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Sustainable Urbanization

New York City, Madison Square Garden

©UNESCO/Ariane Bailey

Cities are at the forefront of global socio-economic change. Globalization and democratization are an important part of sustainable development. Half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas and the other half increasingly depend upon cities for economic, social, cultural and political progress. 

In cities, education policies must typically serve highly diverse populations. Providing education for all – in particular girls, persons with disabilities, migrants, the poor and the marginalized – is a complex exercise requiring effective public services and the collaboration of numerous partners. 

Learning to live together sustainably in cities is one of the most important educational challenges of our time. This requires a focus on:

  • Creating a quality learning and educational environment that promotes sustainability;
  • Providing lifelong learning opportunities in cities;
  • Teaching tolerance and mutual understanding in urban societies;
  • Enabling children and youth to learn to live and participate in urban life;
  • Enhancing learning to create inclusive societies in inclusive cities;
  • Developing learning in all its diverse forms.

The school is a unique institution where connections are made between world problems and local life. It has the potential of serving as an enabler of change and of facilitating the acquisition of the knowledge and skills necessary to function as an active and responsible citizen. Local authorities have a strategic role to play in making these centres of learning, training and personal development available to all citizens. At the same time, the capacity to live together is generated through a wide range of non-formal and informal modalities of learning. The challenge of sustainability requires learning how to change and nowhere is this more urgent or important than in urban settings.

ESD and Sustainable Urbanization at UNESCO

In order to make the urban environment more sustainable for future generations, UNESCO promotes “Education for Sustainable Urban Development” as a transversal theme in all sectors.

UNESCO used the theme “Building Sustainable, Inclusive and Creative Cities” for the Shanghai World Expo 2010 “Better Cities, Better Life” as well as to celebrate the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and the International Year of Biodiversity (both also in 2010).

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