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Bonn Declaration

We, the participants gathered at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development held in Bonn, Germany on 31 March to 2 April 2009 issue the following statement and call for action:

1. Despite unprecedented economic growth in the 20th century, persistent poverty and inequality still affect too many people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Conflicts continue to draw attention to the need for building a culture of peace. The global financial and economic crises highlight the risks of unsustainable economic development models and practices based on short-term gains. The food crisis and world hunger are an increasingly serious issue. Unsustainable production and consumption patterns are creating ecological impacts that compromise the options of current and future generations and the sustainability of life on Earth, as climate change is showing.

2. A decade into the 21st century, the world faces substantial, complex and interlinked development and lifestyle challenges and problems. The challenges arise from values that have created unsustainable societies. The challenges are interlinked, and their resolution requires stronger political commitment and decisive action. We have the knowledge, technology and skills available to turn the situation around. We now need to mobilise our potential to make use of all opportunities for improving action and change.

3. The impacts of unsustainable development, priorities, responsibilities and capacity differ between regions and between developing and developed countries. All countries will need to work collaboratively to ensure sustainable development now and in the future. Investment in education for sustainable development (ESD) is an investment in the future, and can be a life-saving measure, especially in post-conflict and least developed countries.

4. Building on the Jomtien, Dakar and Johannesburg promises, we need a shared commitment to education that empowers people for change. Such education should be of a quality that provides the values, knowledge, skills and competencies for sustainable living and participation in society and decent work. The Education for All agenda underlines that the availability of basic education is critical for sustainable development. It similarly emphasises pre-school learning, education for rural people and adult literacy. Achievements in literacy and numeracy contribute to educational quality, and will also be critical to the success of ESD.

5. Through education and lifelong learning, we can achieve lifestyles based on economic and social justice, food security, ecological integrity, sustainable livelihoods, respect for all life forms and strong values that foster social cohesion, democracy and collective action. Gender equality, with special reference to the participation of women and girl children in education, is critical for enabling development and sustainability. Education for sustainable development is immediately necessary for securing sustainable life chances, aspirations and futures for young people. 

Education for sustainable development in the 21st century

6. Education for sustainable development is setting a new direction for education and learning for all. It promotes quality education, and is inclusive of all people. It is based on values, principles and practices necessary to respond effectively to current and future challenges.

7. ESD helps societies to address different priorities and issues: inter alia, water, energy, climate change, disaster and risk reduction, loss of biodiversity, food crises, health risks, social vulnerability and insecurity. It is critical for the development of new economic thinking. ESD contributes to creating resilient, healthy and sustainable societies through a systemic and integrated approach. It brings new relevance, quality, meaning and purpose to education and training systems. It involves formal, non-formal and informal education contexts, and all sectors of society in a lifelong learning process.

8. ESD is based on values of justice, equity, tolerance, sufficiency and responsibility. It promotes gender equality, social cohesion and poverty reduction and emphasises care, integrity and honesty, as articulated in the Earth Charter. ESD is underpinned by principles that support sustainable living, democracy and human well-being. Environmental protection and restoration, natural resource conservation and sustainable use, addressing unsustainable production and consumption patterns, and the creation of just and peaceful societies are also important principles underpinning ESD.

9. ESD emphasises creative and critical approaches, long-term thinking, innovation and empowerment for dealing with uncertainty, and for solving complex problems. ESD highlights the interdependence of environment, economy, society, and cultural diversity from local to global levels, and takes account of past, present and future.

10. Linked to different needs and the concrete living conditions of people, ESD provides the skills to find solutions and draws on practices and knowledge embedded in local cultures as well as in new ideas and technologies.

Progress in the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

11. During the first five years of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, led and co-ordinated by UNESCO, many countries have made progress in implementing ESD and have designed innovative policy frameworks. A number of UN agencies, NGOs, regional bodies, and partner networks are engaged in concrete activities that support specific areas of ESD. Many people and organisations are committed and engaged in action. Efforts towards better understanding, promotion, implementation and assessment of the quality of ESD are underway. A global monitoring and evaluation framework has been designed. Efforts at the global level have been complemented by regional strategies and initiatives.

