National Conference Marking the End of the UN Decade and the Bonn Declaration

© DUK/Jo Hempel

The National Conference marking the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) came to a close on 30 September 2014. The two-day conference brought together some 500 experts to take stock of the UN Decade in Germany. In the jointly adopted Bonn Declaration 2014, they recorded the conference outcomes and looked ahead to the coming Global Action Programme.

The conference – 10 Years of Achievement in the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development in Germany – was organised jointly by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Commission for UNESCO. The event gave participants an overview of the many activities that took place as part of the UN Decade in Germany. In presentations, panel discussions, forums, and 29 workshops on diverse topics, some 500 participating experts analysed the outcomes of the UN Decade and formulated perspectives for 2015 and beyond. International guest speakers extended the field of view beyond Germany’s borders.
The conclusions were overwhelmingly positive.

DUK/Jo Hempel

The initiatives launched by policymakers, business and civil society in the ten years of the UN Decade, it was agreed, meant that ESD was no longer a niche subject in Germany. “The 2,000 or so separate ESD projects recognised during the UN Decade are a great success,” said Walter Hirche, President of the German Commission for UNESCO, on the adoption of the Bonn Declaration 2014. The Decade had proven, he added, that ESD is a particularly effective catalyst for the long-term sustainable development of regions. “The task now is to continue the projects, develop new initiatives and systematically integrated ESD into education and training curricula,” Hirsch said with a view to the years ahead.

Conference participants used the two days in Bonn not only to look back, but also to discuss the coming Global Action Programme on ESD and the catalogue of goals developed by UNESCO. “We shall make a concerted joint commitment to achieving the Global Action Programme goals in Germany in the five years until 2019,” the parties set down in the Bonn Declaration 2014.
Policy support in Germany, including provision of the respective resources, is to be continued and wherever possible intensified. Particular attention is to be paid to ESD-related qualification of education specialists and teachers in all areas of education. A greater say is to be given to youth in national committees and forums concerning implementation of the Global Action Programme. Young people are to be encouraged to use their own initiative to assume responsibility for ESD. Local and regional cooperations between education institutions, local authorities, companies and civil society are to be given suitable support.

DUK/Jo Hempel

Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research, was likewise in Bonn for the conference. She opened the second day of the event with a keynote speech in which she thanked Decade stakeholders for their hard work during the last ten years. The Decade goals, she said, united many who had contributed their ideas and concepts, working together to continuously improve the preconditions for ESD. Much had been achieved, the Minister added, “but there is still very much to be done.” The German Government, she said, plans to continue and step up its commitment to ESD. While the Bonn Conference marks the end of the UN Decade, “This final conference must also be the starting point, the foundation stone for the ongoing development of ESD in the years ahead.”

DUK/Jo Hempel

Further high-ranking speakers at the Conference included Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Sylvia Lörmann, President of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder, and Prof. Gerhard de Haan, Chairman of the German National Committee for the UN Decade.
Closing the conference, Shigeharu Kato, Secretary General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, Alexander Leicht, Chief of the Section of Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO, and Prof. Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair of Education for Sustainable Development, York University, Canada discussed the status and future of ESD at international level.
In a panel entitled “Building a Bridge to Nagoya”, they gave participants at the Bonn conference a preview of plans for the UNESCO World Conference on ESD in November 2014.