Rio+20: A Radical Transformation for the Future We Want

In order to improve the livelihood and well-being of all individuals and achieve a green economy, we need a radical transformation in our policies, technologies and patterns of production and consumption.

The good news is that there is a wide range of development strategies that have already proven their potential as catalysts for that transformation, engaging and empowering even the most vulnerable and marginalized communities to become valuable partners in achieving a green economy and a healthy planet.

Unfortunately, while these successful strategies have been piloted and implemented in communities worldwide, few have been able to move beyond the status of a local "good example" by being brought to scale and mainstreamed as a core global strategy for a green economy.

Late last year I wrote about education as a transformative tool that could help ensure a sustainable future for people of all ages and from all walks of life. One of the ways in which it can do this is by sharing learning and best practices on these "good examples" and empowering a new generation of global leaders by teaching them about the strategies that work and why.

With this in mind, I wanted to go back to the two experts to ask them about how they viewed the role of education in achieving a green economy and the future we all want. Both Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, and Professor Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Vice Rector of United Nations University, were there with me at the Rio+20 Conference.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO:

Green societies must be more educated societies. No country has ever climbed the human development ladder without steady investment in education. Education is key for changing people's values and behaviours, for encouraging them to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.

UNESCO has a clear position. First, universal access to basic education is a precondition for sustainable development -- especially for girls and women, who deserve equal chances and equal standing in society. Gender equality is a human rights issue. Equality is a force for transformation. Leave out women and girls and you exclude 50 percent of your brain power. The empowerment of women is simply good common sense.

Professor Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Vice Rector of United Nations University:

Through education, communities can be empowered to create a sustainable future through positive social and environmental change. ESD is an effective way of fostering understanding of, and engagement in, issues of sustainable development among current and future generations. I think we need to explore ways of engaging different stakeholders in ESD, such as the efforts by UNU-IAS to involve NGOs, industry and government in the "regional centres of expertise" initiative.

I want to express my sincere thanks to both Ms. Bokova and Professor Takeuchi for their willingness to share their thoughts and expertise on these important issues. It's my hope that talking about these issues will drive them to the forefront of the global agenda and build enough momentum to turn our visions for a sustainable future into reality.