United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UN-DESD, 2005-2014)

During its 57th meeting in 2002, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005- 2014.,  (DESD) 'emphasizing that education is an indispensable element for achieving sustainable development'. It also designated UNESCO as the lead agency to promote and implement the Decade.

In this function, UNESCO coordinates the efforts of the various UN agencies, programmes and organizations related to the DESD. The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development seeks to mobilize the educational resources of the world to help create a more sustainable future. 


The overall goal of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) is to integrate the principles, values and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. 

  • catalyze new partnerships with the private sector, with youth, and with media groups;
  • encourage monitoring and evaluation;
  • encourage development of a research agenda and serve as a forum for relevant research on ESD;
  • serve as a forum for bringing together important stakeholders in the Decade such as representatives of Member States and key multinationals, faith-based institutions, youth associations, indigenous people, etc.;
  • share good ESD practices;
  • link Member States that have put in place ESD curricula, policies, research, etc. with those Member States that are requesting help;
  • convene flexible working groups on particular topics;
  • fulfil its strategic role with regard to ESD.

Main Activities

The ESD Section acts as the Secretariat for the DESD. It offers oversight, advice, backstopping and coordination support to Member States, National Commissions, stakeholders, UNESCO programme and thematic areas, and UNESCO Field Offices while helping to ensure the coherence of organization-wide activities.

UNESCO convenes several ad hoc groups to participate in the implementation of the Decade including the UN Interagency Committee for the DESD (IAC), the DESD Reference Group and the Monitoring and Evaluation Expert Group (MEEG).


Education is one of paths to sustainability that are mentioned in the 40 chapters of Agenda 21, the official document of the 1992 Earth Summit. Education alone cannot achieve a more sustainable future; however, without education and learning for sustainable development, we will not be able to reach that goal.

Useful Links

Education for Sustainable Development

Read the final report (2014) for the UN DESD here

Latest update: 08.01.2024