Looking ahead – ETNU Part 2 (Jacques Delors)

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.
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 build-up 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?

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