Sandra Oliveira

World leaders adopted the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development in May 2021: after such a cross sectorial recognition of SDG Target 4.7 as “the foundation for the required transformation”, what is still missing? What are the resources needed to make Target 4.7 a global reality?

Looking over the policy landscape connected to the Agenda 2030 globally, there is still very little space dedicated to achieving SDG Target 4.7. In other words, there is not enough policy space for the substantial change needed in education systems - and the recognition for non-formal and informal learning, or the lifelong learning set of skills that prepare citizens for an unpredictable and fast-paced changing future.  

The publication “Resources for the Sustainable Development Goals Target 4.7” provides a global overview and identification of the types of resources required to achieve such a target - and the missing resources. The publication departs from the call for action which the participants of the Envision 4.7 conference formulated as follows: “sufficient resources (...) include prioritisation of target 4.7., dedicated and adequate funding, appropriate technology and the development of relevant capacities and capabilities.” 

Which resources have to be in place?

Resources are finite, whether they are human, financial or other types of resources. Agenda 2030 embodies this confrontation with the finitude of resources and our planetary ecosystems. It is an ultimate call for all UN member states to achieve sustainable development and avoid the irreparable effects that the climate crisis and injustice can have on our Planet.

Solely financial investment in a transformative education remains far from the 3% of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) recommended by OECD, UN and the 2005 European Consensus on Development. Target 4.7 is universal and levels of investment allocated to promoting the broad transformative education agenda are not traceable, given that indicators have not been agreed upon nor operationalised. Even in most European countries, there is little evidence of Ministries of Education, Culture, Social Affairs and Foreign Affairs contributing resources to transformative education. 

Globally, investment in education is seen as a priority for all governments and citizens. But transformative education practitioners feel that much is still to be done to urgently mobilise the policies and resources needed to achieve the SDGs. These priorities seem to have come to a stand still in face of the complex strategies, alliances, policy decisions and accountability tools required to implement the SDGs. 

There are nevertheless large numbers of resources available and ready to support a more holistic, transformative form of learning. The publication describes and provides global examples of A. Financial resources; B. Structures that need to be mobilised; C. Competences frameworks to adapt to an unpredictable future; D. Tools and materials needed to support transformational education; E. (Human) Resources and mechanisms required to facilitate global dialogue; F. Advocacy structures and efforts for sustainability; G. A values-based transformative communication, setting ethics as a priority.

Having set this panorama, the fundamental question is: what are the existing gaps in resources for SDG Target 4.7 and how can they be addressed? 

Gaps and recommendations

The last section of the publication summarises ways to address the existing gaps in resources. It is aimed predominantly at decision makers, although many of these recommendations are just as applicable to civil society and the whole community of practitioners, educators and learners. The identified gaps:

  1. The first gap to address is the lack of perspective, sometimes a denial, in face of the grim forecasts for life on our planet. It is key to acknowledge this incoherence, promoting a wider discussion and setting the scene for fundamental democratic mechanisms and coherent strategies to be put into place. 
  2. This requires, in such a polarised world, bridging the social, political, economic, and even existential gaps, making the most of every window of opportunity for change. 
  3. Given that the SDGs are not an easily communicable framework, advocacy efforts need to be more rooted, more humane and more engaging. 
  4. The gap in financial resources requires the dismantling of economic ‘myths’ and the mainstreaming of alternative strategies which re-centre the planet and the environment in our lives. 
  5. This means decision makers at all levels need to set in place the metrics and indexes for a real economy of wellbeing, based on dialogue and inclusion.
  6. Thus, public policies across sectors need to embody a holistic perspective, built on dialogue and cooperation, and coherent in their quest for sustainable development. 
  7. This requires a change from business and work ethics into a ‘life ethics’, moving away from “current models of education.

A set of four main recommendations to policy-makers and other stakeholders, at all levels, conclude the publication.

i. Resources for SDG Target 4.7 need to go beyond money, to include time, human resources, tools, appropriate technology and the development of relevant capacities and capabilities.

ii. Policies that support the channelling of resources towards SDG Target 4.7 need to be coherent and collaborative, in order to achieve policy coherence for SDG Target 4.7 and place transformative education higher on the agenda.

iii. Long-term commitments and investments. Funders and institutions need to support evidence-based research on the impact of existing transformative education projects and tools and adopt the findings into their funding and education systems.

iv. Investments in human resources and space (funding, time, mental space and other capacities), including via facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue and partnerships with all relevant stakeholders engaged in transformative learning. This can provide a good space for discussing policy change for SDG Target 4.7.

Sandra Oliveira is the author of Bridge 47's research papers on Resources for SDG Target 4.7


About the Author

Sandra Oliveira

Sandra Oliveira is based in Lisbon where she manages cooperative 4Change (NGDO). With a communication and anthropology background, and 18 years experience in global citizenship and participatory processes, much of her work is concerned with facilitation of learning, C4D tools, and action research.