Reorienting Biodiversity Education for Sustainable Development
The need of the hour

Dr Shailaja Ravindranath, Programme Director, CEE South

Biodiversity touches our lives and the livelihoods, influencing economic, ecological and socio-cultural aspects leading to Sustainable Development; education and awareness are integral to the conservation of Biodiversity to attain Sustainable Development. There is a need, hence, to incorporate the perspectives of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into biodiversity education.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Communication, Education, Public Awareness (CEPA)

Agenda 21, the key document ofthe United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) held at Rio de Janeiro, June 1992, is the first international document that highlighted education as an essential tool for achieving the goals of sustainable development. Re-affirming this view, the CBD which is one of the major outcomes of the Summit, addressed CEPA in Article 13 in its fourth COP meeting (Slovakia, 1998), to promote its objectives; conservation, sustainable use, and access and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.

With UNESCO as the key partner, CBD launched a global initiative on biodiversity education in 2002 at COP 6 in Hague and adopted the framework of CEPA (COP 6 Decision VI/19). CEPA strategies were then integrated into all sectoral and thematic areas under the programme of work of the CBD.

A Decade of CEPA ( 2002 – 2012)
The decision to develop CEPA work programme was taken in COP 7 (Malaysia, 2004) and COP 8 (Brazil, 2006) adopted a list of ten priority activities to guide implementation of CEPA. COP 9 (Bonn, 2008) invited Parties to increase their efforts of CEPA and also to integrate it into their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

The decision to declare 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity was also taken at COP 9.

As the UN Decade on Biodiversity (2011 - 2020) was declared at the COP 10 in 2010, in Nagoya, Japan, the Aichi Biodiversity targets adopted for the Decade, placed education and awareness at the top of its targets. Target 1 states, ‘By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of Biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably’. The Strategic goal E, ‘Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building’, further supports the Aichi Biodiversity target 1.

Even though the thinking on CEPA continues to increase, the practices need strengthening. The impact of CEPA in achieving the objectives of CBD is slower and hardly visible. For instance, education finds place only in a fraction of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAP) of the Signatory countries, reflecting the commitment of countries to CEPA. In the CBD COP meetings, CEPA is a cross cutting issue. Yet, the issues related to CEPA to achieve specific targets are little discussed. The inadequate allocation of explicit space and time for CEPA discussions, despite the best of intentions, has been a matter of concern. Even the strategic plan of the UN Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020), does not draw any specific plan for education and public awareness (UNEP 2010).

So, where is the problem? CEPA in the DESD
In 2004, more than a decade of the Earth Summit, the UN General Assembly declared the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) with UNESCO as the lead agency with the objective of reorienting education towards sustainable development.

With the concept of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) evolving independently of CEPA, UNESCO is promoting education on biodiversity focusing on the interlinking issues of biodiversity and sustainable development in the context of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD).

Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of interest along with laudable efforts to weave ESD into the mainstream of the biodiversity conservation programmes at all levels, taking advantage of events and processes of the International Year of Biodiversity (2010), DESD (2005 – 2014) and now the UN Decade on Biodiversity (UNDB: 2011 - 2020).

However, the perspectives of ESD have not been embedded in to CEPA and still remain parallel and independent stream in terms of thinking and implementation.

The challenges of CEPA in the UNDB
The UN Decade of Biodiversity has defined 20 Aichi Biodiversity targets which are intended to be achieved, in the specific time frame of 10 years, aiming at multi stakeholders focusing more on the communities and address complex issues related to environment, socio-cultural and economics. Are the present strategies of CEPA adequately equipped to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity targets?

The DESD mid-decade conference at Bonn in 2009, while discussing the ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Education and Learning’ felt that ‘More environmental education is required in formal and informal education, with a better focus on biodiversity in a more holistic way, involving links to ethical, social, cultural and economic aspects’.

Therefore, the challenge for CEPA to support CBD work programmes to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity targets is much more comprehensive, complex and huge in the decade. Is more CEPA or a different type of CEPA required in this context? Probably both. This calls for widening the scope, developing much more powerful tools.

