Learning for sustainable development - the Gothenburg story



Utdrag ur "The Gothenburg Recommendations on Education for Sustainable Development" (på engelska)

Background to the Gothenburg Recommendations

Shortly before the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001, the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology arranged an international conference entitled ‘Knowledge and Learning for a Sustainable Society’.

One conclusion of the conference was that learning in a broad sense is of fundamental importance to the achievement of sustainable development. At the end of the conference the two vice-chancellors of the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology delivered a joint offer to the then EU President, Mr Göran Persson and to Ms Margot Wallström, the then EU Environment Commissioner, to create a university network intended to serve as an independent reviewer on issues concerning sustainable development. The Gothenburg Centre for Environment and Sustainability (GMV), co-owned by the two universities, was proposed as the lead actor. The tasks of the university network also include the arrangement of conferences and seminars.

This was the point of departure when the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson offered at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002 that Sweden would arrange an international conference on learning for sustainable development. The conference was held in Gothenburg on May 4-7, 2004 and was entitled ‘Learning to Change Our World – the Gothenburg Consultation for Sustainable Development’. Some 350 delegates from more than 70 countries took part. In connection with the closing ceremony of the consultation, the vice-chancellors of the two universities offered to jointly host a further conference on the same subject within three years.

To preserve the knowledge and experience gathered at the consultation in 2004 and to prepare for the next international conference in Gothenburg, the GMV initiated four international workshops on learning for sustainable development in higher education, in school, in preschool and in informal learning.

  • ‘Drivers and Barriers for Implementing Learning for Sustainable Development in higher Education’, December 7-9, 2005
  • ‘Drivers and Barriers for Implementing Learning for Sustainable Development in Pre-School through Upper Secondary and Teacher education’, March 27-29, 2006
  • ‘The Contribution of Early Childhood Education to a Sustainable Society’, May 2-4, 2007
  • ‘The Right to Knowledge – Public Learning for Sustainable Development. Laboratory for Democratic Learning’, October 11-13, 2007

All the workshops took place in Gothenburg and each produced a report, three of which were published by UNESCO. The aim and hope was that these reports would provide valuable source material for the coming international workshop.

The final workshop

The final workshop, ‘Visions and Preparations for a Common Blueprint on Education for Sustainable Development’ took place in Gothenburg, November 10-12, 2008, at the invitation of the two UNESCO Chairs, Professor Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson, University of Gothenburg, and Professor John Holmberg, Chalmers University of Technology. Some 50 delegates from more than 15 countries took part in the workshop, which brought together ESD experts as well as policy-makers and decision-makers. The Swedish Government contributed to the event through the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD), The Ministry of Education and Research and the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. The purpose of the workshop, based on the previous work, was to generate recommendations for learning for sustainable development that could be used in many different future processes, for instance through the UNESCO.

Four groups of experts, one from each of the earlier workshops (higher education, school, preschool, and informal learning), were formed to prepare the workshop. The groups were given the task of preparing specific recommendations for each educational field and general recommendations applicable to all areas of education. The groups were asked to build on the earlier reports. The group recommendations were the finally compiled, and formed the starting point for the final workshop, November 10-12, 2008. During the first one and a half days, the four groups thoroughly trimmed the specific and general recommendations. In the closing one and a half days the four groups were joined by specially invited policy-makers and decision-makers from all over the world, whose task was to scrutinise the recommendations from their perspectives. They were also to give advice on further action.

At the end of the workshop, a specially invited professional negotiator, Mr Svante Bodin from the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, assisted the group in finalising the document in a consensus-based process. The final document is called ‘The Gothenburg Recommendations on Education for Sustainable Development’ and calls on governments, civil society, and in particular, educators to prioritise process that develop and strengthen education for sustainable development.

Last modified: January 11, 2013
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