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close this bookLearning: The Treasure Within (UNESCO, 1996, 48 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentLooking ahead
View the documentTensions to be overcome
View the documentDesigning and building our common future
View the documentLearning throughout life: the heartbeat of society
View the documentThe stages and bridges of learning: a fresh approach
View the documentGetting the reform strategies right
View the documentBroadening international co-operation in the global village

Looking ahead

Some remarkable scientific discoveries and breakthroughs have been made during the last twenty-five years. Many countries have emerged from underdevelopment, and standards of living have continued to rise, albeit at rates differing considerably from country to country. Despite this, the prevailing mood of disenchantment forms a sharp contrast with the hopes born in the years just after the Second World War.

It may therefore be said that, in economic and social terms, progress has brought with it disillusionment. This is evident in rising unemployment and in the exclusion of growing numbers of people in the rich countries. It is underscored by the continuing inequalities in development throughout the world.1 While humankind is increasingly aware of the threats facing its natural environment, the resources needed to put matters right have not yet been allocated, despite a series of international meetings, such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and despite the serious warnings of natural disasters or major industrial accidents. The truth is that all-out economic growth can no longer be viewed as the ideal way of reconciling material progress with equity, respect for the human condition and respect for the natural assets that we have a duty to hand on in good condition to future generations.

1. According to UNCTAD studies, average income in the least-developed countries (560 million inhabitants) is falling. The estimated figure is $300 a year per inhabitant as against $906 for developing countries and $21,598 for the industrialized countries. guidelines that can be applied both within national contexts and on a worldwide scale.

We have by no means grasped all the implications of this as regards both the ends and means of sustainable development and new forms of international co-operation. This issue will constitute one of the major intellectual and political challenges of the next century.

That should not, however, cause the developing countries to disregard the classic forces driving growth, in particular as regards their need to enter the world of science and technology, with all this implies in terms of cultural adaptation and the modernization of mentalities.

Those who believed that the end of the Cold War held out the prospect of a better and more peaceful world have another reason for disenchantment and disillusionment. It is simply not an adequate consolation or excuse to repeat that history is tragic; that is something everyone knows or should know. Although the death toll in the last world war was 50 million, we must also remember that since 1945 some 20 million people have died in around 150 wars, both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It hardly matters whether these are new risks or old risks. Tensions smoulder and then flare up between nations and ethnic groups, or as a result of a buildup of social and economic injustices. Against a background of growing interdependence among peoples and the globalization of problems, decision-makers have a duty to assess these risks and take action to ward them off.

But how can we learn to live together in the 'global village' if we cannot manage to live together in the communities to which we naturally belong - the nation, the region, the city, the village, the neighbourhood? Do we want to make a contribution to public life and can we do so? That question is central to democracy. The will to participate, it should be remembered, must come from each person's sense of responsibility; but whereas democracy has conquered new territory in lands formerly in the grip of totalitarianism and despotic rule, it is showing signs of languishing in countries which have had democratic institutions for many decades, as if there were a constant need for new beginnings and as if everything has to be renewed or reinvented.

How could these great challenges not be a cause for concern in educational policy-making? How could the Commission fail to highlight the ways in which educational policies can help to create a better world, by contributing to sustainable human development, mutual understanding among peoples and a renewal of practical democracy?