Learning cities and Education for Sustainable Development

22 May 2018

Since its endorsement by the UNESCO General Conference in 2013 as a follow-up to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, the Global Action Plan (GAP) has implemented actions in five key areas: advancing policy, transforming learning and training environments, building capacities of educators and trainers, empowering and mobilizing youth, and accelerating sustainable solutions at local level. With regard to the latter, the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) has played a major role: more than145 local authorities, municipalities and communities in 68 countries are part of the network, and consequently have the opportunity to share solutions to strengthen lifelong learning and achieve sustainable development.

The UNESCO GNLC recently organized meetings in all regions of the world to promote lifelong learning and sustainability in cities. Hamburg (Germany), Villa María (Argentina), New Delhi (India), Nairobi (Kenya) and Aswan (Egypt) hosted these meetings and provided platforms for regional cooperation. ESD was also central to the 2017 International Conference on Learning Cities, where workshops focused on the enhancement of ESD in cities and communities. Workshop participants analysed the pivotal role played by local administrations in achieving the SDGs and developing lifelong learning initiatives. The UNESCO GNLC is also developing a video tutorial featuring concrete ways to promote, implement and achieve ESD at the local level.

The current Global Action Plan (GAP) framework ends in 2019. This is why, in an effort to define future directions, over 80 GAP key partners came together in San José, Costa Rica, from 25 to 27 April 2018, to discuss the way forward.

During the meeting in Costa Rica, GAP key partners identified a number of directions to implement ESD at the local level, including:

  • building capacities of local communities to implement ESD and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • developing training tools, methodologies and documenting good practices to help integrate ESD into policies, programmes and initiatives;
  • promoting ESD for all ages, through multiple modes/settings and by involving all concerned sectors.

The post-GAP vision for 2020–2030 recognizes the centrality of ESD to achieve the SDGs. A concrete plan will be developed for discussion with Member States in Bangkok, Thailand, in July this year.