Japan winner of UNESCO education prize uses ‘whole city’ approach to sustainable development
A brewery that helped save a rare species of fish, a fair trade project developed between a high school and a retail company, and a community-wide project in Kyoyama District are three of many success stories of the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission, one of the winners of the 2016 UNESCO-Japan Prize for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
The Prize, which is funded by the Government of Japan, consists of three annual awards of USD 50,000 for each recipient for projects which recognize the role of education in connecting the social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
This year, along with the Commission, prizes have gone to the National Union of Students, UK for its Green Impact project and the Centre for Community Regeneration and Development (CCREAD-Cameroon) from Cameroon. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will award the laureates in a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 11 October 2016.
The Commission has been promoting ESD since 2005 using a ‘whole city’ approach in the Okayama Region with more than 250 organizations as members including NGOs, companies and educational institutions. It uses formal and informal education approaches and offers activities and training through community learning centres, schools, parks and shopping malls as well as in places close to nature.
Miki Konishi, Secretariat of the Commission, said: “Like other cities Okayama is suffering from environmental degradation, and weakening of the social bonds through urbanization. Our aim from the beginning has been to bind the community more tightly together in Okayama from the very young to the old, to build a feeling of togetherness in building a sustainable society.
“This prize goes to every person and organization involved. It is a reward for their engagement and work. For us it is very energising. We have gained in confidence since winning.”
Business and nature coexist
One of the outstanding projects has been conducted by various stakeholders in Chigusa District, including the Okayama Factory of Kirin Brewery and proves that big business as well as individuals can be engaged. The company has not only reduced its environmental burden but is actively promoting sustainable development actions.
“They are located where the water is very pure in very beautiful countryside. In this area there is a species of freshwater fish unique to the area. This fish is a national treasure and Kirin has joined in to conserve and preserve this species and coexist with it,” said Ms Konishi.
In 2015, to reward the good practices of local communities in the region and internationally, the Commission initiated the annual “ESD Okayama Award”. So far, approximately 150,000 people have participated in ESD activities conducted by groups and organizations from the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission.
The UNESCO Club of Ichinomiya High School and AEON Retail Company have been working together to promote fair trade. They jointly organized workshops at an ESD event at a shopping mall and collaboratively developed an environmentally friendly umbrella.
In one district, Kyoyama, the Commission has have worked hard to build community ownership and participation through disaster risk reduction and multicultural learning programmes and has instituted the Festival Kyoyama which last year drew 2000 people.
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