The outcome document from Rio+20, The Future we Want, has something to say about education. Something, but not very much, despite UNESCO apologists' (and the overly-optimistic) talking it up.
This is the education-specific text for which we might have some hopes. I have placed my own brief précis after each paragraph:
229. We reaffirm our commitments to the right to education and in this regard, we commit to strengthen international cooperation to achieve universal access to primary education, particularly for developing countries. We further reaffirm that full access to quality education at all levels is an essential condition for achieving sustainable development, poverty eradication, gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as human development, for the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and for the full participation of both women and men, in particular young people. In this regard, we stress the need for ensuring equal access to education for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, local communities, ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas.
i.e. – Can we have EFA for all this time?
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.
i.e. – Let's continue to try and re-orient education to address sustainability
231. We encourage Member States to promote sustainable development awareness among youth, inter alia by promoting programmes for non-formal education in accordance with the goals of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014.
i.e. – Come on now! Let's all try to take the Decade seriously
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.
i.e. – More and better international links please
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.
i.e. – As one Decade clearly hasn't been enough, let's carry on
234. We strongly encourage educational institutions to consider adopting good practices in sustainability management on their campuses and in their communities with the active participation of, inter alia, students, teachers and local partners, and teaching sustainable development as an integrated component across disciplines.
i.e. – Let's bring campus, community and curriculum together – now that's a bold idea
235. We underscore the importance of supporting educational institutions, especially higher educational institutions in developing countries, to carry out research and innovation for sustainable development, including in the field of education, to develop quality and innovative programmes, including entrepreneurship and business skills training, professional, technical and vocational training and lifelong learning, geared to bridging skills gaps for advancing national sustainable development objectives.
i.e. – Much more (E)SD R&D
That's it! So why so many seemingly sensible people going out of their way to present this as something Earth-moving – as something even worth commenting on. Is there really anything here that didn't come out of the original Rio? Sadly, I recognise much of this in what emerged from (i.e., went into) Tbilisi. Of course, some of the language has changed, but have the ideas?
11. We reaffirm our commitment to strengthen international cooperation to address the persistent challenges related to sustainable development for all, in particular in developing countries. In this regard, we reaffirm the need to achieve economic stability, sustained economic growth, promotion of social equity and protection of the environment, while enhancing gender equality, the empowerment of women and equal opportunities for all, and the protection, survival and development of children to their full potential, including through education.
51. We stress the importance of the participation of workers and trade unions in the promotion of sustainable development. As the representatives of working people, trade unions are important partners in facilitating the achievement of sustainable development, in particular the social dimension. Information, education and training on sustainability at all levels, including in the workplace, are key to strengthening the capacity of workers and trade unions to support sustainable development.
62. We encourage each country to consider the implementation of green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a manner that endeavours to drive sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and job creation, particularly for women, youth and the poor. In this respect, we note the importance of ensuring that workers are equipped with the necessary skills, including through education and capacity-building, and are provided with the necessary social and health protections. In this regard, we encourage all stakeholders, including business and industry, to contribute, as appropriate. We invite governments to improve knowledge and statistical capacity on job trends, developments and constraints and integrate relevant data into national statistics, with the support of relevant United Nations agencies within their mandates.
109. We recognize that a significant portion of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and that rural communities play an important role in the economic development of many countries. We emphasize the need to revitalize the agricultural and rural development sectors, notably in developing countries, in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner. We recognize the importance of taking the necessary actions to better address the needs of rural communities through, inter alia, enhancing access by agricultural producers, in particular small producers, women, indigenous peoples and people living in vulnerable situations, to credit and other financial services, markets, secure land tenure, health care, social services, education, training, knowledge and appropriate and affordable technologies, including for efficient irrigation, reuse of treated wastewater and water harvesting and storage. We reiterate the importance of empowering rural women as critical agents for enhancing agricultural and rural development and food security and nutrition. We also recognize the importance of traditional sustainable agricultural practices, including traditional seed supply systems, including for many indigenous peoples and local communities.
114. We resolve to take action to enhance agricultural research, extension services, training and education to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability through the voluntary sharing of knowledge and good practices. We further resolve to improve access to information, technical knowledge and know-how, including through new information and communications technologies that empower farmers, fisherfolk and foresters to choose among diverse methods of achieving sustainable agricultural production. We call for the strengthening of international cooperation on agricultural research for development.
152. We recognize that workers should have access to education, skills, health care, social security, fundamental rights at work, social and legal protections, including occupational safety and health, and decent work opportunities. Governments, trade unions, workers and employers all have a role to play in promoting decent work for all, and all should help young people to gain access to needed skills and employment opportunities, including in new and emerging sectors. Women and men should have equal access to opportunities to acquire job skills as well as to worker protections. We recognize the importance of a just transition, including programmes to help workers adjust to changing labour market conditions.
153. We also recognize that informal unpaid work, performed mostly by women, contributes substantially to human well-being and sustainable development. In this regard, we commit to work towards safe and decent working conditions and access to social protection and education.
178. We reaffirm that small island developing States remain a special case for sustainable development in view of their unique and particular vulnerabilities, including their small size, remoteness, narrow resource and export base, and exposure to global environmental challenges and external economic shocks, including to a large range of impacts from climate change and potentially more frequent and intense natural disasters. We note with concern that the outcome of the five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy concluded that small island developing States have made less progress than most other groupings, or even regressed, in economic terms, especially in terms of poverty reduction and debt sustainability. Sea-level rise and other adverse impacts of climate change continue to pose a significant risk to small island developing States and their efforts to achieve sustainable development, and for many represent the gravest of threats to their survival and viability, including for some through the loss of territory. We also remain concerned that, while small island developing States have progressed in the areas of gender, health, education and the environment, their overall progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven.
241. We are committed to promote the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities and health-care services, including addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health, and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning. In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to implement the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the key actions for the further implementation of that Programme of Action.
All fine, of course, but there is nothing here that need detain us. Save, perhaps, that we might be grateful (again) that education & training get as many mentions as they do, even if much of it sounds, once again, rather instrumental.