The World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development pursued four main objectives:

1.     To highlight the essential contribution of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to all of education and to achieving quality education

Why is ESD relevant?

ESD, which is relevant to all types, levels and settings of education, is an approach to teaching and learning based on the ideals and principles that underlie sustainability. Since ESD engages with such key issues as human rights, poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, climate change, gender equality, corporate social responsibility, protection of indigenous cultures in an integral way, it constitutes a comprehensive approach to quality education and learning. By dealing with the problems faced by humanity in a globalized world, ESD will shape the purposes and content of all education in the period ahead; ESD is, indeed, education for the future.

The World Conference will draw out the relevance of ESD to education as a whole and its importance for improving the quality of education while attaining Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals. Moreover, it will seek ways to move ESD further from the margins into the centre of all education.

2.     To promote international exchange on ESD

What can we learn from each other?

All sustainable development programmes, including ESD, must consider the three spheres of sustainability – environment, society and economy, with culture as an underlying dimension.  Because ESD addresses the local contexts of sustainability, it will take many forms around the world.

The World Conference provided an excellent opportunity to share experiences, best practices and views on ESD from around the world. The question of how ESD can meet different regional, national and local as well as global needs were addressed. Examples of good practice from all over the world played an important role in identifying viable approaches to ESD.

3.     To carry out a stock-taking of DESD implementation

What have we achieved so far, what are the lessons learnt?

The empirical results as well as the global and regional reports from the first Monitoring and Evaluation exercise - currently being carried out by UNESCO - provided input into discussions on the implementation of the Decade. The successes so far were celebrated and presented while obstacles encountered and lessons learned were also discussed.

4.     To develop strategies for the way ahead

Where do we want to go from here?

It is important that the analysis of implementation so far and the identification of past and emerging challenges and opportunities leads to the development of new strategies, ensuring the further implementation of the Decade in its second half. Strategies for the way forward may include, among others: the further integration of ESD in educational policies, plans and programmes; the mobilization of more resources for ESD; the establishment of effective partnerships (especially through North-South and South-South cooperation) and the inclusion of stakeholders not involved in implementing the Decade so far. Emerging sustainable development issues and the educational responses to them will also be discussed in this context.