United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) 2005-2014 was an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) initiative of the United Nations. The Decade was delivered by UNESCO as lead agency, and gave rise to Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) networks, and the GUPES universities' partnership.

About the Decade

Based on proposals by Japan and Sweden, the United Nations General Assembly, at its 57th Session in December 2002, adopted Resolution 57/254 to start the DESD,[1] following the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation which emphasised that education is an indispensable element for achieving sustainable development.

UNESCO was designated as lead agency for the Decade and developed a draft International Implementation Scheme] for the DESD.[2]

Along with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) process, the Education For All (EFA) movement, and the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD), the DESD also aimed to achieve an improvement in the quality of life, particularly for the most deprived and marginalised, fulfillment of human rights including gender equality, poverty reduction, democracy and active citizenship. Whereas the MDGs provide a set of tangible and measurable development goals within which education is a significant input and indicator; EFA focuses on ways of providing educational opportunities to everyone; and the UNLD concentrates on promoting the key learning tool for all forms of structured learning, DESD was concerned particularly with the content and purpose of education. In concept and design, ESD challenges all forms of educational provision to adopt practices and approaches which foster the values of sustainable development.[3]

In response to the DESD, the United Nations University (UNU) called for the development of networks for the promotion of ESD, as well as being expertise centres for the research development of ESD. This was the birth of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) supporting education for sustainable development. Dr. Betsy Boze was instrumental in drafting and approval of the International Association of Universities "Iquitos statement on Higher Education for Sustainable Development."

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has facilitated the establishment of the Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES) in 2012 as a flagship contribution to the UN DESD. The focus of GUPES is around three pillars: Education, Training and Network,[4] and is based on the experience and scaling up of the successful Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities (MESA) project.[5]

See also


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