Press release on the Outcome document of UN Conference on Sustainable Development
Education Working Group at Rio+20, 22 of June 2012, Rio de Janeiro
International and regional civil society networks that form part of the Education Working Group within the framework of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Río+20, hereby express their deep concern on account of the minimum commitments affirmed in the official declaration, in terms of education.
1. We welcome the promise to continue to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) beyond the UN Decade, and the inclusion of the 10 years framework program for education for sustainable consumption and production, as well as the commitment to capacity building. Despite this we believe that the commitments are too timid and brief when compared with the content of the human right to education as expressed in international covenants on human rights and other international agreements in relation to education (CONFINTEA V and VI, EFA, MDG).
2. Although the document mentions the need to reaffirm the commitment to universal primary education and to quality education at all levels (para 229), it fails to recognize that an integral aspect to human rights for all necessarily includes universal access to free education at secondary and tertiary levels too. In addition, the document fails to recognize the need for lifelong learning- including formal, non formal and informal education at all levels- if people are to play a full part in securing sustainable development.
3. While the document underscores the importance of “quality education at all levels” (para 229), it neither commits to concrete actions, nor reiterates the State’s responsibility to overcome all forms of discrimination, thus, reproducing gaps on account of gender, race, ethnicity, geographical location.
4. The document mentions the importance of non-formal education programs for sustainable development, however they are restricted only to young people and the commitment needs to be extended to lifelong learning (para 231).
5. Likewise, it is also necessary to question the contents mentioned in terms of education for sustainable development. It cannot focus exclusively on strategies to understand, accept and adapt to environmental change. It should be holistic, interdisciplinary and include the key dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, environmental and cultural). It should aim at the empowerment of citizens who are aware of their rights and are able to act to transform the production, consumption and distribution patterns of the current development model. In addition to “promoting environmental awareness” (para 231), education must be oriented to citizen mobilization and the construction of development alternatives with social and environmental justice.
6. We register the commitment expressed by governments in promoting research and innovation for sustainable development, committing to the transfer of information and knowledge, including training for work and lifelong learning (para 235) and the development of educational programs to train students in careers related to sustainability (para 230). However, education and research should not be exclusively designed to meet the market needs and the requirements of the old and the new "green" industries. They must focus on engaging communities inclusively; they must be intercultural and promote the social redistribution of knowledge and power, taking into account gender, race, ethnicity, age, different abilities, and sexual orientation, among others.
7. The human right to education must be guaranteed by all States. The agreed transfer to third parties (educational institutions, communities, families, private sector, etc.) of the responsibility to adopt sustainable management practices and integrate them into their curricula and education systems risks intensifying the current education crisis and removes some of the levers that States need to secure that human right.
8. We deplore the instrumental view of education and knowledge oriented to sustainable development and employability promoted by the capitalist model through the green economy. We propose to recover the ethical and political sense of education for the strengthening of democracy and social-economic transformation to ensure decent lives for all individuals.
More generally, we believe that the approach of the official document reinforces the existing development model, based on privatization, economic profit and capital accumulation, without making any reference to the need to reassess the extractive and predatory practices that have led to an unequal distribution of wealth and the destruction of the planet.
We are concerned about the fact that the concept of green economy has been kept in the document with ambiguity and that it still has the risk of the commodification of nature and of the common goods (water, land, air, etc.) as a viable solution to the environmental crisis.
We reject the green economy concept that has the effect of restricting sustainable development to a single minded emphasis on the economic pillar, maintaining the centrality of the capitalist market, bypassing the understanding of the complexity of current crises, and with an increased the role and power for the private sector and the multinational companies.
We reiterate that the genuine construction of the world we want, demands the full realization of human rights. Therefore, we urge States to work together with civil society in this regard, reaffirming the commitment to greater social and environmental justice in which all women and men can live to their full potential.
Link to the official website of the People's Summit at RIO+20.