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Number: 67
Year: 1999
Author: Eloísa Trellez Solís and Gustavo Wilches Chaux
Title: Education for a Sustainable Future in the Americas

Education for Participation

In international documents and declarations by Heads of State and Government on sustainable development, as well as among people who carry out field work in close contact with ecosystems and communities, a consensus exists concerning the process of public participation in decision making: broad democratic participation is a requirement on which true sustainability depends.

We understand participation not only as “having a share of something or in something”, according to the dictionary’s conventional definition, but also as “being part of something.” Within the scope of environmental management, therefore, we mean the ability of social actors in a given process to identify and fully acquaint themselves with the process proper, and to experience feelings of belonging, meaning and common purpose. In simple terms, meaningful participation is the ability to assume leadership in a given process of participation.

The effectiveness of participation is determined by the opportunity to influence decision-making processes. All social actors should have access to these opportunities, when decisions affecting them are taken. At the same time, efficient participation requires that those exercising it have access to all relevant information in a timely manner. The right to participation, therefore, is closely linked to the right to information and, thus, to the right to education.

Challenge for the Future
  • To promote educational programs which, through both content and practical method, contribute to developing the means of creating a sustainable society.
  • To develop educational programs that are democratic, participatory, and non-authoritarian, open to dialogue among different bodies of knowledge, and open to the construction of knowledge from a gendered perspective.
  • To transform all forms of education into the setting and school for popular participation. To assess the extent to which educational curricula and teaching practices contribute to preparing individuals with an ability to understand the complexity of the world and to participate actively and responsibly in its transformation.