12. We recognise that education is a significant factor in improving human well-being. We now have the knowledge and experience available to significantly improve the contents, methods and purposes of education. We know how to begin re-orienting education systems to emphasise lifelong learning. Through ESD, we are learning how to improve links between formal, non-formal and informal education. We know the importance of strengthening and sharing knowledge of educational change processes.

13. Science has provided us with a better knowledge of climate change and of the Earth's life-support systems; it has gathered significant knowledge about HIV and AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, heart diseases, and other serious health challenges. We know more about natural systems, and human impacts on them, and the ways that biodiversity supports our well-being. We know that current economic thinking has to change, and that there is a need to avoid unsustainable production and consumption and promote and support the emergence of 'sustainably developed' countries. Social science has provided insight into ethical, cultural, cognitive and affective aspects of human development, as well as sociologies of change.

14. We now need to put this knowledge into action. This is especially important to strengthen and extend the outcomes of the UN DESD in the next five years, but also to ensure longer term implementation of ESD.

A call for action

15. The progress of ESD remains unevenly distributed and requires different approaches in different contexts. In the coming years, there is a clear need for both developed and developing countries, civil society and international organisations to make significant efforts to:

At policy level in member states

a) Promote ESD's contribution to all of education and to achieving quality education, with particular regard to fostering the linkages between ESD and EFA within a coherent and systemic approach. Foster the goals of the ESD agenda in international fora and at the national level.

b) Increase public awareness and understanding about sustainable development and ESD, by mainstreaming and expanding the learning and insights gained in the first five years of the UN DESD into public awareness policies and programmes and various forms of informal learning. This should include promoting the role and contribution of the media for fostering public awareness and understanding of sustainability issues. It should also include capacity-building of media professionals.

c) Mobilize adequate resources and funding in favour of ESD, in particular through integrating ESD into national development policy and budgetary frameworks, into UN common country programming processes and other country-level policy frameworks (such as sector-wide approaches), as well as into EFA and MDG initiatives. Promote and include ESD in the priorities of foundations and donors.

d) Re-orient education and training systems to address sustainability concerns through coherent policies at national and local levels. Develop and implement ESD policies through co-ordinated inter-sectoral/inter-ministerial approaches that also involve business and the corporate sector, civil society, local communities and the scientific commu-nity.

e) Develop and strengthen existing international, regional and national enabling mechanisms and cooperation for ESD that respect cultural diversity. Establish regional and country-level committees, networks and communities of practice for ESD that strengthen local-national, and national-global links, and that enhance North-South-South and South-South co-operation.

At practice level

f) Support the incorporation of sustainable development issues using an integrated and systemic approach in formal education as well as in non-formal and informal education at all levels, in particular through the development of effective pedagogical approaches, teacher education, teaching practice, curricula, learning materials, and education leadership development, and also by recognizing the significant contribution of non-formal education and informal learning as well as vocational and work-place learning. Sustainable development is a cross-cutting theme with relevance to all disciplines and sectors.

g) Reorient curriculum and teacher education programmes to integrate ESD into both pre-service and in-service programmes. Support teacher education institutions, teachers and professors to network, develop, and research sound pedagogical practice. Specifically support teachers to develop ESD strategies that can work with large class sizes, and to evaluate ESD learning processes.

h) Promote evidence-informed policy dialogue on ESD, drawing upon relevant research, monitoring and evaluation strategies, and the sharing and recognition of good practices. Develop national ESD indicators that inform the effective implementation and review of ESD outcomes and processes.

i) Develop and extend ESD partnerships to integrate ESD into training, vocational education and workplace learning by involving civil society, public and private sectors, NGOs, and development partners. ESD should become an integral part of the training of leaders in business, industry, trade union, non-profit and voluntary organizations, and the public services. Re-orient TVET programmes to include ESD.

j) Involve youth in the design and implementation of ESD. Engage the commitment, solidarity and potential of youth and their organisations and networks in enhancing ESD. Foster young people's ownership of ESD questions and issues.

