Decolonization, which began in the early 1960s, gave rise to an area of policy known as development assistance, subsequently called development cooperation. Externally, this was addressed to the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. At more or less the same time, a start was made in domestic educational institutions with providing information about the situation in the so-called Third World. In the decades that followed, contents and methods changed, with the result that global learning has grown out of development education.

That is the theme of the items presented here. The last is a reprint of an information sheet issued by this Institute, which has been working in this field for 25 years; further information can be found on the Internet at

The first three have in common that they were all significant contributions to the conference on “Education 21. Learning for a Fair and ­Sustainable Future” held by the Development Policy Association of German Non-Governmental Organizations (VENRO, in September 2000:

  • The Final Declaration summarizes the outcomes of the discussion on global learning and the political will of the participants.
  • Christian Wilmsen, Head of Department at the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has been working in public information for many years and has come to have an understanding of public opinion.
  • Dr. Klaus Seitz is a spokesperson for the VENRO working group on development education; he has had a key influence on both theory and practice in the move towards global learning over the last 20 years.



Final Declaration of the VENRO-Conference

The following Declaration was adopted on 30 September 2000 by 700 participants from Germany, other European countries, Africa, Asia, Central and South America at the end of a three-day conference organized by the Development Policy Association of German Non-Governmental Organizations (Verband Entwicklungspolitik deutscher Nicht-Regierungsorganisationen, VENRO) in association with the ­Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder, and the departments of the Land Governments responsible for development cooperation.

Education 21 – Learning for Fair and Sustainable Future Development

Ten years after the Cologne Conference on “The North-South Conflict. An Educational Task for the Future”, we welcome the fact that one of the key goals of the “Cologne Final Declaration” has been achieved, in that there has been a marked improvement in collaboration between the State and the civil society, and that joint working institutions have been created. The joint sponsorship of this Conference is an expression of this new quality of cooperation, which must be made more ­secure and expanded.

The only way of counterbalancing “top-down” globalization by “bottom-up” globalization is through education and participation. Global learning for sustainable development must give the forces of democracy the ability to guide these processes. We therefore welcome the unanimous resolution of the German Bundestag of 29 June 2000 on “Education for Sustainable Development”, according to which the environment and development are the major challenges for the present and the future.

The preconditions for sustainable development have appreciably worsened as a result of the heavy pressure for globalization, which can be likened to economic fundamentalism. AGENDA 21, the agreement signed by heads of state and government to work together in global partnership for sustainable development, is in danger of being sacrificed to global economic competitiveness. The Federal Government, in a government declaration, and the European Union, in the Amsterdam agreement on principles, have made a commitment to work towards sustainable development, which will be unattainable unless there is coherence between the various policy areas. So far, practical political action has lagged well behind policy statements, with the result that democratic credibility is at risk. In consequence, disillusionment with politics, uncertainty, and feelings of impotence and doubt about the future have increased, opening the way to intolerance, racism and violence. Unless this development is stopped, it will be a threat to democracy.

We condemn all forms of violence and racism, which often begin with words, severely impair human dignity and thereby hinder moves towards an open and tolerant society.

We welcome...

  • the change of direction in Federal Government policy made two years ago towards providing funds for development-related education. We give our express support to the further increase that has been announced and is urgently needed. The United Nations request that two per cent of public funds be devoted to development education should be used as a guideline. (The figure is currently 0.1 per cent of the BMZ budget).
  • the willingness of the BMZ and the relevant Land ministries to support service agencies, which will strengthen development-related education and North-South cooperation at local level.
  • the intention to renew the recommendation made by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK) in 1997 on “One World/Third World in Teaching and Schools”. This focuses on global learning for sustainable development.
  • the decision announced by the Federal Government on German membership of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe. This is in response to many years of pressure by civil society. We are confident that development-related education will be strengthened at the European level by the long overdue German membership.
  • the proposal to hold a European conference on global learning as part of “Rio + 10”.

The Educational Challenge of Globalization

The six United Nations world summit meetings held in the 1990s have shown clearly that prospects for development in all regions of the world are restricted by global problems, which can only be overcome by the combined efforts of the community of nations. Guaranteeing the natural bases of human life and continuing the fight against worldwide poverty and its causes are the most important tasks facing world society at the beginning of the 21st century.

The rich countries made a commitment in AGENDA 21 to harmonize their policies and economic actions with the requirements of sustainable development so that our world has a future. Germany society, too, needs to adopt an approach to development that will be sustainable in the future. The prevailing models of business and consumerism must be questioned, and new lifestyles and patterns of production that meet the demands for social justice and environmental sustainability must be developed. These key decisions can only be effective if an informed public sees the need for them and is committed to appropriate action. For that reason, the States gathered together in 1992 at the Rio Earth summit stressed that “education is an indispensable prerequisite for the promotion of sustainable development”. AGENDA 21 contains a commitment to make education for sustainable development a specified task for the entire education system.

This means that all fields of education need to support people and encourage them to become involved in a committed and realistic way in shaping the developing world society in a spirit of solidarity so that it has a sustainable future. The efforts made to date in education policy, school teaching and out-of-school education to establish global learning for sustainable and fair development are encouraging, but are far from adequate in the light of the tasks before us. Moves towards the internationalization of education which do no more than strengthen the international competitiveness of our education system and the German economy do not meet the global challenges facing us.

