SI Sign Joint NGO Statement on Environmental Education

13/05/11

SI recently supported a joint NGO statement written by the Committee on the  Environment, Geneva, drawing attention to the importance of Environmental Education, especially for women and girls who are among the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change. Here is a summary of the statement. To read the full statement, visit the SI Resources page.

This statement, jointly submitted by Organisations in ECOSOC consultative status and reflects discussions facilitated by the NGO Committee on the Environment and of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CoNGO).

We appreciate the constructive work by Member States and the efforts in the various intergovernmental negotiations relating to the urgent problems posed by environmental degradation and the issues of climate change. However, much work still lies ahead.

These last 6 months have seen an intensifying of efforts through the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties on the Convention on Biodiversity that was held last October in Nagoya, Japan, during the 2010 International Year on Biodiversity while now preparatory meetings are being convened for the forthcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa during this International Year of Forests.

With such emphasis on the environment, we consider that environmental education and human rights education related to environmental issues are an important part of the overall environmental agenda. Indeed, at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit environmental education became part of Agenda 21, Chapter 36: promoting education, public awareness and training..

More recently, the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) was launched, with UNESCO as the lead agency. The idea is to "integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning, in order to address the social, economic, cultural and environmental problems we face in the 21st century". Education for Sustainable Development broadens the concept of Environmental Education. 

Already in 2000 did UNESCO endorse the Earth Charter, whose 14th principle is to "Integrate into formal education and lifelong learning the knowledge, values and skills needed for a sustainable way of life", and whose 11th principle "affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care and economic opportunity". The first 3 recommendations (out of 10) of an Earth Charter +10 Conference in India in November 2010 relate to formal and non-formal education.

Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals relates to Environmental Sustainability and it is of note that at the regional level, the UNECE strategy for Education for Sustainable Development was adopted in Vilnius in 2005 "to encourage UNECE member States to develop and incorporate education for sustainable development into their formal education systems, in all relevant subjects, and in non- formal and informal education. This will equip people with knowledge of and skills in sustainable development, making them more competent and confident and increasing their opportunities for acting for a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature and with concern for social values, gender equity and cultural diversity". 

 However, having noticed that the Declarations [on the topic] focus mainly on education on sustainable development and that environmental education is not mentioned, we call on all Member States to make environmental education a reality and focus within the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and their national sustainable development strategies. We also call on all Member States from the UNECE region to recognise and implement environmental education in their Education for Sustainable Development programme at their seventh UNECE Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" which will take place this year in Kazakhstan.  We believe that a healthy and sustainable environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development.

Environmental education concerns women, men, children and indigenous people, and includes the principles of human dignity, inclusion, non-discrimination and equality as well as economic, social, cultural human rights and most notably the Right to Life, Right to Food, the Right to clean drinking water and sanitation, the Right to Health, the Right to Peace.

 Women are the most vulnerable group and have the most to loose as the Environment suffers, and yet women are also the main potential positive actors: caring is one of their core values, e.g. for each others, for future generations and for the larger environment. Girls and women should be the main target group for education in general and environmental education in particular.

To read the full statement, click here.

 

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