Rio+20 Has Officially Begun
Earlier this morning the official opening of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) occurred amid dreams, hopes and disappointment. The watering down of the language to achieve greater levels of agreement has resulted in a many NGOs rejecting the document and declaring the conference a failure. Other have continued to point to the commitments that have been saved, particularly those that reaffirm previous environmental and human right declarations, as a sign of success.
With respect to the efforts of the higher education sustainability associations, here is a quote from Leanne Denby, President of the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (who were the lead in the Aiming Higher side event): The side event went well, and we pulled a decent crowd despite the lateness of the evening. There appeared to be general consensus from the delegates that tertiary education does play a critical role in realising sustainable development, but needs to be supported with the active participation of business, government and youth. In particular, tertiary education needed to stop teaching 'unsustainability', and ensure the research it undertook went towards finding solutions to ongoing environmental and social issues. I just received the following comment from Harriet Sjerps Jones who serves on the Board of Directors of our UK partner, Environmental Association of Colleges and Universities (EAUC): In the released final outcome document draft, 229-235 sections are allocated to education and "higher educational institutions" are mentioned in section 235. I am sure that our concerted efforts definitely affected the final draft.
For those of you who would like to see where the discussions started today, the final draft can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/19/rio-20-future-we-want-... .
Below is the excerpt that Harriet referenced:
229. We reaffirm our commitments to the right to education and in this regard, we commit to strengthen international cooperation to achieve universal access to primary education, particularly for developing countries. We further reaffirm that full access to quality education at all levels is an essential condition for achieving sustainable development, poverty eradication, gender equality and women's empowerment as well as human development, for the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals, as well as for the full participation of both women and men, in particular young people. In this regard, we stress the need for ensuring equal access to education for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, local communities, ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas.
230. We recognize that the younger generations are the custodians of the future, as well as the need for better quality and access to education beyond the primary level. We therefore resolve to improve the capacity of our education systems to prepare people to pursue sustainable development, including through enhanced teacher training, the development of curricula around sustainability, the development of training programmes that prepare students for careers in fields related to sustainability, and more effective use of information and communication technologies to enhance learning outcomes. We call for enhanced cooperation among schools, communities and authorities in efforts to promote access to quality education at all levels.
231. We encourage Member States to promote Sustainable Development awareness among youth, inter alia, by promoting programmes for non-formal education in accordance with the goals of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
232. We emphasize the importance of greater international cooperation to improve access to education including through building and strengthening education infrastructure, increasing investment in education particularly investment to improve the quality of education for all in developing countries. We encourage international educational exchanges and partnerships, including the creation of fellowships and scholarships to help achieve global education goals.
233. We resolve to promote Education for Sustainable Development and to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).
234. We strongly encourage educational institutions to consider adopting good practises in sustainability management on their campuses and in their communities with the active participation of inter alia students, teachers, and local partners, and teaching sustainable development as an integrated component across disciplines.
235. We underscore the importance of supporting educational institutions, especially higher educational institutions in developing countries, to carry out research and innovation for sustainable development, including in the field of education, to develop quality and innovative programmes, including entrepreneurship and business skills training, professional, technical, vocational training and lifelong learning, geared to bridging skills gaps for advancing national sustainable development objectives.
News junkies will be pleased to see that there is a wealth of international coverage and some stories are starting to emerge here in the US and Canada. If you want a running commentary see the blog at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jun/20/rio-20-earth-summit-live-blog.
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