At a recent webinar earlier in December, civil society perspectives of the UNESCO framework ‘Education for Sustainable Development: A Roadmap’ were discussed during a session organised by VENRO in partnership with Bridge 47. The role of civil society within this process was touched upon by numerous speakers. 

The framework was presented by Alexander Leicht, Chief of Section (Education for Sustainable Development) UNESCO-Secretariat Paris, who explained that the document is a result of a wide consultation among member states, experts, government organisation and around 100 civil society organisations in an effort to reflect multiple perspectives.  

Leicht acknowledged a strong mandate for SDG Target 4.7 and reflected that this is the first time Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is part of a global comprehensive framework along with Global Citizenship Education and other types of transformative education. The document itself focuses on the idea of “big transformation” and the role of education in generating both the individual and structural transformation in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The concluding remarks looked at recommendations for implementation with the assurance that countries will receive support from UNESCO to implement the ESD framework at a national level. 

Following Leicht, Gundula Bueker of VENRO, presented a civil society response to the UNESCO roadmap including an elaboration on the process that VENRO, with support from Bridge 47 and others, went through to support the creation of the document. The civil society statement on the UNESCO framework is available in full here on the VENRO website. Key ideas from the statement include that ESD is a cross-cutting issue and that civil society is a critical ally when it comes to the implementation of the process. The Bridge 47 input highlighted the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach. 

Rilli Lappalainen, Chair of Bridge 47, opened a panel discussion on ‘ESD as a joint task’ and how to realise a collaborative approach to achieving SDG Target 4.7. The discussion reflected that time is running out and the crucial roles that both government and civil society play in responding with urgency.  During the panel there was further conversation on the positive influence civil society can have when involved in the policy-making process while also raising concerns about the shrinking of space and funding in some regions. 

The UNESCO World Conference on ESD will take place on 17-19 May 2021.