The non-governmental organizations and civil society initiatives have shown themselves to be leading the way in global learning. The tried and tested models of global, intercultural and development-oriented learning need to be built on and firmly entrenched in regular educational practice within and outside schools.

Global Learning for Sustainable Development must above all satisfy the following principles:

  • Teaching needs to concentrate on the institutions of world society and development processes, not on the problems of a “Third World” that is supposedly far away.
  • Sustainable development cannot be achieved without equality between the genders.
  • Learning must be based on an appreciation of the cultural specificity of each person’s own world view. This will create greater willingness to treat other ways of looking at the world with respect and curiosity. The topics covered should be approached from a variety of perspectives representing different interests, in recognition of the ­particular role to be played by global learning in ensuring that the voices of those who suffer from the effects of globalization are heard.
  • No educational activity may be reduced to a mere exposé of development cooperation. It is necessary to escape from paternalistic ways of thinking about aid, and from Eurocentric perceptions. Attention must always be called to the range of contributions made to the development process by partners in States in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. These demands were formulated at the Cologne Educational Conference, but are still far from being achieved.
  • The term “development aid” should be avoided. Countries which are seen exclusively or primarily from the angle of aid may not be perceived by the public as partners that are of political, economic, ecological or cultural interest to us. Furthermore, the term suggests that development is only needed in the South. The path of development taken by the industrialized countries cannot serve as a model, however, since it is not sustainable in the future. Solutions must be sought and worked out jointly by the industrialized and the developing countries.
  • Global learning for sustainable development must make plain the interconnections between global and local development issues, and must be carried out in concert with other fields of education such as education for peace and human rights, environmental education, intercultural learning, etc., as part of education for sustainable development.

We expect...

1. improvement of conditions for global learning

  • Human and financial resources need to be made available so that global learning becomes possible in all areas of education. The domestic work of the non-governmental organizations needs to be underwritten. For this purpose, VENRO put forward in discussion a specific model for a foundation, which is to be taken further.
  • New methods for global learning need to be given structural support. Greater flexibility is needed in schooling arrangements, together with support for innovative types of learning and schooling.
  • The establishment and expansion of advisory centres for schools needs to be forced through.
  • Equality of access to modern communications technologies in South and North is a major prerequisite for global learning, and must be fostered. The gap between North and South must not be widened. Training in critical media skills is particularly important in dealing with the new media.

2. the following educational policy measures

  • The 1997 KMK recommendation on “One World/Third World in Teaching and Schools” should be renewed, in association with the allied recommendations and reports on human rights education, intercultural education and environmental education. Civil society actors should be involved.
  • The Federal Länder are called on to hold follow-up conferences to “Education 21 – Learning for fair and sustainable future development” in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, and to implement the goals of this Declaration.
  • The different sectors of education should in future be more open to each other in order to foster cooperation between school and out-of-school education. Space should be made throughout the education system for implementation of successful experiences of global learning campaigns.
  • Global learning should be a regular integral part of the initial and inservice training of teachers and educators in all sectors of education, especially in schools and higher education. Examination regimes must be modified accordingly.
  • Global learning cannot begin early enough. More must be done to carry out the task of educating for solidarity and intercultural understanding in pre-schools and primary schools.
  • Cooperation within and outside Europe must be strengthened and expanded at all levels of the education system.
  • Curricula should be internationalized. Global learning needs to become a permanent feature of all sectors of education as a transverse task of lifelong learning.
  • In order to encourage international non-profit cooperation, a German and a European law on voluntary work should be introduced, governing matters of residency permits, social security insurance, etc.
  • Cooperation in education and research between South and North needs to be expanded in order to exploit the potential for learning and innovation on both sides. This means, among other things, making marked improvements in the legal and social security status of foreign students.
  • North-South cooperation must be expanded considerably at all ­levels, especially between institutions of higher education and local authorities, as part of the activities carried out under AGENDA 21.

3. critical assessment of our own work

  • Agencies need to be willing continually to examine their own activities self-critically, to have them checked against realistic criteria, and to ensure transparency in their own actions.
  • A central issue in agencies’ own credibility is their real experience of gender equality in all educational endeavours and their appreciation of such equality as a crucial aspect of education.
  • Credibility also requires that the cultural richness of the South be shown, and that positive developments are fully reported. The South is a partner in learning, not a topic of global learning. This inevitably means making use of the resources of foreign students, academics, educationists and other migrants living in Germany.
  • If our own work is to be credible, this means of course that we must ourselves be guided by the notion of sustainable development.
  • Every educational activity must start from the interests and circumstances of the learners. All actors engaged in education are required to open up new routes to development-oriented learning, particularly for young people.
  • In order to do justice to the topic of “One World”, global learning calls for more than a narrow focus on North-South relations.
  • The forces of the civil society must increase their political lobbying of the State and the media in order to ensure coherence between all areas of social activity under an overarching image of fair development that is sustainable in the future.


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