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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

Recommendations and Action

Bearing this discussion in mind, and understanding that existing socioeconomic structures now threaten the ecosystems on which we depend, while rendering us more vulnerable to the effects of this ecological disequilibrium, governments are beginning to respond. The Ministries of Education, in particular, should demonstrate the political will to assume responsibility for executing necessary changes. Without these adaptations, it will not be possible to convert existing international commitments into reality.

Recommendation 1

Work toward building and communicating clear messages about sustainable development for environmental education.

  • Promote ways to re-examine, interpret, and adapt the principles and commitments established in the “Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education,” held in Tbilisi in 1977, in order to apply them and develop regional and international interpretations. In this context, ensure that the environmental approach for this specific region is further developed and strengthened, and that its contributions to sustainable development are recognized.
  • Contribute to strengthening and expanding the concept and practice of environmental education for sustainable development. To achieve this, it is essential to encourage participatory processes and to reassess our own realities. The environmental crisis, and its manifestations and repercussions in the region, should be analyzed and clarified on this basis.
  • Facilitate the understanding of development as a complex and potentially contradictory process which, if not correctly guided from the standpoint of sustainability, can create dynamic economic and social forces, while simultaneously introducing new risks, which can reduce the quality of life and degrade the natural environment. To avoid these risks, environmental education for sustainable development should study life itself, as a systemic, interdisciplinary, and complex process.
Recommendation 2

Review national education policies, and especially environmental education programs, to channel them in the direction of sustainable development.

  • Infuse the concept of sustainability into educational policies, and ensure that the ethical challenge of replacing destructive competition with cooperation and the search for harmonious coexistence is met; ensure that respect for life is a fundamental value of educational policies.
  • Reinforce the inclusion of environmental education for sustainable development in educational reform as a fundamental pillar of integral education, based on processes and not on single, isolated events. To this end, it is essential to facilitate study based on holistic criteria and to build new bodies of knowledge based on dialogue between what is known and what is unknown among different fields of knowledge and different spheres of life.
  • Redirect educational processes, toward understanding the world as a dynamic and complex whole, as an “interrelated web,” of which we are an active part, and which can lead us to a sustainable future if properly managed. For this purpose, it is important to include environmental issues in educational reform, and to stress courses that encourage instruction in systemic and interdisciplinary approaches to local issues related to sustainable development.
  • Promote content and method in education that provide the fundamental tools necessary to build a society which is democratic, participatory, nonauthoritarian, gender-sensitive, and open to dialogue and new information. Encourage an educational process, which, both in both curriculum and practice, conveys and promotes values of solidarity, and respect for life, diversity, and harmonious coexistence.
  • Through educational policies, promote practices that encourage creation of a participatory culture. Orient education toward training human beings with a capacity to absorb culture critically and to transform it, so that a sustainable future for present and future generations is guaranteed.
  • Ensure that the gender perspective is included in sectoral and institutional policies, and especially in educational reform. Education should now develop sensitivities, which we have been ignored or neglected for cultural reasons. In this regard, environmental education for sustainable development should foster a reassessment of the gendered ways we impart knowledge and relate to one another,
Recommendation 3

Incorporate education into national strategies and plans for sustainable development.

  • Evaluate the real impact of the commitments and statements of Heads of State with regard to sustainable development, and on that basis, determine to what extent commitments have been implemented, and what obstacles have been encountered.
  • Help design criteria for redefining quantitative and qualitative indicators that facilitate planning an evaluation of sustainability, with all its consequences and in all its dimensions.
  • Foster intersectoral and interdisciplinary analysis on local, national, subregional, and regional levels.
  • Systemically coordinate the education sector internally, to promote a shared view development and sustainability, and establish links to other social sectors and agents in order to encourage collaboration.
  • Include in all teacher-training programs principles and practices designed to strengthen and improve understanding of the basic concepts of environmental education for sustainable development, in order to foster their creative application.
  • Foster the design, implementation, and evaluation of educational programs geared specifically to women, with a view to giving them the conceptual, methodological, and technical tools they need to participate actively in management for sustainable development. Prepare them to assume positions of leadership with an understanding of sustainability in their respective spheres of life.
  • Give decisive support to including the concept of participation in all plans, programs, and projects on a national and/or local level, by favoring the creation of space for communities to join in the process of transforming their own communities, taking into account social, cultural, and natural dynamics.
  • Clarify and define policies for including environmental concerns in higher education, so that they can be incorporated transversally into the education process at that level. For this purpose, it is necessary to: a) Convene, through the UNEP’s Environmental Training System for Latin America and the Caribbean, subregional meetings on the role that universities should play in the area of the environment and sustainable development, with a view to organizing subsequently a regional meeting to define lines of action and strategies so that joint action can be taken; and b) Evaluate graduate programs in the region in the area of the environment and sustainable development, in an effort to improve them conceptually and in practice.
Recommendation 4

Increase investment in education and research to advance the cause of sustainable development.

  • Establish mechanisms that encourage and expand investment in education and research, taking into account the concept of sustainability.
  • Channel international assistance funds to strengthen the development of education and research strategies that meet the priorities of the region.
  • Collaborate with cooperation agencies to fulfill the commitments assumed in international agreements and forums.
Recommendation 5

Identify and synthesize innovative educational experiences.

  • Promote strategies to identify, synthesize, and evaluate the diverse environmental education experiences implemented throughout the region with a view to applying the lessons learned to a broader range of policies. scale and to extracting from them inputs needed to design policies.
  • Support recognition of the work done by ethnic and peasant communities in favor of the environment and the promotion of sustainability, for the purpose of designing and implementing strategies to support and sustain these communities. Contribute to efforts designed to evaluate, preserve, communicate, and further develop the knowledge of these communities.
  • Establish a fund to support small local projects which could finance, promote and evaluate a large number of experiences in the field of education for sustainable development.
Recommendation 6

Strengthen public awareness of sustainable development.

  • Make use of the media to communicate educational messages about the environment and sustainable development, and to ensure widespread action that will enhance public awareness and sensitivity to the environment.
  • Encourage the use of new technologies and alternative means of communication to increase public awareness and promote a sense of responsibility towards environmental problems.
  • Using formal, nonformal, and informal education, raise public awareness, with a view to providing the community as a whole with the information needed to develop effective decision-making skills related to the sustainability of households, local culture and resources, and workplaces.
  • Promote the preparation of educational materials on environmental education for sustainable development, at the subregional level.
Recommendation 7

Design specific educational, social service, and environmental programs to strengthen the concepts of community participation and outreach activities and develop work alternatives for military service.

  • Train young people of both sexes in the region to take on the role of sustainable development managers in their different communities.
  • Enlist youth of both sexes in social and environmental projects that can guide them into community outreach activities promoting social, natural, and cultural sustainability.
Recommendation 8

Support and foster regional and subregional cooperation for sustainable development.

  • With the support of UNESCO-OAS, UNEP, and other sources of cooperation, promote the creation of regional or subregional groups to prepare theoretical and practical documents to support the proposals, projects, programs, and plans developed in the field of environmental education for sustainable development at the regional level.
  • Help strengthen the educational process geared to sustainable development in subregional institutions.
  • Promote the creation and operation of a center of excellence for training human resources, research, and instruction in environmental education for sustainable development, both in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in North America.
  • Support events organized to exchange national, subregional, and regional experiences.
Environmental education for sustainability should make it possible to transform education into a vital, positive, appealing, meaningful and significant experience that stimulates creativity and makes it possible to redirect the energy and rebelliousness of youth into projects and activities involved in building a more just, tolerant, equitable, unified, democratic, and participatory society in which people can live with dignity.