12.03.2018 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

Regional Conference on “Learning to Live Sustainably in Cities in the Arab Region”

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a key element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is included in the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG #4) (‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’) under Target 4.7. ESD empowers everyone to make informed decisions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations.

Urban communities are critical drivers for sustainable development, and their efforts merit greater support. Cities themselves are the site of continuous exchanges of knowledge and information through which people’s thinking and understanding are transformed. As the lead agency for ESD, UNESCO views cities as key centres of thought and action when it comes to education and learning about inclusive and sustainable development. Learning to live together sustainably in cities is one of the most important educational challenges of our time.

Against this background, UNESCO Beirut, in collaboration with UNESCO Cairo Office, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), UNESCO HQ, and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), organized on 5-7 March 2018 a Regional Conference on “Learning to Live Sustainably in Cities in the Arab Region”, in Aswan, Egypt. 

At the opening ceremony, the director of UNESCO Beirut, Hamed al Hammami, stated that: “We live today in a complex and rapidly changing world. Our cities and society face many challenges that jeopardize sustainable development, including the lack of employment opportunities, the spread of violence and unplanned urbanization, as well as climate change. These challenges must be met to achieve sustainable development not only at the national level, but also at the local level, in cities and villages.” He emphasized that: “Lifelong learning through its various approaches, both school and university education, or continuous learning, can lay the foundation for this desired change by providing citizens with the necessary knowledge, skills, values and behavior to achieve sustainable and comprehensive development.”

Al-Hammami highlighted the role of UNESCO in promoting sustainable development at the local/city level. “UNESCO gives great importance to the role of civil society in achieving sustainable development goals through its initiatives to create alliances for cities in several areas, such as the UNESCO Learning Cities Coalition and the and the Cities Against Discrimination and Racism Coalition.” In this regard, Al-Hammami mentioned that : “The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities was established by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in 2013 as a platform and a global forum to share successful ideas to activate the role of cities to achieve sustainable development as well as to mobilize resources and revitalize local communities to improve the quality of education. In addition, UNESCO is part of the Global Action Program (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development, where the program focuses on promoting education for sustainable development at the local level and with provinces, cities and communities.”

In this context, the regional conference held in Aswan aimed to support the Member States of the Arab region with the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in cities and urban communities through Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Learning Cities. In particular, the workshop aimed to:

• Increase awareness on existing tools and programmes on ESD, in particular on sustainable tourism, water and energy issues, Learning Cities, World Heritage Cities, Creative Cities, International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and biosphere reserves;

• Strengthen capacities of city authorities to integrate ESD at community level and build learning cities;

• Foster partnership and networking among cities through sharing of practices and policies in urban contexts that could be replicated;

• Provide a platform for cities to engage in a multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary discussion on their role in promoting ESD and lifelong learning within the framework of the SDGs.

The workshop was attended by the governor of Aswan Majdi Hijazi, the director of UNESCO Beirut Hamad Al Hammami, the director of UNESCO Cairo Ghaith Fariz, experts from UNESCO HQ, Programme Specialist at ISESCO Aziz Al-Hajir, and representatives from 25 cities/municipalities, who are practitioners of ESD with a focus on cities and communities.

At the end of the 3-day workshop, a report was issued, summarizing results and recommendations on integrating ESD in cities, and addressing local implementation of the SDGs through ESD; and a set of ESD good practices were collected through the ESD and Cities Good Practice template.

The report will soon be available for free download.


**Target 4.7: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”.

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