The Materials on this webpage do not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations or its Member States. Please read more on our Terms of use.
The UN CSD Education Working Group
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Submission Document: Download
  • Additional Document:


RIO 2012 and Beyond


Submitted by:

The UN CSD Education Working Group

November 1, 2011

URL: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/review.htm

-UNCSD Education Working Group

Contact: P.J. Puntenney

The upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development is to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, 20 years after the historic summit of 1992. According to its organizers, the summit?s objectives are to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development; to assess progress towards internationally agreed goals on sustainable development and to address new and emerging challenges. The Summit will also focus on two specific themes: a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and an institutional framework for sustainable development. After 20 years of dramatically evolving changes, this concept note is an invitation to shape a briefing on Environmental Education for Sustainability as a key policy instrument with specific strategic recommendations in the lead-up to Rio+20 and the implementation of the outcomes post-Rio 2012.

Recognizing the number of global environmental challenges and security issues, there is a need to improve the knowledge base of all stakeholders, particularly decision-makers on the interplay of human and natural systems, with an understanding of new opportunities for investment, new technologies, and innovations, among others.

Environmental Education as a policy instrument enables the governance structures for Sustainable Development as ?learning systems? to increase capacities so that knowledge may be translated into action-implementation and practices towards sustainable systems. Knowledge through Environmental Education effectively promotes action-based priorities in transitioning to a green economy and to implementing needed mechanisms that strengthen an Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD).

Broad support on multi-stakeholder engagement in environmental governance acknowledges the respective roles of each stakeholder, takes into account the Rio Declaration on the principle of ?common but differentiated responsibilities?. The centrality of Environmental Education for Sustainability to the IFSD therefore emphasizes the need for supportive structures including a comprehensive and effective monitoring system of implementation of environmental education in the context of commitments to a Green Economy, poverty eradication and the IFSD.

A multi-stakeholder consultative process was conducted by the UN CSD Education Caucus from 2010 to 2011 in preparation for Rio+20. Concept Note 2012 and Beyond was launched during PrepCom II, seeking further input into the shaping of this document. The following is divided into Part I, Taking Stock of the successes, gaps, and challenges of the 21st century, followed by requirements that should be reflected in the Rio+20 outcome document. Part II, Confidence Building provides an overview

* The UN CSD Education Caucus was formed as an intergenerational, multi-stakeholder platform during UNCED in 1992 to advance the work on Agenda 21. The Caucus currently has 600+ member organizations (formal and informal educators) with leaders is each of the World Regions. The Caucus facilitates input through a consultative process to create briefings, serve in an advisory capacity, lobbying, advocating, networking, and building working relationships to support the education agenda within the CSD Summary of Work, the MDGs, climate change, environmental governance, and more.

PART I: Taking Stock

Rio 1992, A Catalyst

For governments, institutions, and civil society, the first Earth Summit in 1992 (UNCED) created a significant learning environment, where knowledge led to understanding and action, and new strategies emerged. New visions of environment and development clearly linked social, cultural, economic and political spheres of human behavior with the nexus of interactions between the environment and society. Many more people who were unable to participate in Rio were inspired by what had happened in Rio, creating initiatives within their own work and communities. Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) repeatedly pointed to education as a key policy instrument for bringing about a transition to sustainable development, an education that was defined as a life-long process of action-oriented and reflective learning, involving all citizens as informed environmental decision-makers. Environmental Education and Sustainability became part of the underlying foundation for UNCED, alongside the legal, planning, and financial components, integrated into the Rio Declaration and Principles, Agenda 21 and the mandates that followed.

Post-Rio in 1992 and into the policy preparations and outcomes from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, the vision of linking cross-sectoral, cross-generational knowledge to understanding and action, within a broad multi-stakeholder platform-based strategy shifted within the policy world to a supportive function of building capacity. Education in the institutional sense, schooling, was well represented but less of a priority in the minds of the policy-makers. The understandings and implementation strategies gained from the series of conferences on Environmental Education and Sustainability in the 1970s lessened over time:

To develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and prevention of new ones.

