UNESCO, SDSN, and Malaysia Join Forces in the ESD for 2030 Asia-pacific Regional Meeting in Kuala Lumpur

Sunway City, Kuala Lumpur, 3 July 2024 – UNESCO and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) join forces with the Malaysia Ministry of Education, the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO and partners in a major meeting underscoring the critical importance of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Asia-Pacific.

The Secretary-General of the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO (MNCU), Fadzilah Fadzil representing H.E. Fadhlina Sidek, Minister of Education Malaysia and the President of MNCU, officiated the opening ceremony of the ESD for 2030 Asia Pacific Regional Meeting on Transforming the Futures of Education: Mainstreaming Education for Sustainable Development in Learning Systems, at Sunway University.

This ESD for 2030 Asia Pacific Regional Meeting in Kuala Lumpur brings together over 100 leaders and educators from 25 countries to explore innovative methods through knowledge exchange, policy dialogue, and cooperative action. This meeting aims to equip current and future generations with the essential skills, knowledge, and values that learners need so they can navigate and address the complex challenges of our time as the world is confronting the compounding crises of climate change, inequality, and social unrest.

The meeting is organized from 2 to 4 July 2024 in Kuala Lumpur by UNESCO and SDSN and co-hosted with the Ministry of Education of Malaysia and the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO, with generous support provided by the Government of Japan through the Japanese Funds-in-Trust (JFIT); the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF); and Sunway University. The meeting delegates also had the opportunity to visit SMK Seri Keramat, SK Bukit Kemuning 2, and Sekolah Sri Bestari, which exemplify a holistic approach to education that integrates environmental stewardship through ESD with academic learning and practical action.

Education has always been a cornerstone of societal development, but its role has become even more critical in today’s context of global crises. The ESD for 2030 initiative, led by UNESCO, emphasizes that education must evolve to address these challenges directly. It is not enough to simply impart knowledge; education must also foster the ability to apply this knowledge in ways that promote sustainability and resilience.

UNESCO’s initiatives in ESD are a vital element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and particularly further Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which aims to 'ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’ UNESCO's ESD program supports countries in integrating sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning.

On World Environment Day (5 June 2024), UNESCO unveiled significant tools such as the Greening Curriculum Guidance and the Green School Quality Standard. These tools are designed to transform schools into hubs of active, environmentally conscious learning.

‘UNESCO's Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) programme is a cornerstone of our global efforts to equip learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes needed to address the interconnected global challenges we face,’ said Maki Hayashikawa, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Jakarta. ‘From climate change to inequality, ESD empowers individuals to contribute actively to sustainable development and create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.’

The integration of ESD into global education systems is not merely an educational reform; it is a necessary evolution towards ensuring a sustainable future. As outlined in the ESD for 2030 framework, the goal is to prepare all learners to become proactive agents of change, capable of addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. Through initiatives like the ESD 2030 regional meetings, UNESCO is setting the stage for a transformative educational journey that will empower future generations to thrive and lead in a rapidly changing world.

Malaysia's Strategic Initiatives and Global Partnerships

Madam Fadzilah welcomed the meeting's convening in Malaysia and drew parallels between its objectives and the Malaysia MADANI philosophy. She underscored the profound alignment of ESD with the Malaysia MADANI philosophy, which emphasises ethical values, mindsets, and a sense of responsibility. This alignment guides young people in relating what they learn and how they can make a difference in their communities, environments, and the world.

‘MADANI, when translated, stands for Sustainability, Care and Compassion, Respect, Innovation, Prosperity, and Trust. These values, in turn, underpin all pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Economic Dynamism, Environmental Sustainability, Social Justice and Well-being, and Good Governance’, she said.

She reiterated that the principles of ESD are not just abstract ideas but deeply embedded in our initiatives to empower Pendidikan Manusiawi or Humane Education. This practical application of ESD principles underscores the urgency and importance of nurturing holistic development that focuses on academic excellence and cultivating empathy, compassion, and a sense of responsibility towards society and the environment. These values are in keeping with UNESCO’s ESD initiatives both in the region and beyond. Madam Fadzilah also highlighted the Ministry's launch of the UNESCO Heritage Programmes in collaboration with UNESCO Site Managers in Malaysia. This tangible initiative seeks to inspire students and teachers to engage with the cultural and biodiversity heritage as part of their Learning Outside of the Classroom activities.

