Press Releases

    SG/SM/9291
                                                                                                                            ENV/DEV/781
                                                                                                                            5 May 2004

    Secretary-General, in Message to Consultation on Education for Sustainable Development, Stresses Learning from Childhood to University

    NEW YORK, 4 May (UN Headquarters) -- The following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s video message to the International Consultation on Education for Sustainable Development, in Göteborg, Sweden, from 4 to 7 May:

    The subject of your meeting is one that should deeply concern us all:  the future of our one and only planet.

    As you know well, the world is full of poor people, who have a right to share in the prosperity of the fortunate few.  But the lives of those fortunate few are full of habits which are unsustainable, especially if all the world’s people were to share them.

    So every country, and every individual, has a responsibility to change -- to move from exploiting the environment to looking after it.  That transition need not wait for tomorrow's breakthroughs.  We have the science, and the green technologies, to begin right now.

    We know what policies are needed to fight global warming, to defeat hunger and disease, and to promote balanced growth.  What we must find is the will, and the resources, to put them into practice.  Those policies may seem expensive, but the cost of continuing on our present path will be far greater.  So we must make sure that people learn about sustainable development at every level of their education -- from early childhood to university.  That means going beyond traditional environmental education.  Development must be sustainable not only ecologically, but socially and economically, too.

    Governments, corporations, and individuals need to understand the links between these different kinds of sustainability.  And they need to understand the changes that we will all have to make in our life-styles to achieve safer and fairer development.  That is why the United Nations General Assembly has decided that the next 10 years should be a “decade of education for sustainable development”.

    It is wonderful that so many concerned citizens, from all over the world, have come together in Göteborg to share experiences and ideas on how we can do this.  Let me thank the Swedish Government for organizing this event, and especially Prime Minister Persson, who took the initiative to do so at the Johannesburg Summit in 2002.

    As citizens and consumers, as students, teachers and voters, it is up to all of us to put sustainable development at the heart of education, throughout the world.  Your meeting can tell us how to do it!

    * *** *