Adopted in 1974, the Recommendation concerning education for international understanding, co-operation and peace and education relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms is considered a landmark legal instrument that brings together for the first time peace, international understanding, human rights, fundamental freedoms and education.
Long before the notion of global citizenship education (GCED) and education for sustainable development (ESD) were coined, the 1974 Recommendation called on Member States to ensure that their education policies are guided by a global perspective and a commitment to international solidarity. Today, the goals of the Recommendation align closely with Targets 4.7, 12.8, 13.3 and 16 of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development that promote ESD and GCED.
Since 1974, new threats endanger peace and human survival. These include climate change, infectious diseases, pandemics and other challenges to health, the rapid spread of hateful and violent ideologies, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, systemic racism, lingering inequalities.
With the significant expansion of educational research and technological developments, the field of education has also evolved. Educational responses to societal challenges are increasingly evidenced-informed, comprehensive, digital and intersectoral, requiring cooperation across and between societies and beyond traditional borders (territorial and cultural). These developments also offer new opportunities for peace-building and fostering international solidarity.
The revision of the Recommendation constitutes a unique opportunity to revive and update the global consensus around the role of education - in all its forms - to prepare learners of all ages, and future generations, to face future shocks and shape more just, sustainable, healthy and peaceful futures.
The 1974 UNESCO Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms formulates principles and norms for the international regulation of education in support of the advancement of justice, freedom, human rights and peace. It promotes the role of education in eradicating conditions that threaten human survival and well-being.
The 1974 Recommendation calls on national authorities and professionals in education all over the world to take action to infuse the aims and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, (link is external) the Constitution of UNESCO and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (link is external)(Article 26). The objective is to ensure education is directed to the ”full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights).
The monitoring mechanism of the 1974 Recommendation is also used to measure progress on the achievement of Target 4.7, Target 12.8 on access to, and awareness of, information on sustainable development and 13.3. on climate change education.
Nearly 50 years ago, UNESCO’s Member States committed to promote peace and international understanding through education. There has been progress since, but challenges remain today. The “struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism in all their forms and manifestations, and against all forms and varieties of racialism, fascism, and apartheid as well as other ideologies which breed national and racial hatred, and which are contrary to the purposes of this Recommendation” (Article 6) is relevant today though in different ways.
Our generation is facing threats such as democratic backsliding and the spread of violent and hateful ideologies and conspiracy theories. Our life on our planet is also under threat due to pollution, climate change and the loss of biodiversity which are causing unforeseen tensions, and challenges to health and well-being.
On the positive side, the international community is equipped today with a solid array of normative instruments and technological tools to foster peace and non-violence, which didn’t exist in 1974. We also have data and a rich body of research in education to develop sound policies and monitor their impact.
For all these reasons, UNESCO’s Member States decided to revise the 1974 Recommendation to take into account shifts in the global and educational landscape, in particular the requirements of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Education, with a view to firmly embed the role of education in fostering global peace, international understanding and sustainable development.
The revision will also take into account the recent results of the Futures of Education Report: Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education.
The purpose of revising the 1974 Recommendation is twofold:
UNESCO is leading an inclusive and transparent consultative process in view of supporting the development and adoption of a Revised Recommendation.
This process is composed of three main phases:
As part of its standard-setting and monitoring role, UNESCO has been inviting Member States every four years to report on progress made in implementing the 1974 Recommendation.
The Seventh Consultation was conducted from October 2020 to March 2021.The data was published for the first time in July 2021 in the UN’s SDG Global Indicator database(link is external).
One of the key findings of the report highlights how topics related to learning to live together are more often integrated in laws and legal frameworks than topics related to learning to live sustainably. In both cases, they are slightly more likely to be included in education policies than in laws.
According to the data provided by the 75 participating countries, integration of the guiding principles is especially high in curricula and in more than half of cases the mainstreaming of ESD and GCED is extensive. Although mainstreaming in teacher education is almost as high, it is more likely to be partial than extensive. Mainstreaming in laws, policies and student assessment is lower at 87-88%.
Globally, 97% of countries (73 countries) reported that some or all of the guiding principles of the 1974 Recommendation are reflected in national or sub-national laws and policies.
Despite these encouraging figures, the reporting does not measure the extent to which learning environments are conducive to fostering the principles of the Recommendation. These would be some of the issues to further explore in the revision process.