Education for Sustainable Development in the Western Balkans

Education for Sustainable Development in the Western Balkans

Source of funding


Name of client/donor

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland

Overall project value

EUR 4,307,000


April 2009 – April 2013

Beneficiary countries

Bosnia and Herzegovina | Montenegro | Serbia

Number of staff


Where local communities and local planning processes give insufficient support to education (due, for example, to limited knowledge, insufficient institutional support and poor human and financial resources), the concept of education for sustainable development is integrated only very slowly into the educational system. This multi-year project supported the development of links between local communities and schools in the Western Balkans with the aim of contributing to sustainable development in selected local communities in the Drina River basin. The project also contributed to Millennium Development Goal 7 on ensuring environmental sustainability though the eradication of areas of specific policy neglect and curbing governance failures.

The objective was to contribute to the achievement of the overall target of the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), 2005–2014, which was to include ESD in the curricula and educational systems of all countries. Specific goals were to raise awareness of ESD in 25 communities in the Western Balkans and to increase awareness of the sustainable development concept in communities in the Drina River basin by:

  • encouraging communities to work jointly with schools towards sustainable development;
  • improving educational systems and local environmental governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia through the sustainable school concept;
  • improving classroom practices and teaching processes;
  • ensuring the integration of school development planning and local sustainable development planning in at least 20 partner communities;
  • improving the sustainability of partner schools through joint projects with communities (e.g. on waste management, recycling, and reduced energy, water and heat consumption);
  • informing ministries of education and environment in the Western Balkans about the sustainable schools concept and encouraging them to investigate opportunities in their own countries;
  • increasing the number of schools in the Drina River basin interested in adopting the sustainable school concept; and
  • improving experience exchange among schools and communities in the Drina River basin in order to showcase the benefits of cross-border and regional cooperation for sustainable development.

The sustainable schools concept covers areas such as curriculum/teaching and learning; tolerance/equity/inclusion/participation; school maintenance and supplies, including purchasing and waste; the management of school buildings and grounds; networking; and the immediate environment as an area of exploration, safety and well-being.

The project worked with 25 communities in the Drina River basin (10 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10 in Serbia, and 5 in Montenegro). The 25 local authorities and 25 schools (one target school per partner community) were involved as primary beneficiaries. Partner communities worked jointly with partner schools on incorporating sustainable development principles into the system.  

Specific activities included:

  • adapting the most suitable model for the sustainable school concept to local circumstances and needs following an assessment of schools and communities;
  • adapting the existing methodology to develop or update local sustainability action plans (LSAPs) in partner communities;
  • establishing an efficient monitoring system for ESD and local sustainability for use in this project;
  • organising a series of trainings to build the capacities of school principals, teachers, management staff, students and representatives of civil society organisations on the fundamental aspects of sustainable development, ESD and the sustainable schools concept;
  • organising a series of trainings to build the capacities of mayors and deputy mayors; municipality staff responsible for the environment, education and sustainable development; and representatives of civil society organisations and minority groups on the fundamental aspects of sustainable development, participatory planning, the implementation of priority actions, and monitoring and evaluation;
  • promoting cooperation between schools and municipalities through the joint development of sustainable development plans and LSAPs;
  • building the capacities of stakeholders to draft and implement LSAPs in a transparent and open way; and
  • supporting improved links between schools and communities in working towards sustainable development by organising joint workshops and opportunities for exchange.

As a result of the project, local sustainable development plans and school development plans were developed in the 25 partner communities, and the sustainable school concept was adopted in 25 partner schools. The sustainability performance of partner schools improved through joint projects with communities. 

  • Strategic support
  • Administrative support
  • Information dissemination
  • Assessment
  • Cooperation and networking
  • Training and capacity building