September 4, 2002, after a protracted and difficult drafting process,
the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) released its
Political Declaration and Plan of Implementation.
Many delegates to the WSSD regarded these outcomes as weak, last-minute
compromises that will result in little progress toward sustainability.
Education for sustainable development (ESD), and the crucial role
of education (and educators as a stakeholder group) in assisting
in the transition to a sustainable future, was not a major theme
in the Political Declaration or the Plan of Implementation.
However, the WSSD provided opportunities for stakeholders committed
to higher education to clarify goals and further develop partnerships
and their own plans of implementation. Summarized below are significant
developments at the WSSD related to higher education for sustainable
117 of the Plan of Implementation articulates the governments'
commitments to education for sustainable development, including
support for urgent actions at all levels to:
Integrate information and communications technology in school
Promote, as appropriate, affordable and increased access to
programs in developed countries for students, researchers and
engineers in developing countries in order to promote exchange
of experience and capacity to benefit all partners;
Continue to implement the work program of the Commission on
Sustainable Development on education for sustainable development;
Recommend to the United Nations General Assembly that it consider
adopting a decade of education for sustainable development,
starting in 2005.
UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development will offer
significant opportunities to advance this movement, and preparation
for this decade can serve as a strong focal point for collaboration.
The World Summit clearly underlined the fact that many are not
prepared to make the transition necessary to ensure a sustainable
future. A significant educational effort is crucial to providing
the understanding, skills and motivation required to make sustainable
development central to society's policies and practices. The adoption
of a decade of ESD recognizes that education is indeed a significant
priority for the realization of sustainable development, even
though it was considered the "lost priority" in the
decade from Rio to Johannesburg.
the Earth Charter, and the Ubuntu Declaration
The South African Department of Education and the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in
its role as task manager for Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, hosted
a two-day event at the WSSD entitled "Educating for a Sustainable
Future: Action, Commitments and Partnerships." Here UNESCO
announced a major Type II Partnership1: the Global Higher
Education for Sustainability Partnership (GHESP), involving the
Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, COPERNICUS-CAMPUS,
the International Association of Universities, and UNESCO. GHESP
seeks to develop and share effective strategies, models and best
practices for promoting higher education for sustainability, and
to analyze experience thus far in order to make recommendations
in consultation with key Northern and Southern stakeholders.2
the same event, South Africa's Minister of Education launched
the South African version of UNESCO's multimedia teacher education
program: "Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future."
This CD-ROM contains 100 hours of professional development for
use in pre-service teacher courses as well as in-service education
of teachers, curriculum developers, education policy makers, and
authors of educational materials. The program enables educators
to help students develop and evaluate alternative visions of a
sustainable future and work creatively with others to help bring
their visions of a better world into effect.3
report prepared for the WSSD by UNESCO and the International Work
Programme on Education, Public Awareness and Sustainability of
the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development contributed
substantively to discussions on ESD at the summit. The higher
education section of this report, entitled "Education for
Sustainability - From Rio to Johannesburg: Lessons learnt from
a decade of commitment," identifies key lessons for success
in implementing innovative policies and practices that achieve
sustainable outcomes in universities, which include:
significant education-related Type II Partnership launched at
the WSSD focuses on "Educating for Sustainable Living with
the Earth Charter." The Earth Charter is a declaration of
fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful
global society in the 21st century. Seen by many as the unfinished
business of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Earth Charter was created
through a decade long, multicultural dialogue, and was completed
major goal of the Earth Charter partnership is "to provide
education and training for local leaders and communities regarding
the fundamental principles of sustainable development, and how
to incorporate these principles into decision making processes.
The Earth Charter will be employed as the primary educational
instrument in this process. Toward this end the Earth Charter
will be integrated into professional training and community development
programs as a guiding framework for implementing sustainable development."5
the notable declarations to emerge from the World Summit on Sustainable
Development, the Ubuntu Declaration is highly significant in terms
of higher education for sustainable development.6 Building
on the Lüneburg Declaration on Higher Education for Sustainable
Development7 (October 2001), the Ubuntu Declaration calls
for greater global emphasis on education for sustainable development,
the strengthening of science and technology education for sustainable
development, and international partnerships to accomplish these
collectively by the United Nations University, UNESCO, the African
Academy for Science, GHESP (and its individual members), the Science
Council of Asia, the Third World Academy of Science, and the World
Federation of Engineering Organizations, the Ubuntu Declaration
concludes with the resolve to "work towards a new global
learning space on education and sustainability that promotes cooperation
and exchange between institutions at all levels and in all sectors
of education around the world. This space must be developed on
the basis of international networks of institutions and the creation
of regional centers of excellence, which bring together universities,
poly-techniques, and institutions of secondary education and primary
schools. We invite all other responsible stakeholders to join
us in this endeavor."8 This declaration is particularly
significant because it brings together so many crucial stakeholders
from the North and South.
hope and anticipate that these various higher education efforts
will become more closely integrated over the next few years and
will join together in a major global initiative to advance the
Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, in cooperation
with other levels of formal and informal education.
piece is taken from a longer article entitled "International
Efforts to Promote Higher Education for Sustainable Development,"
written for Planning for Higher Education, the Journal
of the U.S.-based Society for College and University Planning,
to be published in spring 2003.
Type II outcomes from the World Summit are partnerships involving
governments, NGOs and businesses. Of the two hundred and eighty-three
Type II Partnerships announced at the WSSD, approximately 12 focused
on education for sustainability. Type I outcomes are the Political
Declaration and the Plan of Implementation.
2 This partnership formed originally in 2000 (and was featured
in the May 2001 issue of this report), was reconfirmed this year
and announced as a Type II Partnership at the WSSD.
3 This program is available in two multimedia formats:
a CD-ROM and an Internet program available at www.unesco.org.education/tlsf/index.html.
4 "Education for Sustainability - From Rio to Johannesburg:
Lessons learnt from a decade of commitment," Report prepared
by UNESCO and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, WSSD,
2002, pp. 39-40.
5 The partnership proposal can be seen at www.johannesburgsummit.org/html/sustainable_dev/type2_part.html.
6 The Ubuntu Declaration is named for an area designated
"Ubuntu Village" at the WSSD. "Ubuntu" derives
from ubu which means creation, and ntu which means creator. Ubuntu
has seven key principles: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination),
ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamu (corporate economics),
nia (purpose), kuumba (creative) and imani (faith).
7 The Lüneburg Declaration was the first joint policy
statement of GHESP addressed to the WSSD.
8 "Ubuntu Declaration on Education and Science and
Technology for Sustainable Development," World Summit on
Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August
- 4 September 2002. See www.un.org/events/wssd/pressconf/020901conf1.htm.
RETURN TO TOP