(Belgrade 1975, ?A Global Framework for Environmental Education?, http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=1011467/The%2BBelgrade%2BCharter.pdf)

From the pre-Rio meetings and subsequent follow-up UN CSD sessions, the Education Caucus has observed and experienced strong support from a majority of the delegations, the NGO community, and major groups for this broader policy concept of education. Yet, the dual nature of the term education still gets translated into schooling in people's minds and simply stated, ?not relevant to my area of focus?. Consequently education is ignored or left out demonstrating a lack of understanding of the broader context that has been in play from the outset of Rio. This is where a majority of environmental educational opportunities regarding sustainability are occurring - outside of schooling. These dual realities are not separate but inter-related and are an important element of the policy process. More importantly, millions of people worldwide be they individuals, communities, organizations or governmental institutions are already creating initiatives to address sustainability challenges in their communities and regions. One challenge to a green economy strategy is an effective linking or integration of knowledge and understandings into UN sustainable development processes and outcomes.

21st Century Challenges

As global crises increase in pace, what we knew yesterday does not apply today. Supporting sustainable development requires knowledge of the interactions between human and natural systems, understanding of management levers as well as technological developments and innovations, economic analysis, political will, and a framework that creates a capacity throughout and across all areas of society to respond to evolving needs.

No longer can we seek solutions to problems one at a time. Global environmental policies transcend traditional boundaries between sectors, nationalities, cultures and generations. We all need to be able to recognize increasingly complex and inter-related issues where attempts to ameliorate one can alter or even exacerbate the impacts of another. New knowledge of how multiple stressors affect human and natural systems requires decision-makers to have an ability to translate knowledge and awareness into usable information to colleagues, enabling them to make wise short-term judgments as scientific and local, national, and regional information is improved.

The 21st century challenge to global environmental security will require an unprecedented solidarity of purpose and concert of action from a well-prepared global society. Yet under the current conditions of globalization, we are faced

with the challenge that the complexity of living systems remains beyond full human comprehension. Fragmentation, biodiversity loss, lack of adequate access to water and sanitation, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and increasing poverty are occurring simultaneously. It is not enough to focus singularly on technology, trade and finance, or economic development.

Policy-makers are in a position to decide what to do and when to act based upon available evidence and their beliefs about the risks and benefits of a green economy strategy. Currently, we are using 20th century approaches and models to address 21st century issues. In order to increase the responsive capacity of nation states based upon 21st century models to meet 21st century challenges, then, governance structures for sustainable development must be created as ?learning systems.? This reality also brings to light that the success of outcomes from Rio 2012 depends upon ready engagement and communications within institutions, with the public and private sectors, across fields and new sources of knowledge, and simultaneously on effective, broad-based multi-stakeholder collaborations. More importantly, a successful outcome would be to develop an institutional responsiveness that engages the public as part of a systems-wide strategy to understand what?s working, what?s not, and potential options to address crises within the social-cultural and economic contexts and ecological conditions within each country.

Both at the global level and within nation states, environmental governance is evolving to meet these challenges but the gap between government priorities and what society urgently needs from the UN and the outcomes from Rio 2012 must be crossed more quickly. Only strong flexible mechanisms can bridge the gap leading to a well-informed polity and a well-prepared society.

Therefore at a minimum the new framework for sustainable development requires a vision of cooperative action from local to global and global to local, positioning Environmental Education for Sustainability as a visible action-based priority within the Rio 2012 strategies to greening the economy, eradicating poverty, and strengthening institutional structures to achieve sustainable development.


? Narrow structural learning gaps in a global environmental governance framework

? Engage diverse stakeholders in sustainability

? Build and strengthen governmental capacities based on responsive models of learning

? Integrate ?Knowledge to Action for All Levels of Decision-makers? into Rio+20 processes

? Strengthen and build active engagement and partnerships of all key stakeholders

Recommended Action:

1) Hold informal strategy meetings with delegations and related groups on Environmental Education for Sustainability to develop a clear vision, identify policy mechanisms, and create next steps leading to implementation within the final negotiated outcomes of Rio+20 in June 2012.

2) Ensure sufficient capacity (human, financial, technical, etc.) for efficient implementation of the provisions on Environmental Education for Sustainability in the final outcomes.

3) Craft a concise political declaration from Rio+20 that includes a statement on Environmental Education for Sustainability.

