Sustainable Development

Back to listJun 22, 2012

SGI Holds Interdisciplinary Roundtable Discussion on Education and Learning at Rio+20

roundtable discussionThe roundtable discussion on the role of education and learning toward a sustainable future

From June 20-22, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, Rio+20) took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the theme: “The Future We Want.”

On June 20, SGI organized “The Future We Create: An interdisciplinary roundtable on the role of education and learning toward a sustainable future” as an official side event held at Riocentro. It was cosponsored by the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) Education Caucus, Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) and Inter Press Service (IPS).

The discussion aimed at bringing together participants from various different fields to share their experiences and insights on the role of education and learning from their respective areas in order to explore ideas related to Rio+20 and building a sustainable future. In his recent proposal “For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership,” SGI President Daisaku Ikeda proposed that the UNCSD recommend to the UN General Assembly the initiation of "an educational program for a sustainable global society," to start in 2015 and follow up the work of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-14).

At the roundtable discussion, Hiro Sakurai, moderator of the discussion and SGI's representative to the UN in New York, highlighted that not only school education but also grassroots level educational efforts are vital for the development of local communities. 

The six panelists: Joaquín Costanzo, Regional Director for IPS Latin America; Sergio Duarte, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; Frank Elbers, Executive Director of HREA; Pam Puntenney, Cochair of the CSD Education Caucus; Kartikeya Sarabhai, Director of CEE; and Akira Tanaka, Director of SGI-Brazil’s affiliated Amazon Ecological Conservation Center, then gave short presentations and shared insights.

sustainability workshopA sustainability workshop at a school in Manaus organized by the Amazon Center where used cooking oil is made into soap

In a period of upheaval around the globe, Ms. Puntenney emphasized the necessity to review frameworks of education and to facilitate collaboration and cooperation among different stakeholders.

Mr. Sarabhai suggested focusing more on what kinds of values education should be provided, but not on cramming knowledge into students’ heads. He also stated that educators should not unilaterally teach facts, but also discuss the future of the planet together with students. 

Giving examples of education for disarmament, Mr. Duarte appreciated SGI’s antinuclear activities including a petition of signatures from youth calling for the adoption of a Nuclear Weapons Convention in 2010. He stressed the collection of such petitions plays a significant role in raising awareness.

Mr. Elbers introduced the history of the UN Decade of Human Rights Education and the following World Programme for Human Rights Education, and then commented that education that stresses the dignity of life will be a foundation for education for sustainable development. 

Mr. Costanzo commented that raising awareness of social issues and encouraging people to participate in decision-making processes is a key mission of the mass media.

At the Amazon Ecological Conservation Center, Mr. Tanaka reported that a mix of 20,000 trees in 60 species was planted in order to revive the biodiversity of the forest and  that this led to the forest’s certification as a “Private Natural Heritage Reserve” by the Brazilian Federal Government in 1995.  He also reported that since 2001, the Center has initiated a field-study-based environmental education and awareness-raising project in collaboration with the Manaus Municipal Secretariat for Environment and Sustainability. To date, a total of 20,000 students have participated in the program.

He stated that the key in environmental education is for each individual to view environmental problems as their own. In the center's efforts for education for sustainable development, they emphasize the following three steps: to learn, to reflect and to empower people to take concrete action, an approach proposed by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda on the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

After the event, Hirotsugu Terasaki, SGI Executive Director for Peace Affairs, commented that it was encouraging to see that in the final outcome document of UNCSD, a new paragraph stressing non-formal education had been introduced, as follows: “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.”

Read about SGI’s other activities at Rio+20 here.

[Adapted from articles in the June 25-26, 2012, issues of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of SGI Office of Public Information]