She highlighted that by integrating ESD principles into educational frameworks, Malaysia is paving the way for young people to relate what and how they learn to make a difference, becoming active agents of positive change, equipped with the critical thinking skills and ethical awareness to address complex global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty, and inequality.

She also announced the formation of a coalition of ESD National Strategic Partners that will be responsible for action planning on ESD implementation in Malaysia, encompassing policy, learning environments, educator capacity-building, youth engagement, and local-level action. The coalition includes the Ministry of Education, SDSN, WWF Malaysia, Green Growth Asia Foundation, Amanah Lestari Alam, and experts from Sunway University, University of Malaya, and Nottingham University Malaysia.

On behalf of the minister, she also congratulated the JCF for funding the development and delivery of an ESD professional development programme for in-service teachers in Malaysian national and national-type schools. This training is developed and implemented by the Asia Headquarters of SDSN hosted by Sunway University, Malaysia, as a part of Mission 4.7, a global initiative calling on world leaders to implement ESD at scale. In addition to the initial seven pilot schools funded by JCF, the Minister expressed her gratitude to Tan Sri Dato' Seri Sir Jeffrey Cheah, Founding Trustee of JCF, for agreeing to support an additional 30 schools that will impact more than 2,500 teachers nationwide.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned economist and the president of the SDSN, also attended the event and delivered a keynote address on the imperative to transform education to build prosperous, resilient, and sustainable societies of the future.

For more information

For further queries, kindly contact the respective UNESCO field office(s) covering your country, or the Secretariat at [email protected].

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For more information on UNESCO’s work and programmes in education for sustainable development: https://www.unesco.org/en/sustainable-development/education

To learn more about the Sustainable Development Solutions Network: A Global Initiative for the United Nations: https://www.unsdsn.org


With 194 Member States, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization contributes to peace and security by leading multilateral cooperation on education, science, culture, communication and information. Headquartered in Paris, UNESCO has offices in 54 countries and employs over 2,300 people. UNESCO oversees more than 2,000 World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks; networks of Creative, Learning, Inclusive and Sustainable Cities; and over 13,000 associated schools, university chairs, training and research institutions. Its Director-General is Audrey Azoulay.

“Since wars begin in the minds of people, it is in the minds of people that the defenses of peace must be constructed” – UNESCO Constitution, 1945.

More information: www.unesco.org

About the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network

The UN-SDSN was established in 2012 by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and world-renowned economist and professor Jeffrey Sachs. Under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, the UN-SDSN works to mobilise the world’s universities, think tanks, and national laboratories for action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change empower societies through free online education; and translate scientific evidence and ideas into solutions and accountability.

About the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO

The Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO (MNCU) was established on 7th July 1966, per Article VII of the UNESCO Constitution. It serves as the primary liaison between the Government of Malaysia and UNESCO. Operating from the Ministry of Education Malaysia, MNCU's permanent presence aims to facilitate collaboration between the Malaysian government, non-governmental organisations, and UNESCO in education, natural sciences, social sciences, culture, communication, and information. MNCU plays a crucial role in providing consultation, mobilisation, and fostering partnerships with national partners and civil society. The President of MNCU is the Minister of Education Malaysia, while the Vice-President is the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Education Malaysia. Additionally, the Secretary-General of MNCU, who also holds the position of Undersecretary of Strategic Planning and International Relations of the Ministry of Education Malaysia, provides further support. MNCU collaborates with 10 Federal Ministries through its Permanent Sub-committees.

More information: www.unesco.org.my/v2/

About Mission 4.7

Mission 4.7 was launched in December 2020 to put into global practice the bold vision of transforming education to achieve SDG Target 4.7, including, among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and culture’s contribution to sustainable development. Mission 4.7 is a partnership between the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, UNESCO, and the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. It is co-chaired by Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Sir Jeffrey Cheah, Founder and Chairman, Sunway Group; Hon. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO; Professor Jeffrey Sachs, President, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN-SDSN); and Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Former Chancellor, Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

About the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation

Adopting a social enterprise model, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation is the largest of its kind in advancing education in Malaysia. The Foundation owns and governs all entities under Sunway Education Group, including Sunway University, Sunway Colleges, and Sunway International Schools. Through the unique not-for-profit structure of the Foundation, operating surpluses are ploughed back into the institutions or disbursed as scholarships, research grants, and expansion of world-class facilities and top-notch faculty to ensure quality education in perpetuity. As of 2023, the Foundation has awarded more than RM670 million worth of scholarships to tens of thousands of deserving students.