k) Enhance the major contribution and key role of civil society in stimulating debate and public participation, and initiating ESD actions. Explore ways to further this involvement and commitment.

l) Value and give due recognition to the important contribution of traditional, indigenous and local knowledge systems for ESD and value different cultural contributions in promoting ESD.

m) ESD should actively promote gender equality, as well as create conditions and strategies that enable women to share knowledge and experience of bringing about social change and human well-being.

n) Develop knowledge through ESD networking. Identify and support schools, universities and other higher education and research institutions, education centres and education networks that could serve as centres of expertise and innovation that develop and share knowledge, and create resources for ESD. Explore the potential of specific geographical and bioregional sites which can serve as spatially defined 'laboratories' for ESD.

o) Encourage and enhance scientific excellence, research and new knowledge development for ESD through the involvement of higher education institutions and research networks in ESD. Mobilise the core functions of universities: teaching, research and community engagement to strengthen global and local knowledge of ESD, and utilise the UNESCO ESD Chairs and UNESCO programme networks in this process. Establish institutional and organisational structures that facilitate flexibility, student participation, and multi-disciplinary programmes and develop model projects that can respond to the complexity and urgency of ESD. Reward structures should be developed and implemented to support ESD initiatives and research in higher education.

p) Develop institutional mechanisms during the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and other ongoing Decades, such as the UN Decade for Action 'Water for Life', that will ensure that ESD continues to be implemented beyond those Decades.

q) Engage the expertise available within the UN system to strengthen ESD in key sustainable development conventions; for example, those focusing on biodiversity, climate change, desertification and intangible cultural heritage.

r) Intensify efforts in education and training systems to address critical and urgent sustainability challenges such as climate change, water and food security by developing specific action plans and/or programmes within the UN DESD umbrella and partnership framework.

16. The participants in the 2009 World ESD Conference request UNESCO, as lead agency responsible for the UN DESD, to:

a) Enhance its leadership and co-ordination role for the UN DESD based on the International Implementation Scheme in co-operation with other UN agencies and programmes such as UNEP, UNU, the EFA convening agencies (UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and the World Bank) - amongst others, and incorporate ESD into 'one UN' strategies at country level, particularly through UNDAF processes.

b) Support member states and other partners in the implementation of the UN DESD, particularly through upstream capacity-building and policy advice on the development of coherent national strategies, monitoring and evaluation, recognising and sharing good practices on ESD, advocacy and global partnership development, with due consideration to post-conflict and least developed countries.

c) Represent and/or promote the ESD agenda in other major education and development forums such as international conferences and negotiations such as the G8, G20, Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, EFA High-Level Group, UN Chief Executives Board, and UNESCO world conferences (amongst other ongoing events and activities).

d) Utilize the expertise that exists within UNESCO biosphere reserves, world heritage sites and other science, culture and education programmes, such as TTISSA (Teacher Training Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa), ASPnet schools and LIFE (Literacy Initiative for Empowerment) to further ESD objectives and ensure that key priorities for ESD are integrated into longer term programmes and strategies within UNESCO.

e) Promote ESD-related research through UNESCO's programmes in order to enhance the quality and evidence-base of ESD. Further develop the global monitoring and evaluation system to evaluate ESD and take initiatives to develop international strategies and practices that can lead to a successful conclusion of the UN DESD with visible and concrete outcomes.

f) Highlight the relevance and importance of education and training in the UN Summit on Climate Change (COP 15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009 in consultation and co-operation with other partners.

g) Intensify efforts and initiatives to put climate change education higher on the international agenda, in the framework of the DESD, in the context of UNESCO's strategy for action on climate change, and as a component of UN-wide action.

17. Furthermore, the participants in this conference undertake to work towards implementation of this Declaration.

18. The participants encourage the mobilization of adequate funding in support of the recommendations contained in this Declaration.

19. The participants in the World ESD Conference express their gratitude to the German government for hosting this conference, and welcome the intention announced by the Government of Japan to host jointly with UNESCO the end-of-decade world conference on ESD.

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