The U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The Declaration, Volume 7, No. 1: Summer 2004  [Spotlight]

In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring a “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” to begin on January 1, 2005. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is serving as the lead agency for this Decade, and nations are being encouraged to establish their own Decade oriented initiatives.

In response, a newly formed United States Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (USPDESD) is reaching out to representatives from all sectors to envision, plan for, and practice education for sustainable development throughout the Decade. The USPDESD is serving as a community-building convener, catalyst and communicator for the Decade.

The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The Decade is a result of a series of international conferences, declarations and initiatives beginning with the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and culminating in the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. In its “Framework for a Draft International Implementation Scheme” for the Decade, UNESCO describes the four major thrusts of education for sustainable development, which were formulated in Agenda 21:

  • The promotion and improvement of high quality, relevant basic education;
  • The reorienting of existing education policies and programs to address the social, environmental and economic knowledge, skills and values inherent to sustainability in a holistic and interdisciplinary manner;
  • The development of public understanding and awareness of the principles of sustainable development;
  • The development of specialized training programs to ensure that all sectors of society have the skills necessary to perform their work in a sustainable manner.

The Framework states that “the focus of DESD activities will be advocacy, communication and networking directed at facilitating all educators to include sustainable development concerns and goals in their own programs” (UNESCO, July 2003).

The United States Partnership

The USPDESD is an inclusive, non-partisan, non-affiliated partnership of representatives from all sectors – higher education, K-12, business, faith communities, non-profits, government – serving as:

Convener…the Partnership is bringing together individuals and organizations already working or interested in working with education for sustainable development;

Catalyst…the Partnership connects needs with resources, helping partners develop new projects and build on their existing programs; and

Communicator…the Partnership communicates about the Decade and advocates for the Decade, while linking existing networks and facilitating new ones across sectors and across the country.

The Partnership is promoting an open, democratic, and participatory process in planning for and supporting Decade related activities over time. We believe that this process, working on the levels of…

  • A diverse steering committee, operating with a gentle touch,
  • Working groups organized around topics (such as a U.S. role in support of ESD in developing countries; roles of particular groups such as faith communities and museums, K-12 and higher education; and sustainability indicators),
  • Regional collaborations, designed and managed within regions,
  • Web-based technologies for information sharing, and community and capacity building,
  • Activities of individual organizations, partnerships and community based groups operating under the banner of the DESD,
  • A national Partnership that all can be part of, without membership fees, criteria or particular obligations,
  • … can catalyze a tremendous amount of education consistent with the principles of sustainability.

The diversity of the Partnership is an indicator of the Decade’s appeal and potential. Government and business, representatives of the scientific, religious, educational, environmental, and other communities are committed to contributing to the DESD’s success. Our common interest is in fostering measurable results that contribute now to improving quality of life, while providing for the future of the planet. The partnership approach and localized application of principles encouraged in the framework for the DESD facilitates such diverse participation. By working together to promote a variety of approaches to education for sustainable development we can have a more meaningful and powerful impact than if we were to operate independently without benefit of the unifying, global umbrella offered by the Decade.

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