Following the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit we need to make the case that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be explicitly addressing Early Childhood Education at the same time as we make the broader case for ECE in Education for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the connection between the MDG agenda and the SDG agenda is still not clear to all those early childhood activists who are  involved in ESD. As I see it there is a need right now to emphasise more strongly our shared concerns for child advocacy and the importance of ultimately focusing upon concerns regarding ‘survival’. As long as we ground our current work firmly in concerns regarding children’s survival then it is much clearer that the practical objectives for ESD in the global South are fully consistent with those in the global North. The only real difference is between the very short-term survival objectives we have for children who, for example, in the global South already require support in accessing basic drinking water and hygiene facilities, and those relatively longer term survival needs of children in the global North whose lives are equally threatened by the less immediate effects of climate change etc. As we know, the droughts, floods and famines that we face due to climate change are set to increase in frequency and intensity and plunge the poorest of the world even deeper into poverty.

The Rio+20 Final Outcome document: The Future we Want is very clear in its recognition that the overall and overarching objectives, and the essential requirements for sustainable development are poverty eradication, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development. The document opens with the following three statements of ‘Our Common Vision’:

1. We, the Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives, having met at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 22 June 2012, with the full participation of civil society, renew our commitment to sustainable development and to ensuring the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.

2. Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. In this regard we are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.

3. We therefore acknowledge the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their interlinkages, so as to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions.

Section 248 Reads: “We resolve to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals that is open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly. “

So the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will be shaping the post-2015 development agenda through National Consultation between now and January 2013. The UNDP will issue guidance to UN Country Teams who will carry out the national consultations. The evidence and perspectives generated through these activities will be synthesised so as to feed into the work of the High Level Panel that the UN SG will convene in summer 2012. The co-chairs of this panel have already been appointed and are: Prime Minister David Cameron, President Sirleaf Liberia) and President Yudhoyono (Indonesia). So that we should make a special effort to influence these individuals and the national consultations in these countries if we can…

As many observers have suggested the Rio+20 conference was a great disappointment with its most significant outcome of being to decide to have more conferences to work out how to achieve “The future we want”….But the final report does provide a modest few resources that we can apply in our lobby of national consultative groups. It says:

230. We recognize that the younger generations are the custodians of the future and the need for better quality and access to education beyond the primary level. We therefore resolve to improve the …capacity of our education systems to prepare people to pursue sustainable development, including through enhanced teacher training, the development of sustainability curricula, the development of training programmes that prepare students for careers in fields related to sustainability, and more effective use of information and communications technologies to enhance learning outcomes. We call for enhanced cooperation among schools, communities and authorities in efforts to promote access to quality education at all levels.

232. We emphasize the importance of greater international cooperation to improve access to education, including through building and strengthening education infrastructure and increasing investment in education, particularly investment to improve the quality of education for all in developing countries. We encourage international educational exchanges and partnerships, including the creation of fellowships and scholarships to help achieve global education goals.

233. We resolve to promote education for sustainable development and to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

Ref: United nations (2012) The future we want, Rio+20 Agenda item 10: Outcome of the Conference, United Nations A/CONF.216/L.1

7 thoughts on “Rio+20”

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  3. Concerns regarding the health of children and the health of the environment are intimately interlinked:

    “From long standing hazards to emerging ones, environmental factors are estimated to contribute up to 25% of death and disease globally reaching nearly 35% in some African regions. Children are most vulnerable to the imact of harmful conditions and account for 66% of the victims of environment-induced illnesses.”

    United Nations Environment Programme


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