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Sustainable Development

International frameworks

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is the primary focus for all Sustainability Education initiatives around the world. In fact, Education for Sustainability and Education for Sustainable Development are often used to mean the same thing. To better understand the international context and frameworks for driving education for sustainable development we refer to the following international programmes / initiatives:

The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action. After many years of consultation and drafting process the Earth Charter was launched in June 2000. ELIA-Ecological Living In Action endorsed the Earth Charter in 2007. Every individual and  organization can endorse the Earth Charter, click here to find out how.

Principle 14 of the Earth Charter commits to: “Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
a. Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
b. Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.
c. Enhance the role of the mass media in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges.
d. Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.

Initiatives like Eco-Schools, which is an international programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), developed as a response to needs identified at the United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development. Eco-Schools now covers more than 11 million students across 52 countries taking part in the Eco-Schools programme. Eco-Schools also signed an MoU with the Earth Charter. We are currently in conversation with Eco-Schools International to explore how the EFS programme and Eco-Schools can work together.

What does Sustainable Development mean?

The Brundtland commission in 1987 defined Sustainable Development as: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Since that time many more definitions for Sustainability and Sustainable Development have been created, including the following that is more inclusive compared to the one from the  Brundtland commission:

Newer definitions of Sustainable development: …”development that meets the needs of the present while safeguarding Earth’s life-support system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends.”(David Griggs et al, 2013:Source) This implies must haves, such as: climatic stability, biodiversity, ecosystem services, a healthy water cycle, effective use of nitrogen and phosphorus, clean air, and sustainable resource use.

From an anthropocentric point of view, sustainability or sustainable development comprises three interwoven dimensions that have to be addressed if we are to move society towards sustainability:

  1. Stop depletion of resources – in order not to leave future generations empty-handed,
  2. Safeguard environmental and ecological aspects – in order to enable present and future generations to live in a clean and healthy environment, in harmony with nature, and
  3. Ensure quality of life and human well-being for present and future generations.

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