United Nations and ESD

The role of education as a catalyst for building a better and more sustainable future for all has gained increasing recognition over the last 12 years. The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 2005 – 2014 brought world focus to the important issues of education for sustainable development.  Canada has produced its report to UNESCO on its activities for the Decade which can be found on the Council of Ministers of Education Canada website.

As a follow up to the Decade, UNESCO launched the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD at the World Conference in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan in November 2014. The GAP has two 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.

The GAP focuses on five priority action areas: advancing policy; integrating sustainability practices into education and training environments; increasing the capacity of educators and trainers; empowering and mobilizing youth; and encouraging local communities to develop community-based ESD programmes.

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that represent a new agenda to end poverty, promote prosperity, and improve people’s wellbeing – while protecting the planet – by the year 2030.  While most of the Goals are connected to education, Goal #4 specifically references education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

At the World Education Forum in May 2015, the Incheon Declaration entitled “Education 2030: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all” was approved

calling for bold and urgent action to transform lives through a new vision for education.

Education 2030 includes a commitment to quality education which:

“fosters creativity and knowledge, and ensures the acquisition of the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy as well as analytical, problem-solving and other high-level cognitive, interpersonal and social skills. It also develops the skills, values and attitudes that enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions, and respond to local and global challenges through education for sustainable development (ESD) and global citizenship education (GCED).”

From "Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action"


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