Steps taken by CBD towards strengthening CEPA
CBD, well aware of this crucial requirement, has set education and awareness high on the agenda to facilitate the implementation of other 19 targets.

Another major step in this direction is signing a MoU for a partnership between the CBD Secretariat and the Centre for Environment Education (CEE). This was a consequence of a two-day parallel event ‘International Conference on Biodiversity Conservation and Education for Sustainable Development – Learning to Conserve Biodiversity in a Rapidly Changing World’, organized by CEE in partnership with Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, the CBD Secretariat, UNESCO, UNEP, and GEF UNDP SGP, at the recently held CBD COP 11 in October

2012 in Hyderabad, India. The outcome document emphasized linking CEPAto ESD, “Recognizing that biodiversity conservation being intrinsically linked to sustainable development, it is important to move beyond CEPA to align with the concepts of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), as we formulate educational strategies to achieve the Aichi biodiversity targets”.

This partnership would involve taking the initiative forward, working towards developing and implementing an educational strategy and plans of action that are supportive to the objectives of CBD, the strategic plan in the Decade on Biodiversity, and the objectives of Education for Sustainable Development. The task includes collaboration on foundational research, engaging relevant partners and stakeholders for wider sharing of information, learning, implementation and scaling up of best practice. It is hoped that this partnership will play an important role in strengthening ESD within the CBD.

The Road Ahead
The assumption that the parties are committed to sustainable development and hence will link CEPA to ESD is farfetched. As the UNDESD is drawing to a closein 2014, countries are still struggling to understand the implementation mechanisms of ESD and harness its full potential.

One of greatest challenges is to embed the ESD perspectives into the CEPA processes within the CBD in a coherent and timely manner. It is important for ESD therefore to link with the objectives of the CBD to avoid repetitions, save resources and bring institutions together. It is only appropriate at this point to analyse the strengths, weakness and opportunities of ESD critically with a clear understanding of the processes and implications in Biodiversity conservation identify and bridge the gaps to integrate into CEPA, for a more meaningful and effective contribution to both the decades - UNDB and UNDESD.

The need of the hour for achieving Aichi targets in the remaining eight years of the UNDB therefore, is a strong, concrete strategy and plan of action including the investments for Education within the CBD, linking it with sustainable development.

For more information contact:

Dr. Shailaja RavindranathProgramme Director
CEE South, Kamala Mansion, II Floor, 143
Infantry Road, Bengaluru – 560 001
Ph: 080-22868037/22868039

Initiating a new partnership

Recognizing the initiatives and efforts of CEE in reemphasizing the role of education as a key driver to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, through the parallel event, the international Conference on Biodiversity Conservation and Education for Sustainable Development: Learning to Conserve Biodiversity in a Rapidly Changing World, held at the margins of the CBD COP 11, at Hyderabad 2012, 
the CBD Secretariat and CEE have signed a memorandum of cooperation and agreed to: 

  1.      Cooperate to promote the development and implementation of educational strategy and plans of action that are supportive of the objectives of the CBD, the Strategic Plan and the Decade on Biodiversity and of the objectives of education for sustainable development;
  2.      Collaborate on foundational research and desk studies that would assist CBD in development of strategies, guidelines, tools and materials to support relevant communication and learning objectives;
  3.      Collaborate to engage relevant partners and stakeholders, including existing international educational initiatives for wider sharing of information, learning, implementation and scaling up;
  4.      Collaborate on innovative concepts and practices to educate and engage stakeholders, particularly children and youth, such as the Handprint and The Green Wave initiatives, in order to advance their objectives and strengthen their implementation and effectiveness;
  5.      Collaborate to encourage participation of local communities, children and youth and other stakeholder groups in decision making processes and implementation actions related to biodiversity and other related issues; 
  6. 6   These activities would be defined and implemented in accordance with agreed biennial work plans.
Dr Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary, CBD and 
Dr Shailaja Ravindranath, Programme Director, 
CEE sign the MoU initiating a partnership

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