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Gustavo Lopez Ospina, Director of UNESCO, introduced a panel discussion on the role of education in sustainable development. The panel was chaired by Aleksandra Kornhauser (Slovenia), International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, and Director of the International Center for Chemical Studies, Ljubljana.

Madeleine Kunin, Deputy Secretary of Education, United States, said the issues of education and the environment were fundamental to survival. She welcomed the Delors report from the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century and underlined the need to invest in education in all countries. She reviewed US initiatives including the GLOBE project, which involves students, teachers, and scientists in 33 countries with 3000 children collecting data related to sustainable development, and communicating with each other across the world. Lubomir Nondek, Director of Environmental Strategies, Ministry of Environment, Czech Republic, outlined recommendations from an international workshop on public awareness on sustainable development, including: development of national guidelines for sustainable development education; government cooperation with major groups on compiling information; and a role for UN agencies and NGOs in disseminating ideas.

Margarita Botero, Former Director General for the Environment, Colombia, and member of the Brundtland Commission, said the most critical issues facing humanity today were born of a crisis in values and posed questions about the kind of society we have constructed. She noted that education would be a key response and that not all current facts and concepts will remain valid in the new century. A new recognition of the importance of values in education will be required. She cited the Commission’s concern with the persistent inequalities in access to education and called for a democratization of knowledge. Aleksandra Kornhauser introduced the findings of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century. The Commission adopted a concept of development based on quality requiring a combination of knowledge and values in the pursuit of wisdom. The 21st century will be one of quality: wealth and productivity will have to be redefined. This will be made possible if life-long education is understood as a major force for socio-economic development, a human need and human right.

A youth representative highlighted the role of young people in disseminating the knowledge passed on to them by their teachers. An example of peer education in India was outlined. The UN Environment and Development-UK Committee supported a proposal for a major program of work by governments, major groups, educators and the UN system, with the title “Education 21,” linked to Agenda 21.

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