German National Committee for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The German National Committee for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014) calls upon to integrate and highlight (in the Rio + 20 Conference as well as its outcome document and possible follow-up) the prominent role of education, public awareness and training for sustainable development in moving societies towards sustainability.

A strategy aiming at achieving sustainability based only on political regulation, technical innovation and economic incentives is not sufficient. Sustainable development requires a comprehensive change in mindset and the acquisition by all citizens of forward-looking competencies in accordance with fundamental values – such as intergenerational and global justice – which only education can bring about. The 1992 Rio Conference and the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on sustainable development recognized that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) represents a significant path towards achieving sustainability.

Working towards sustainable development is always learning for sustainable development which is why ESD aims to enabling everyone to acquire the values, competences, knowledge and skills required for engineering sustainable societies and green economies today and tomorrow. The goal of the DESD is to integrate Education for Sustainable Development throughout educational systems and learning contexts. This is in accordance with Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Declaration, the UN General Assembly Resolution 57/254 as well as the “Bonn Declaration” adopted at the UNESCO World Conference on education for sustainable development held in 2009 in Bonn, Germany.

The particular importance of ESD in the framework of a green economy was recognized in the joint statement by Heads of UN agencies on Green Economy from 2009 “Green Economy: A Transformation to Address Multiple Crises”: “The shift towards a green economy requires education for sustainable development including training in new job skills and newly required health systems.” ESD contributes to poverty eradication and the shift towards a green economy through the acquisition of so-called green skills but also thanks to the promotion of more general competencies like long-term and critical thinking, interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving as well as the ability to act autonomously and participate in social decision-making processes. ESD encourages and supports life-long learning. Education for Sustainable Development doesn’t happen only from 6 years old on and until the learner leaves the formal education system. It starts during the early childhood where the basis for future learning is laid out and continues in non-formal and informal settings during the entire work life and beyond.

Political decision makers at national and international levels will only be in a position to commit to sustainable development in the long term if citizens recognize the importance of this societal objective and therefore support and requests further efforts in the field of sustainable development. ESD has an essential role to play in this regard and needs to be highlighted at the Rio + 20 Conference. The German National Committee for the DESD 1 June 2011 calls for the outcome document of the Conference to integrate ESD – not only as example for inter-sectoral themes but as a main strategy for achieving sustainability and green economies. The German National Committee further calls upon the UN system and Members States to use the opportunity of the Rio + 20 Conference to discuss and plan follow-up activities to the UN Decade of ESD beyond 2014.

The German National Committee for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development was appointed by the German National Commission for UNESCO on the basis of a unanimous resolution by the Bundestag. The National Committee is the main decisional body for the national implementation of the DESD in Germany.

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