Unece high-Level meeting of Environment and Education Ministries, Vilnius, 17-18 March 2005

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UNECE High-Level meeting of Environment and Education Ministries,

Vilnius, 17-18 March 2005
Speech by Mr. Carl Lindberg,

member of the High Level Panel, UNESCO

with regard to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
Madame, Chair

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of United Nations Educational, Scienctific and Cultural Organisation, Unesco, I would like to begin with a warm vote of thanks to the UNECE for organising this important High Level meeting of Environment and Education Ministries and also cordially congratulate UNECE to the adoption of your regional Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development.
And I would also like to express our gratitude to the President and the Government of Lituania for taking this initiative to host this valuable meeting here in your beautiful capital Vilnius. We are at the same time not surprised at this initiative as we know that Lituania is working very hard to develop and strengthen your Education system to achieve the Goals both in the area of Education for Sustainable Development and in the area of Education for All according to the Dacar goals, both processes of the greatest concern for Unesco.
As a representative of Unescos High Level Panel I would also like to express Director General Koïchiro Matsuura´s great appreciation for the support UNECE´s Action plan for Education for Sustainable Development will become in the work for implementing Unescos International Implementation Scheme. Your initiative provides a very good example of how an ESD strategy can be developed and espoused within existing cooperative frameworks.
Unescos Draft International Implementation Scheme is awaiting formal recognition by the Executive Board of Unesco in April .
All of us remember that the Summit in Johannesburg regarded education as a key agent for achieving Sustainable Development. But how can education fulfil it´s role as this key agent? What are the Key roles for education?
You have during these two days here in Vilnius given a lot of examples from countries on good education supporting Sustainable Development.

According to Unescos Draft Implementation Scheme the key roles for education is that

  • Education must inspire the belief that each of us has both the power and the responsibility to effect positive change on a global scale.

  • Education is the primary agent of transformation towards sustainable development, increasing peoples capacities to transform their vision for society into reality.

  • Education fosters the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future.

  • Education for susainable development is a process of learning how to make decisions that consider the long-term future of the equity, economy and ecology of all communities.

  • Education builds the capacity for such futures-oriented thinking.

But education for sustainable development is not equal to environment education.

But of course education for sustainable development encompasses environmental education, setting it in the broader context of socio-cultural factors and the socio-political issues of equity, poverty, democracy and quality of life. Sustainable development must be integrated into other disciplines and cannot , because of its scope , be taught as a discreet subject.

Education for sustainable development will aim to demonstrate the following features:

  • Interdisciplinary and holistic: learning for sustainable development embedded in the whole curriculum, not as a separate subject;

  • Values-driven: it is critical that the assumed norms – the shared values and principles underpinning sustainable development – are made explicit so that they can be examined , debated, tested and applied;

  • Critical thinking and problem solving: leading to confidence in addressing the dilemmas and challenges of sustainable development;

  • Multi-method: word, art, drama, debate, experience, ... different pedagogies which model the processes. Teaching that is geared simply to passing on knowledge should be recast into an approach in which teachers and learners work together to acquire knowledge and play a role in shaping the environment of their educational institutions;

  • Participatory decision-making: learners participate in decisions on how they are to learn;

  • Locally relevant: addressing local as well as global issues, and using the language(s) which learners most commonly use.

I would also like to mention that Unesco has received information about an extraordinary number of activities, events, networks,conferences supporting the Decade.

It has created immense enery and attention for the Decade. Unescos web site

www.unesco.org/education/desd gives visibility to local , national and international ESD activities.
Your recently adopted UNECE Strategy for ESD is excellent and very interesting.It is really a good contribution to and in line with the Framework for Unescos Draft Implementation Scheme and I am convinced that it will become a good foundation for the regional implementation of the Decade. It will facilitate the introduction and promotion of ESD in the UNECE region and mobilize support for the Decade.
I am also convinced that the Strategy will encourage the Member States to develop and incorporate ESD into their formal education systems ,in all relevant subjects, and in non-formal and informal education. Your Strategy provides advices how to develop policies and practices. Like in the Unesco Document your Strategy underline that ESD broadens the concept of environmental education to be complemented with other fields of education towards ESD.


It is necessary that all government will provide strong political support. The support from the Education Ministries is of crucial importance together with the Environment Ministries but also many other Ministries.

We often underline the key role for Teacher Education. It´s absolutely right, but we must stronger also stress Engineering education , education of physians( medical doctors) and so on.
Sometimes we need very good examples to explain to other what we mean by ESD. The last Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai,Kenya can help us with an example from the informal education. She received the Prize for her work for Sustainable Development, Democracy and Peace. In her Nobel Lecture she told us what her Green Belt Movement had done. (I quote).
“Thousands of ordinary citizens were mobilized and empowered to take action and effect change. They learned to overcome fear and a sense of helplessness and moved to defend democratic rights.
We developed a citizen education program, during which people identify their problems, the causes and possible solutions. They then made connections between their own personal actions and the problems the witness in the environment and in society.
Although initially the Green Belt Movement´s tree planting activities did not adress issues of democracy and peace, it soon became clear that responsible governance of the environment was impossible without democratic space.
In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness , to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.
That time is now.”
I would like to conclude by saying , that by support from ESD , humanity can reach this new level of consciousness, this higher moral ground. This is inspiring for all of us, here and now.
Therefore, we must use the Decade as the golden opportunity, given us by United Nations, to work very hard, together, all over our world, to through education reach this new level of consciousness and this higher moral ground for humanity.
Therefore on behalf of Unesco I wish you all success in your important work for implementing UNECE´s wise Action plan for ESD.
Thank you for your attention.

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