4) Reaffirm the principles in the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, and the instruments subsequently adopted for implementing Agenda 21, including Chapter 36.1, and the JPOI.

5) Utilizing the points in this Concept Note, create a roadmap and global cooperative action integral to achieving the aims and objectives of Rio+20 and the IFSD that centralizes Environmental Education for Sustainability as an essential strategic component to the implementation and actions beyond 2012.

6) Draft new text on education, elaborating on the importance of Environmental Education for Sustainability throughout the final Rio 2012 text and related outcomes such as roadmap(s) and toolkits, and related policy options.

PART II: Confidence Building

Institutional Framework on Sustainable Development (IFSD)


There has been and will continue to be debate and dialogue on what an IFSD should entail. Given the extraordinary challenges and stakes involved in building consensus within UN negotiations on sustainable development [as well as in the successful implementation of negotiated outcomes and their review], it may be useful to consider measures of confidence building. It is with that in mind that the [UN CSD] education community, as in its Concept Note Rio 2012 and Beyond, continues to place emphasis on the framing of policy dialogues that will lead to a well-prepared society.

Thinking about the potential development of and/or setting the stage for furthering the discussion on an IFSD, we read this to mean the following as part of the future form and function of the framework.

The earlier work by the UN and its member states on Environmental Education led to the development of National Strategies, many of which have been revised and/or incorporated into NSDS and Plans of Action, national legislation, and other country-level policies and strategies. The roots of this policy work can be traced directly to the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (A/CONF.48/14/Rev.1), expressed within the 2002 JPOI (A/CONF.199/20), and especially noting that Environmental Education within in the UNCED framework was positioned as part of the underlying foundation of the1992 Rio Declaration, the Principles, Agenda 21 and the mandates that followed, in particular paragraph 36.1 of Chapter 36 (A/CONF.151/26 (vol.1)).

The original intent regarding Environmental Education as a key policy mechanism to advance Agenda 21 has been limited by a sectoral focus on schooling and formal education, training, and communications to transfer or disseminate knowledge. The results on the ground become limited while civil society moves forward creating a serious disconnect for the UN to stay informed and engaged with diverse stakeholders.

The aim: to develop informed political entities and an informed civil society able to participate in and act on principles of sustainability.

The issue: One of the greatest challenges facing the implementation of Agenda 21 within the UN is staying abreast of evolving, strategic approaches to achieving sustainability.

IFSD Challenge: Accordingly, requisites of an IFSD affirm the call for environmental education in its many forms to be built into a wide cross section of implementation strategies. A ?learning systems? model of organization and the proviso that negotiations and agreements of understanding appropriately results in action within communities of decision-makers and practitioners at all levels.

The current approach is to think in terms of providing information, dissemination, creating a clearing house or knowledge exchange that does not engage people in sustainable development or meet the unique conditions of the stakeholders. Thus, reinforcing the twentieth century model of deficit development.

For example, within the negotiation processes on climate change, it is common knowledge the structure is in transition, what is not being discussed in these climate forums funnels back into the more substantive dialogues as resistance, which weakens specific recommendations leading to long-term cooperative action. If the IFSD is to function effectively for the next 3-4 decades to 2050, it will require a 21st century framework that is based upon informed environmental decision-makers within flexible, responsive structures. Questions to think about include, how do we create a framework to make those needed next steps? Examining the proposed institutional framework for Sustainable Development, what is the next step in confidence building? Who else should be engaged in the dialogue on developing a responsive framework to address current and future crises?

To achieve a major shift to a global green economy, long-term answers are needed in order to understand complex concepts such as poverty eradication and develop options based upon synergies. Consequently, three target audiences require strong support and sustained engagement: the business community, the government, and the public. How the framework for sustainable development is conceived to shape the leadership and areas of responsibility within the UN, relationships external to its proceedings are equally significant.

A) Private Sector - In a world of scarce resources

The primacy of sustainable development to management financiers, stockholders, bondholders, product engineers or productivity staff readily focuses on maintaining the ability to earn a living and jobs.

It is, on the other hand, the end-users, the customers, the consumers, the output laborers and service workers who are the primary points of sensitivity to an organization's environmental impacts, both global and local. Customers are the people who experience the reckless consumption of "shared resources" such as air, water, and natural habitats. Laborers are the people of the world who must suffer the impacts, both direct and indirect, of unsafe work environments, workplace pollution and degrading pay and lifestyles.

