENTParis/Johannesburg - For sustainable development to become a reality, people everywhere must learn to think and act differently.
This needs to happen not just in school, but all throughout their lives, because "sustainable development needs informed, organized citizens capable of making the right choices to deal with the complex situations increasingly confronting societies today," says UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.
UNESCO will focus on this vision of education and its crucial importance to sustainable development at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Parallel to the Summit, South Africa's Ministry of Education, in co-operation with UNESCO and the UNESCO Liaison Committee, a non-governmental organization, will hold a special event on "Education for a sustainable future: action, commitments and partnerships". This symposium will start at 2 p.m. on September 2 and continue throughout September 3 (Summerplace, zone 1). UNESCO will take advantage of this platform to launch various partnership projects with other public, private and intergovernmental players, and will present Japan's proposal to the United Nations General Assembly for a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development which could be launched in 2005.
Participants will include all those likely to take action in favour of sustainable development: representatives of civil society, private companies, other United Nations agencies, health, energy, water, agriculture, education, co-operation, communication and other ministries, as well as heads of state from several Latin American, African and Asian countries.
During the conference, UNESCO will also launch the CD Rom "Teaching and learning for a sustainable future: a multimedia teacher education programme". This multimedia training programme (also available on UNESCO's Internet site: http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/) provides teachers with free, independent, distance access to 100 hours of training via 25 modules presenting a wide variety of educational materials, games, newspapers and discussion groups.
A UNESCO team took two years to prepare the CD, which was evaluated and improved by 300 education professionals from around the world. Users can adapt this tool, a model of how multimedia can be used to train teachers, to meet their specific needs. UNESCO has prepared the CD Rom in English, but encourages and provides technical support for every possible translation and adaptation. Eleven southern African countries, members of the SADC (Southern African Development Community), have thus developed their own versions of this CD Rom, geared to the realities of their region.
The symposium will stress the need for partnership between all the stakeholders to reach the goal of education for sustainable development. According to UNESCO's Vinayagum Chinapah. "There is a positive, responsible attitude that did not exist during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio: Agenda 21, drafted during that Summit has not been followed, and the promises signed by the participants have not been kept. In Johannesburg the various players will have to sign 'partnership agreements'. Each action plan will have to be closely followed because it will spell out the goals, the budget, the means implemented and the progress made."
UNESCO is presenting three partnership projects within the education for sustainable development framework: The first is an Education for Rural People programme designed by UNESCO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "One of the reasons that poverty is rife in the countryside stems from the absence or the difficulties of access to education, as well as its total inappropriateness to rural realities," says Mr Chinapah. "Poverty has driven people to emigrate and crowd into cities." This is why UNESCO and the FAO are rethinking education systems in rural areas by "directing them towards production potential (fishing, livestock breeding, food production management, sale of farm products, etc.), so local inhabitants can acquire and enhance the knowledge they might use to improve their living conditions."
The second partnership is with the international. advertising firm J. Walter Thompson (JWT). Recognizing that education occurs in and out of school, we must also find ways, to make adults aware of these issues. This why "enlisting the services of advertising professionals might be an excellent means to convey the urgent need for sustainable development," says Mr Chinapah.
UNESCO has also joined forces with the world's three largest university organizations: the 2,000-member International Association of Universities, the Comité de recteurs des Universités d'Europe and a North American group called University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. These organizations have agreed to restructure their courses to take into account and highlight the urgent need for sustainable development.
Contacts in Johannesburg:
Amy Otchet, Bureau of Public Information
cell phone: (+27) (0) 828 580 718
Isabelle Le Fournis, Bureau of Public Information
cell phone: (+33) (0) 614 6953 72