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Environmental Education / Sector Overview

Environmental education is a multi-disciplinary field, forming public environmental awareness, values and skills through which people and the whole society participate in the improvement and the protection of the environment. 

In 70-ies last century the international society started studies on possible role of environmental education, as a tool to address global environmental and development problems. The international vision for environmental education (EE) was first described in Belgrade 1975 Charter, which sets goals, objectives, and guiding principles of environmental education programs and defines an audience for environmental education (UNESO_UNEP, 1975). 

These considerations found further development at the Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education (ICEE) in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1977. The Tbilisi Declaration was adopted at the close of the intergovernmental conference. The Tbilisi Declaration constitutes the framework for environmental education at all levels—local, national, regional, and international—and for all age groups both inside and outside the formal school system. Besides, the environmental education was clearly defined as an “educational process, which helps social groups and individuals acquire an awareness and sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems, acquire the skills for identifying and solving environmental problems, help social groups and individuals acquire a set of values and feelings of concern for the environment and the motivation for actively participating in environmental improvement and protection, and acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, and practical skills to participate in a responsible and effective way in anticipating and solving environmental problems” (UNESCO-UNEP, 1978). Alongside with environmental education, "sustainable development" in its broadest sense is becoming increasingly important. According to the UN funded Brundtland Commission "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (UNWCED, 1987). It relates to many activities and covers a variety of sectors.

During recent decade the two concepts – of environmental education and sustainable development – merged, and it is denoted by the term "Education for sustainable development" (ESD). According to United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the education for sustainable development broadens the concept of environmental education with a view of “developing as a broad and comprehensive concept, encompassing interrelated environmental, economic and social issues” (UNECE, 2005). Currently “Education for Sustainable development” is internationally acknowledged as fundamental strategy for sustainable development. 

The UN General Assembly declared 2005-2014 “The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” (DESD) (UNESCO, 2005). Many international and national organizations developed the strategies and action plans to implement the education for sustainable development. 

Environmental education supports and enhances the education for sustainable development. In 2012 (6-7 September) an intergovernmental conference –  “Tbilisi+35 – environmental education for sustainable development” – took place in Tbilisi. The conference was organized at the invitation of Georgian Government in partnership with UNESCO and UNEP, and representatives of 98 governments, and nongovernmental organizations participated in it. The conference once again called on all countries to put more effort on environmental education for sustainable development. The conference issued a Communiqué that outlines a new global environmental education agenda to be supported by the UN and the governments. The interrelation between environmental education and education for sustainable development is fully comprehended in different regions of the world. The Communiqué provisions about education for sustainable development acknowledge that environmental education is essential in terms that is set forth in Tbilisi Declaration. 

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