As our economies around the world are rapidly becoming more global, so is each organization's customer base and employee footprint, including that of the UN.

Historically, organizations (including businesses) have omitted their true consumption of "shared resources" by keeping pollution out of sight or remotely relocated. Today, in contrast, the Internet and millions of camera-equipped cell phones allow most of

the world's people to be "powerfully proximate" and "continuously connected." Suddenly, for the first time in human history there is no hiding place too remote to avoid being documented in near real-time on "the web." The seas of floating trash slowly circling in the Pacific are now viewable on YouTube, as are the melting glaciers of the Arctic.

IFSD Challenge: To encourage and interact with the monitors, observers and reports on the ground, only organizations and institutions of business and government will survive long-term (meaning multiple decades) will be those that are transparent to their customers about their REAL impacts, both economic and environmental. For the first time in history, customers are beginning to decide whether to trust and do business with an organization based upon the organization's integrity and observed behavior. Not what the company's advertising agency or "spin doctor" is pushing. The Internet is revealing the REAL cost of providing goods and services to a base of informed customers who can exercise free choice in how they spend their scarce resources.

B) IEG and SD - Effectively protecting Environmental Systems

The question here is who will ultimately control resource development and its benefits. Most developing country governments react strongly against meddling by international standard setters. Resource rich governments are interested in privatizing their responsibilities by requiring foreign companies to provide health care, education and other basic services to neighboring communities. Ultimately however, privatization does not build "government capacity" or strengthen the hand of disenfranchised people.

Increasingly, government employees responsible for environmental policy, initiatives, strategic planning, laws, finance, integration of sustainable development are less and less required to have the appropriate training and experience regarding ecosystems protection.

IFSD Challenge: To strengthen the move away from the 20th century models that support deficit development as a global strategy. In the lead up to Rio+20 and beyond, identify the next generation of strategies to reinforce development rights. These will require a more nuanced understanding of the political systems that govern resource development together with a deeper understanding of the industries themselves and the human and natural systems they impact. Social performance standards have reached their limitations. If we're serious about supporting global "sustainable development", then the need is to focus on improving economic governance, on strengthening civil society, on increasing government capacity within the context of the protection of ecosystems.

C) Public Engagement

The UN system is committed to public engagement. Therefore thought leaders within the UN will become more and more important as well as the use of evolving open source technologies to engage diverse stakeholders in sustainable development. If the aim of Environmental Education for Sustainability is to:

Create an enabling environment where society at all levels, whether governments, business, academia, civil society organizations, youth, or ordinary people, are knowledgeable concerning the biophysical environment and its associated problems, aware of how to actively participate as an informed environmental decision-maker and motivated to work toward achieving sustainable solutions.

IFSD Challenge: To turn the camera lens slightly to focus the framework on Environmental Education for Sustainability and build the support structures accordingly, including financial mechanisms to ensure a long-term view, which can't be couched in short-term and near term needs. Few programs emphasize the role of civil society in working, both individually and collectively, toward the solution of problems that affect our well being for planetary survival. There is a vital need for an educational approach within and external to the workings of the UN system regarding societies relationship to the total environment, strengthening the balance between the three pillars. The first benchmark for the IFSD will be the measure of Environmental Education for Sustainability as a top priority in terms of form and function.

Recommended Outcome:

1) Develop EE policy mechanisms to reinvigorate a "broad multi-stakeholder platform-based strategy", including a roundtable workshops format (like the 2008 IUCN Barcelona meeting on Environment and Security) to identify not only challenges but also synergies.

2) Build into the work of the policy dialogues on the IFSD, the integrated role of Environmental Education for Sustainability in achieving IEG, coherence, and unity, to advance as well as strengthen sustainable development within the UN.

3) Document and monitor the existing and future policies, legislation and strategies on Environmental Education for Sustainability. The strengths have been evolving and building since the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, it is a simple matter of building upon this success worldwide.

-UNCSD Education Working Group

Contact: P.J. Puntenney

November 2011

Copyright (c) United Nations 2011 | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Contact | Site Map | New