development program tall order
KYOTO -- Next
year marks the start of the U.N. mandated Decade of Education for
Sustainable Development -- an ambitious program pushed by UNESCO to
promote international resource development that is socially
desirable, economically viable, culturally appropriate and
However, the broad goals and lack of international consensus on
how best to achieve them have many questioning if the program will
"Getting the word out and educating people on the goals and
purposes of sustainable development is our greatest challenge. In
many parts of Asia, where computer technologies are unknown and
where indigenous peoples live, there are also numerous logistical,
linguistic and cultural barriers to such education," said Derek
Elias, an official with UNESCO's Bangkok office.
Elias, who was attending the Sept. 25-26 Peace as a Global
Language conference at the Ritsumeikan International Peace Museum in
Kyoto, said education efforts will focus on a number of themes,
including development of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity,
and issues over gender, health, poverty and water.
In March, UNESCO's Asia and Pacific regional bureau for education
will meet in Seoul to present a report on how to promote sustainable
development in Asia.
"Currently, there is a sample of about 20 Asian countries that we
are using as a base for discussions related to the region. Japan is
expected to play the leading role in promoting and supporting such
educational programs by providing funding and technological
assistance," Elias said.
While UNESCO will be the lead agency in promoting the decade's
goals and will play a major role in implementing them, Elias also
stressed that a broad range of partners, from governments to the
private sector, will also be involved.
"The sheer diversity of the issues involved means that . . . many
groups and organizations will be needed to make the decade a
success," he said.
It's that sheer diversity that has many critics charging that the
goals of the decade are unrealistic. The Seoul meeting is only six
months away and concrete proposals are expected to be presented at
"There are still a lot of questions remaining about the
implementation of educational policy at the national government
level, especially about how governments with diverse ethnic,
linguistic and religious groups can meet the goals of the decade.
Time is running short, and I hope that, by next March, we have some
regional consensus on these questions," Elias said.
The Japan Times: Oct. 5, 2004