|Tbilisi Declaration (1977)
The world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education was organized by
the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in
cooperation with the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and was convened in Tbilisi,
Georgia (USSR) from October 14-26, 1977.
Delegates from 66 member states and observers from two nonmember states participated.
Representatives and observers from eight U.N. agencies and programs also participated.
Three other intergovernmental organizations and 20 international nongovernmental
organizations also were represented. In all, 265 delegates and 65 representatives and
observers took part in the conference.
The Tbilisi Declaration was adopted by acclamation at the close of the intergovernmental
conference. The declaration noted the unanimous accord in the important role of
environmental education in the preservation and improvement of the world's environment, as
well as in the sound and balanced development of the world's communities.
The Role, Objectives, and Characteristics of Environmental Education
The Tbilisi Declaration together with two of the recommendations of the Conference
constitutes the framework, principles, and guidelines for environmental education at all
levelslocal, national, regional, and internationaland for all age groups both
inside and outside the formal school system.
I. The Conference recommends the
adoption of certain criteria which will help to guide efforts to develop environmental
education at the national, regional, and global levels:
- Whereas it is a fact that biological and physical features constitute the natural basis
of the human environment, its ethical, social, cultural, and economic dimensions also play
their part in determining/he lines of approach and the instruments whereby people may
understand and m~e better use of natural resources in satisfying their needs.
- Environmental education is the result of the reorientation and dovetailing of different
disciplines and educational experiences which facilitate an integrated perception of the
problems of the environment, enabling more rational actions capable of meeting social
needs to be taken.
- A basic aim of environmental education is to succeed in making individuals and
communities understand the complex nature of the natural and the built environments
resulting from the interaction of their biological, physical, social, economic, and
cultural aspects, and acquire the ~knowledge, values, attitudes, and practical skills to
participate in a responsible and effective way in anticipating and solving environmental
problems, and in the management of the quality of the environment.
- A further basic aim of environmental education is clearly to show the economic,
political, and ecological interdependence of the modern world, in which decisions and
actions by different countries can have international repercussions. Environmental
education should, in this regard, help to develop a sense of responsibility and solidarity
among countries and regions as the foundation for a new international order which will
guarantee the conservation and improvement of the environment.
- Special attention should be paid to understanding the complex relations between
socio-economic development and the improvement of the environment.
- For this purpose, environmental education should provide the necessary knowledge for
interpretation of the complex phenomena that shape the environment, encourage those
ethical, economic, and esthetic values which, constituting the basis of self-discipline,
will further the development of conduct compatible with the preservation and improvement
of the environment. It should also provide a wide range of practical skills required in
the devising and application of effective solutions to environmental problems.
- To carry out these tasks, environmental education should bring about a closer link
between educational processes and real life, building its activities around the
environmental problems that are faced by particular communities and focusing analysis on
these by means of an interdisciplinary, comprehensive approach which will permit a proper
understanding of environmental problems.
- Environmental education should cater to all ages and socio-professional groups in the
population. It should be addressed to (a) the general nonspecialist public of young people
and adults whose daily conduct has a decisive influence on the preservation and
improvement of the environment; (b) to particular social groups whose professional
activities affect the quality of the environment; and © to scientists and technicians
whose specialized research and work will lay the foundations of knowledge on which
education, training, and efficient management of the environment should be based.
- To achieve the effective development of environmental education, full advantage must be
taken of all public and private facilities available to society for the education of the
population: the formal education system, different forms of nonformal education, and the
- To make an effective contribution towards improving the environment, educational action
must be linked with legislation, policies, measures of control, and the decisions that
governments may adopt in relation to the human environment.
II. The Conference endorses the
following goals, objectives, and guiding principles for environmental education:
The goals of environmental education are:
- to foster clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political, and
ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas;
- to provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes,
commitment, and skills needed to protect and improve the environment;
- to create new patterns of behavior of individuals, groups, and society as a whole
towards the environment.
The categories of environmental education objectives are:
Awarenessto help social groups and individuals acquire an awareness and
sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems.
Knowledgeto help social groups and individuals gain a variety of experience
in, and acquire a basic understanding of, the environment and its associated problems.
Attitudesto help social groups and individuals acquire a set of values and
feelings of concern for the environment and the motivation for actively participating in
environmental improvement and protection.
Skillsto help social groups and individuals acquire the skills for
identifying and solving environmental problems.
Participationto provide social groups and individuals with an opportunity to
be actively involved at all levels in working toward resolution of environmental problems.
Guiding principlesenvironmental education should
- consider the environment in its totalitynatural and built, technological and
social (economic, political, cultural-historical, ethical, esthetic);
- be a continuous lifelong process, beginning at the preschool level and continuing
through all formal and nonformal stages;
- be interdisciplinary in its approach, drawing on the specific content of each discipline
in making possible a holistic and balanced perspective;
- examine major environmental issues from local, national, regional, and international
points of view so that students receive insights into environmental conditions in other
- focus on current and potential environmental situations while taking into account the
- promote the value and necessity of local, national, and international cooperation in the
prevention and solution of environmental problems;
- explicitly consider environmental aspects in plans for development and growth;
- enable learners to have a role in planning their learning experiences and provide an
opportunity for making decisions and accepting their consequences;
- relate environmental sensitivity, knowledge, problem-solving skills, and values
clarification to every age, but with special emphasis on environmental sensitivity to the
learner's own community in early years;
- help learners discover the symptoms and real causes of environmental problems;
- emphasize the complexity of environmental problems and thus the need to develop critical
thinking and problem-solving skills;
- utilize diverse learning environments and a broad array of educational approaches to
teaching, learning about and from the environment with due stress on practical activities
and first-hand experience.