Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development

on education for sustainable development


This page is intended to give organizations and individuals interested in the UNESCO Global Action Programme, successor to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) 2005-2014, some basic information on the activities by various organizations to contribute to it. The page is not intended to be exhaustive, but only to provide a starting point for those who may wish to support or participate in some way.


The UNESCO web site for the Global Action Programme is at… , and the proposal for the GAP is in the annex to .

World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development
Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, 10-12 November 2014
Concluded the DESD and launched the Global Action Programme

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future,, is a multimedia teacher education programme that provides professional development for student teachers, teachers, curriculum developers, education policy makers, and authors of educational materials. It includes a module on Culture and Religion for a Sustainable Future:


Background on the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

Shaping the Future We Want: DESD Final Report

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development was officially launched on 1 March 2005 in New York, and concluded at the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Aichi-Nagoya in November 2014.

The 1992 Earth Summit marked the beginning of an unprecedented effort to understand and work toward achieving 'sustainable development' -- addressing human needs holistically by integrating environmental, economic and social goals. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) (Johannesburg, 2002) re-emphasized the vital role of education, not only in building awareness of the need for sustainable development, but in fostering the necessary changes to bring it about at all levels. The UN then launched the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, DESD, (2005-2014), with UNESCO as its Lead Agency. Their goal was to build broad ownership at all levels, global, regional, national and local/community, for the goals of the Decade and to engage all possible partners among governments, Non-Governmental Organizations/civil society and the private sector in the work.

Many reports, conferences and action plans have defined what needs to be done to achieve sustainable development, but progress has been slow, and the global environment continues to deteriorate. This failure has largely been due to a lack of political will and motivation to make the necessary changes in individual lifestyles and social action.

The Rio Declaration (1992) states: “Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature." It took 10 years to come to the profound realization of the synergistic nature of sustainable development and education. The WSSD in Johannesburg (2002) recognized that education would be critical to changing things. The problem is that there are 1000 definitions of sustainable development. The Johannesburg Declaration expressed the commitment of world leaders “to build a human, equitable and caring global society cognizant of the need for human dignity for all". Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that sounds abstract, sustainable development, and turn it into a reality for all the peoples of the world.

UNESCO says sustainable development is a dynamic and evolving concept with many dimensions and interpretations and reflects locally relevant and culturally appropriate visions for a world in which development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

UNESCO describes sustainable development as essentially an educational enterprise. It summarizes the Four Pillars of Education:
1. Recognition of the challenge - learning to know.
2. Collective responsibility and constructive partnership - learning to live together.
3. Acting with determination - learning to do.
4. The indivisibility of human dignity - learning to be.

UNESCO identified a number of Key Action Themes for the UN Decade: Biodiversity, Climate Change Education, Disaster Risk Reduction, Cultural Diversity, Poverty Reduction, Gender Equality, Health Promotion, Sustainable Lifestyles, Peace and Human Security, Water, and Sustainable Urbanization.

The emphasis was on:
Supporting local initiative.
Ensuring that structures (national, regional, and international) provide direction and guidance for local initiatives.
Re-orienting educational policies. It's about the way we live our lives; the way we respect the lives of others; and our attitudes to the world around us.
Broad based strategies to build peace, hope, stability, tolerance, and mutual understanding.
Gender equality
Overcoming poverty
Literacy - “literacy for all is at the heart.”
Education as a central strategy for sustainable development

The following web links to documents give an overview of the Decade:

Shaping the Future We Want: DESD Final Report

International Implementation Scheme for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) approved by the UNESCO Executive Council in September 2005:

Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 "Promoting Education, Public Awareness and Training" the relevant text from the Earth Summit in 1992.


 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Tilbury, D. and D. Wortman (2004). Engaging People in Sustainability. Commission on Education and Communication, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

 Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit
This resource contains many valuable materials. Introduction includes definition and history of the term, "sustainable development", a description of ESD, etc. It also addresses values, learning skills, perspectives, and values that guide and motivate people to seek sustainable livelihoods, participate in a democratic society, and live in a sustainable manner.
This section addresses values and ethics. A box ¾ down the page quotes from the Bahá'í International Community's statement, "World Citizenship: Global Ethic for Sustainable Development".

  Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL), and its predecessor, the Consumer Citizenship Network (CCN).
These Erasmus Thematic Network Projects supported by the European Union's Socrates Programme in collaboration with UNESCO and UNEP have produced many useful educational materials in support of education for sustainable development. The coordinator, Ass. Prof. Victoria W. Thoresen of Norway, is a board member of the International Environment Forum.

  UNESCOcat: The Centre UNESCO de Catalunya organized an International Experts Workshop on Faith-based Organizations and Education for Sustainability, held in Barcelona, Spain, on 22-24 March 2007, in which IEF participated. The report of the workshop (pdf 250 kb) can be downloaded here.

 U.S. Partnership for education for sustainable development includes over 300 organizations of many types, including a group of faith-based organizations, all supporting the GAP.

The Earth Charter is a unique educational instrument to advance understanding of shared global problems and the need to act with an integrated vision for sustainable development. It provides an important ethical framework for sustainable development. See the Earth Charter Initiative website at

The International Environment Forum in collaboration with other organizations has developed various educational materials for the decade (see below). A whole section of the IEF web site (see e-learning) is devoted to an e-learning centre on sustainability including a course, group study materials, and other materials.


A number of Bahá'í communities and Bahá'í-inspired organizations are participating in actions in support of education for sustainable development.

The front-page article of One Country, newsletter of the Bahá'í International Community (Vol.17, No. 1, October-December 2005), reported on the December 2005 Orlando Seminar on "Education for Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension", held in support of the DESD, and included a perspective on Education for Sustainable Development. The newsletter in pdf is available at

The International Environment Forum has devoted four annual conferences to themes relevant to the decade, including its 7th Conference in Orlando, Florida, in December 2003 that specifically considered plans for the Decade (see conference report), and its 8th Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, on 15-17 October 2004 which focused on "Cultivating Sustainable Lifestyles" in preparation for the Decade. The latter conference was co-sponsored by the local UNESCO office, the Greek Ministry of Education, Aristotle University and an Environmental Education Center. Its 9th Conference in Orlando, Florida, in December 2005 also concentrated on the Decade. The IEF has also prepared a compilation of Bahá'í writings on sustainable development including teachings concerning economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability. The IEF organized a workshop on the decade at the Association for Bahá'í Studies - 2004 Conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 3-6 September 2004, and another seminar with educators in Orlando, Florida in December 2004. In January 2005, it co-sponsored a parallel event with the CSD Education Caucus at the Mauritius International Meeting on Small Island Developing States, which was chaired by the president of IEF. In 2006, it collaborated with the US Baha'i community in a series of regional and national seminars in support of the decade.

The IEF has created an e-learning centre for sustainability on its web site with extensive educational resources including distance learning course and interfaith courses on climate change.

The Bahá'í teachings provide useful perspectives on such subjects as:
1) Development, the goal and the process
2) Knowledge and science
3) Values and spirituality
4) Bridging knowledge and values, science and spirituality in education

The following are web links to documents that give some Bahá'í approaches to these issues:

A powerpoint on the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) and its implementation in the U.S. Bahá'í community
and case studies for workshop discussions:
How much is enough?
India Solar Cooking
Chad Fishing
Audubon Center at Debs Park (USA)

"Sustainable Development and the Human Spirit" a statement by the Bahá'í International Community prepared for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

IEF Position Papers prepared for the seminars at its 6th Conference organized in conjunction with the World Summit on Sustainable Development:
"Integrating Science in Local Communities"
"Values for Sustainable Development"
"Education and Values for Sustainable Development"

"Values as Foundation for Sustainable Behaviour" Paper by Dr. Arthur Dahl presented at the 5th IEF Conference

"Education: constraint or a catalyst to Sustainable Development". Paper by Victoria Thoresen presented at the 5th IEF Conference

"Small Island Developing States in an Integrating World". Statement by the Bahá'í Community of Mauritius distributed at the Mauritius International Meeting in January 2005.

Additional relevant Bahá'í resources include:

"Prosperity of Humankind" by the Bahá'í International Community, 1995.

"World Citizenship A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development ". Statement by the Bahá'í International Community to the first meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development in 1993. Also available in French/Français and Spanish/Español

Bahá'í Quotations on Sustainable Development


Last updated 25 September 2015