A Prime Mover Project
In the Asia Cooperation Dialogue of Japan Environmental Education
- Toward the Implementation of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development -
Tokyo, 8 June 2004
- The meeting was convened on the basis of a Japanese proposal within the framework of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Thailand in June 2003 as a prime mover project to provide an opportunity for government officials, experts, educators, members of NGOs and representatives of international organizations to have a frank exchange of information and views on environmental education.
- In December 2002, based on the proposal made by Prime Minister Koizumi at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in the same year, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2005 to 2014 as the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). Governments around the world are now invited to integrate education for sustainable development in their respective educational strategies and action plans. Against this background this meeting was organized as part of the process leading to the UNDESD.
- 16 Asian countries represented by government officials, members of the embassies, a municipal government, NGOs, researchers, a private corporation, and representatives of relevant international organizations participated in the meeting. Japanese Senior Vice-Ministers for Foreign Affairs and of the Environment, Mr. M. Abe and Dr. S. Katoh respectively as well as Mr. H. Hase, Parliamentary Secretary of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, addressed the opening session.
- During the course of the meeting there were country reports and a community report as well as reports on the activities of international organizations, NGOs, and a private corporation. The meeting had an intensive and interactive discussion, and participants found the dialogue to be an important process leading to the Implementation of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
The meeting started with a visit to the Clean Center of the Musashino City and participants were introduced to the environmental education of the local community. A report on NGOs' environmental education in Asia was also made from the academia. Government representatives reported on the present situation of environmental education in their respective countries. Representatives of international organizations made presentation on the implementation of the UNDESD. NGOs explained their various activities. There was also a report on the environmental education in a private corporation. Participants expressed their appreciation for the kind arrangements made by the Musashino City.
- Concerning the basic principles and ideas on the environmental education, participants expressed the following views:
(1) Environmental protection together with social and economic development constitute three pillars of sustainable development, and environmental education is critically important for sustainable development.
(2) Environmental education should aim at understanding in a holistic manner the relationships between human beings and nature, between yourself and your immediate environment, so that a community-based approach can play an increasingly important role.
(3) The first step in this process should be to recognize the seriousness of environmental deterioration resulting from unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, and the need to change lifestyle through reduction, reuse and recycling.
(4) Asian tradition of respect and awe for nature and life in harmony with nature must be brought to bear upon the educational process.
(5) Sense of ownership and commitment should be inculcated and strengthened in the minds of people at all ages and in all walks of life, including consumers, producers, educators, administrators, law makers, and statesmen.
(6) Environmental education must be country-specific or community-specific, taking into account different conditions and circumstances.
- With regard to various activities to enhance understanding and awareness as well as sense of ownership and commitment, participants emphasized among many others the following points:
(1) Formal and non-formal education. Formal education includes out-of-school education such as field experiences. Non-formal education can be effectively conducted in partnership with governments, both central and local, and includes distant learning and in-company environmental education for workers.
(2) Capacity building and training, also for teachers of environmental education.
(3) Awareness campaign, which can take many forms such as seminars, exhibitions, contests, and Environment Day.
(4) Social recognition and support, such as award for outstanding services and social recognition for the role and activities of NGOs. With regard to NGOs, their strengths and weaknesses were analyzed and suggestions made for their empowerment.
(5) Recognition of importance of the role of local governments and improving their capacity to promote environmental education at the community level.
- With regard to the institutional framework for environmental education, participants pointed out the importance of the following measures:
(1) Formulation of a national plan of action or national strategy based on the study of the present situation and the setting of priorities. International organizations, especially UNESCO, has an important role to play in helping countries to make such a national plan with a certain timetable. Views from NGOs and other stakeholders should also be duly taken note of in this regard.
(2) Monitoring, where feasible in quantifiable terms, and evaluation or assessment of performances to urge governments to take further measures and also to encourage the people acting in an environmentally friendly way to strengthen their efforts.
(3) Dissemination and exchange of information, especially objective data, and knowledge, as well as sharing of best practices.
(4) Formation of partnerships and networks to gain broadest possible participation.
(5) Establishing focal points at the national level, whether governmental or non-governmental, to collect and disseminate information and to coordinate domestic efforts.
- International and regional cooperation should in the view of participants aim at:
(1) Building some focal points. Ideas, such as centers of excellence, a steering committee, Asian Environmental Education Center were suggested.
(2) Forming networks for exchange of information, experience and knowledge. Existing networks and internet communication should be utilized to the maximum extent possible.
(3) Organizing regional workshops and meetings.
(4) Coordinating with the other on-going international efforts such as Education for All (EFA) and the UN Literacy Decade (UNLD).
- With regard to the Education for Sustainable Development, participants expressed the view that it is still at the formative stage and pointed out the need to translate it into operational terms with a view to reorienting existing educational programs. In this regard, an expectation is expressed that participants of this meeting constitute the nucleus of regional cooperation and work together for the forthcoming UNDESD. On the occasion of this meeting, a full list of participants with their names, organizations, addresses including E-mails was compiled for the purpose of making further contacts.
* This summary was drafted on the responsibility of the chairman Mr. M. Konishi, Ambassador for Global Environment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
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