ESD Timeline

What are the origins of ESD and the Global Action Programme? What are key dates and milestones of ESD implementation?

2021: UNESCO World Conference on ESD and National Conference

The UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), originally scheduled for Mai 2020 and postponed due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, was held online from 17 to 19 May 2021 and produced in Berlin. It was the kick-off event of the new ESD-framework “ESD for 2030”. The conference provided impulses to further strengthen ESD in educational policy as well as practice and to accompany the strategic design of the new program “ESD for 2030”.

In addition, the National Launch Conference kicked off the programme in Germany on May 19th, 2021.

The “ESD weeks” that took place throughout Germany from May 1 to 31, embed both events. They included a wide range of topics and types of events offer an overview of the multi-faceted nature of ESD



2020: UNESCO Roadmap 2030 and Pre-Conference workshops


UNESCO published its guideline “Education for Sustainable Development: A Roadmap” for implementing the new framework ‘Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs’.

September 2020 to April 2021:

A The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Commission for UNESCO conducted a series of pre-conference online workshops on how to transform society through learning with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The discussions and results further developed the conference program and helped to shape the agenda in Berlin.

2019: “Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs”

The 40th session of UNESCO General Conference adopted a new global framework on ESD: ‘Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs’ or ‘ESD for 2030’. It emphasizes the importance of ESD for achieving all SDGs and SDG 4 in particular. The new framework is a follow-up to the “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” (2005 - 2014) and the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for sustainable development (2015 – 2019). “ESD for 2030” builds on proven successful structures, like the five priority action areas, the partner network and the UNESCO-Japan-prize. It became operative in summer 2020.

2018: Towards a New Framework for ESD

In order to identify issues that need to be considered and updated in the post-GAP framework, UNESCO planned and organized four brainstorming symposia with more than 250 experts and stakeholders involved. They were held in Brazil, Germany, Japan and South Africa from 2016 to 2018.

2017: National Action Plan

The National Platform on ESD has adopted the National Action Plan for Education on Sustainable Development (NAP) (PDF | 3,8 MB) for implementing the Global Action Plan (GAP). It defines 130 objectives and 349 measures to scale up ESD in all areas and at all levels of the German education system. The National action plan is the outcome of a broad participative process with the active involvement of representatives of the Federal Government, the Länder (the German states), local authorities, the private sector, the scientific community and civil society

2016: Revised German sustainability strategy and Good Practice Prize

The German UNESCO Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research award domestic examples of good practices within the field of ESD since 2016

The revised German strategy for sustainability (PDF | 5 MB) identifies ESD as a key instrument and highlights the importance, the German government attributes to it.

The National Platform as the leading committee on the German ESD-process was established.

2015: Agenda 2030 and Global Action Program

The UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This new global framework was developed following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The core of the 2030 Agenda are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The sub goal 4.7 highlights the importance of education, especially ESD, for reaching the SDGs by 2030. The Global Action Program on education for sustainability (GAP) was adopted in order to fulfil SDG 4.7.

The GAP ran from 2015 to 2019. The overarching goal of the GAP was “to generate and scale up action in all levels and areas of education and learning to accelerate progress towards sustainable development”. The GAP on ESD identified five priority action areas to enable strategic focus and foster stakeholder commitment:

  1. Advancing policy
  2. Transforming learning and training environments;
  3. Building capacities of educators and trainers;
  4. Empowering and mobilizing youth;
  5. Accelerating solutions at local level


2014: National Conference and World Conference; UNESCO-Japan Prize


The World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development "Learning Today for a Sustainable Future" took place from November 10 to 12, 2014 in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan. The Conference marked the end of the UN Decade, celebrated its achievements and launched the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (2015-2019). It also established the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development. The Prize honours outstanding projects by institutions and organizations related to ESD.




The National Conference on Education for Sustainable Development took place in Bonn, Germany, from September 29 to 30, 2014. It was organised jointly by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO. Almost 500 participants from all Federal Länder – the German states – as well as experts from other countries discussed the results of the German implementation of the UN Decade, honoured the achieved outcomes and explored future possibilities for Education for Sustainable Development. The participants also adopted the Bonn Declaration.

2012: International Workshop and Rio+20


The final report of the Rio+20 summit emphasized the importance of ESD. The document asks member states of the United Nations to increase their efforts in bringing ESD into people's minds – also outside the educational sector. UNESCO's role as driving force emphasized.


Fifty international ESD experts discussed the future of the UN Decade during the International Workshop "Horizon 2015". The two-day workshop took place in Bonn, Germany. The participants adopted a set of Bonn Recommendations on ESD beyond 2014 [external PDF | 149 KB],

2009: ESD World Conference in Bonn

The half-time "World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development" was held in Bonn, Germany. 700 participants from over 150 countries adopted UNESCO and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research organised the conference in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO. The participants adopted the Bonn Declaration.

2008: Revised National Plan of Action

In September 2008, the 2005 National Plan of Action was updated.

2005: First National Plan of Action

The National Plan of Action defined the central aim of the UN Decade: to anchor the idea of sustainable development in all areas of education. The plan was supplemented by over 60 specific education policy measures and inspection criteria for implementation.

2002: Rio+10 World summit, proclamation of the UN Decade

Ten years after Rio, the international community met in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Acting on the recommendation, the United Nations General Assembly decided to dedicate a UN Decade to Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).

UNESCO was designated lead-agency for coordinating the implementation of the UN Decade.



1992: United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (UNCED) and Agenda 21

At UNCED, also known as the Earth Summit, more than 170 governments agreed on a development and environmental policy action programme for global sustainable development: The goal of Agenda 21 [external PDF | 1 MB] was to implement the Brundtland Report internationally. Chapter 36 describes education as a key strategy.

1987: Publication of the Brundlandt Report

The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), led by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, released a report on long-term global sustainable development. The text became known as the Brundtland Report [external PDF | 4 MB] and had a significant influence on the international debate about development and environmental policy.