Children as Agents of Change for Sustainable Development

  • Joachim von BraunEmail author


Children under the age of 15 represented 26 % of the world population (893 million girls, 956 million boys) in 2014. They mainly live in low and middle income countries. Children are exposed to current and future social, economic and environmental sustainability problems, but are also potential agents of change for sustainability, even in childhood. This paper explores how the role of children can be enhanced by transformative education in support of their experiences in discovery, participation, and agency of change. Action-related projects and new information technologies offer opportunities. The tremendous diversity of the living conditions of the world’s children (e.g. related to their age, gender, rural/urban, poor/non-poor, cultural contexts, discrimination and marginality), and the types of children’s respective sustainability problems need to be considered. Experiences with children’s roles as agents of change for sustainability (incl. influence on adults’ behavior) are reviewed, based on educational initiatives related to innovation, environmental protection, consumption, health, water and sanitation, and caring for others. Such actions are to be considered as promising public investments in sustainability. Recognition of children’s potential role as agents of change implies that concepts of investment in education should not just be guided by human capital formation for life-time earnings in markets and by cultural dimensions, but should be expanded by inclusion of externalities of children’s contributions to a sustainable development of societies.


Disaster Risk Child Labor Disaster Risk Reduction Sustainability Problem Related Empowerment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Center for Developmental Research ZEFUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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