Education for Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is achieved once people around the world live together in dignity and develop their personality taking into account resource scarcity and the inherent value of natural heritage - today and in the future.

This requires future-oriented thinking and action. Individuals worldwide need skills in order to understand the impact of their own actions and to learn how to deal with changes and risks. They need knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that enable responsible behaviour.

The UNESCO Global Action Programme on ESD

From 2015 to 2019, UNESCO coordinated the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (GAP ESD) to promote ESD as part of the global Education Agenda for 2030. The 5-year programme aimed to integrate education for sustainable development into the structures of the educational system by adapting curricula, introducing new methods of teacher training and further education, and facilitating cooperation between educational institutions in and outside of schools. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has set up a National Platform in order to promote this process in Germany. Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer, President of the German Commission for UNESCO, is a member of the National Platform. Walter Hirche, former Minister and member of the Board of the German Commission for UNESCO, functions as its international advisor.

Germany's National Action Plan defines 130 objectives and 349 measures to scale up ESD in all areas and at all levels of the German educational system.

"ESD for 2030" - Towards Achieving the SDGs

In 2020, UNESCO launches its new ESD programme “Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs (ESD for 2030)”. In line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the programme will run until 2030. With just 10 years to go, an ambitious global effort is needed to deliver the SDGs by 2030. With the new programme, UNESCO will support the “Decade of Action” and contribute to accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges. “ESD for 2030” will scale up its focus on the interlinkages and tensions among different SDGs and provide learners with opportunities to practice balancing them. Many of the existing instruments, for example, the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD and the five priority action areas, will be continued within the new framework. Nevertheless, there will be numerous advancements as well, like the focus on psychological and social preconditions and the transformation of ESD into political mobilization.

"ESD for 2030" will be launched at an international conference organised by UNESCO and supported by the German Government as host. The conference intends to provide impulses to further strengthen ESD in educational policy and practice and to accompany the strategic design of the new programme. It will take place from May 17th - 19th, 2021 in Berlin. In addition, a National Launch Conference will kick off the programme in Germany on May 19th, 2021. Current information is published on the UNESCO Conference website and the German ESD Portal.  

The German Network

Cities, places of learning and networks in Germany have already implemented elements of sustainable development in their educational work. Such pioneers are recognized by the German Commission for UNESCO and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for their outstanding commitment: Between 2016 and 2019, 309 ESD awards have been given to 148 places of learning, 131 networks and 30 cities in Germany. These include initiatives such as the Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost with a broad learning programme for sustainable development, the association netzwerk n with an excellent commitment to sustainability at universities, or the city of Gelsenkirchen with exceptional educational programmes, which the city also uses to integrate refugees.

Examples of good ESD practice in Germany

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