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We should review the Major Groups chapters of Agenda 21 and add new relevant stakeholders

What was very important about the nine chapters of Agenda 21 which established the Major Groups. These being Women, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, Trade Unions and Workers, Local Authorities, Science and Technology and Business and Industry is that they gave rights and responsibilities. These in 1992 represented the sections of society that woudl play a significant role in implementing Agenda 21. 

In 1994 the Education community suggested they should be the 10th Major Group and developed an example of what their chapter might look like if governments wanted to add them as a Major Group. 

I think the High Level Political Forum in collaboration with stakeholders  should establish equivalent chapters/text for what would be the relevant stakeholders for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Below I share with you what the Education Community developed in 1994 under the leadership of Trevor Harvey and John Smyth. 

Proposed New Chapter for Agenda 21



The successful implementation of Agenda 21 programmes is dependent on the cooperation of citizens who understand what sustainable development means in terms of their everyday lives and who are both able and willing to participate in shaping a sustainable future. The education community has a critical role to play in supporting the individual and group learning that will enable people to live and work in ways that are more socially, environmentally, economically and politically sustainable than at present.

For the purposes of this paper the education community includes everyone who has an educational role. Responsible citizenship for sustainability is underpinned by general awareness, specific knowledge, understanding, skills and values developed in many different learning situations (home, work, schools, communities etc). A wide diversity of individuals and groups who have educational roles are involved. They range from parents, cultural and religious groups and the whole spectrum of civil society organisations (which includes many non-governmental organisations), to schools, colleges, universities, training agencies and their stakeholders – including teachers and educational policy makers – to corporate groups, the media, local and national government and governmental agencies.

This chapter proposes the establishment of an Education 21 initiative to place responsible citizenship for sustainability high on the education community’s agenda for the 21st century.


(a)        By 2003 all countries should ensure that their national round tables/panels for sustainable development or similar groups have appropriate representation from the education community.

(b)        By the end of 2004 an appropriate UN agency should have facilitated a process to update the Declaration Recommendations of the Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education (Tblisi, former Soviet Union 1977) to reflect the breadth of sustainable development agenda, and in particular its ethical, social and cultural dimension. The updated Declaration and Recommendations for education for sustainability should inform the review of Agenda 21, Chapter 36 in particular, and provide a starting point for Education 21 programme development.

(c)        During 2005 countries should establish a national Education 21 working group of appropriate representatives from the education community to work alongside existing national round tables or panels for sustainable development to enable the development of Education 21 programmes. This group should act as a catalyst and foster a sense of common purpose in relation to Education 21 across the education community. It should also provide a focus for international enquiry, cooperation and action.

(d)        By the end of 2006, prompted and encouraged by the national Education 21 working groups, organisations with an educational role should have consulted with their stakeholders to share ideas and listen to different perspectives on how to engage with the challenge posed by Education 21. All people participating in this process should be considering how they need to reform themselves and what they can contribute to Agenda 21 initiatives. This consultation should raise awareness of the importance of education in meeting Agenda 21 objectives and encourage the development, adoption and continuous evaluation of Education 21 programmes.

(e)        Within the year 2007 most countries should have published and launched their Education 21 support strategies, designed to encourage the continued development of a diversity of programmes to enable responsible citizenship for sustainability.

(f)        By the end of 2008, most organisations and informal groups within the education community should have established operational Education 21 programmes.


Recognising that international organisations, countries and institutions will develop their own priorities and schedules for implementation, the following broad areas of activity are proposed.

Meeting Basic Learning Needs

Countries should aim to implement the recommendations of the World Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs (Jomtien Thailand, 1990) if they have not already done so. Sustainable livelihood themes could be used as vehicles for developing basic literacy and numeracy. Basic literacy is not a fundamental prerequisite for education for sustainability – people who cannot read can both teach and learn about sustainable development practice. Nevertheless, basic literacy strengthens education for sustainability as do other basic skills that people require to participate in democracy.

Establishing an Inclusive Education Framework

Countries should mobilise and strengthen their education frameworks so that they can integrate both formal and informal approaches and reach out to old and young, rich and poor, male and female, employed and unemployed, literate and illiterate to enable wide ranging public support for sustainable development. Ways of improving public outreach should be developed using modern communication technologies and creative approaches. This activity should draw on the expertise of the media, religious organisations and entertainment and advertising industries to challenge public behaviour and consumption patterns and to encourage responsible citizenship for a sustainable lifestyle.

Re-orienting Education Practice

Increasing access to education does not automatically increase access to education for sustainability. Current educational practice should be reoriented to incorporate sustainable development principles. Policies and strategies should be developed or strengthened to ensure that opportunities for learning to live sustainably occur in both formal and informal education. Governments and non-governmental organisations should encourage communication between all education providers and the development of a sense of common purpose in relation to Education 21.

Contributing to Agenda 21 Initiatives

An immediate priority is to ensure that Agenda 21 initiatives are supported by education for sustainability. Communication between those involved in the implementation of Education 21 and Agenda 21 objectives should be encouraged, for example through local, regional, national and international meetings, conferences and briefing papers on Education 21 for major groups.

Monitoring and Evaluating Education 21

Governments and NGOs should submit a joint annual Education 21 report to the CSD. Each report should include a summary of support available, key players and actions taken by the education community. Evaluation should be a dynamic and continuous process, which should be evident in countries’ annual reports. It should involve regular reflection on the type of actions, the process of taking actions and whether the actions taken meet with Agenda 21 objectives. Appropriate adjustments should be made whenever necessary.

Strengthening International Networking

Networks should be developed that include international agencies such as UNESCO, UNEP, UNDP, IUCN and other relevant organisations to provide international support for Education 21 programmes. The aim of networking should be to facilitate communication, cooperation and exchange of good ideas and practice relating to education for sustainability between institutions and organisations within the global education community. The networks should also have a role addressing some resource issues, for example, where lack of educational materials in some countries limits the development of Education 21 programmes.


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