06.02.2017 - Education Sector

Winners of UNESCO Prize for sustainability education forge new ties in Japan

© UNESCO-Miriam Tereick

The winners of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) from 2015 and 2016 came together on a special five-day study trip to Japan co-organized by UNESCO. The prize, funded by the Government of Japan, honours individuals and organizations for outstanding ESD projects. The participants were able to create partnerships and share experiences with each other in a series of events held in Okayama and Tokyo from 21 to 25 January.

“Some of the most significant discussions on ESD I’ve had in a long time,” said one of the winners of the prize, Corrina Grace of Asociación SERES.  Another prize recipient, Jamie Agombar of the National Union of Students (NUS-UK) from the United Kingdom, said the experience had been “tremendously useful….Winning the UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize might just be the best thing that has ever happened to us.”

Building partnerships and sharing experiences

First big event on the schedule was the Okayama ESD Forum, where the representatives of the prize-winning organizations gave short talks about their work in front of an audience of 400 experts, teachers, students, NGOs, businesses, citizens and the city’s mayor. One 2016 winner did not have to travel far to be there: the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission, recognized last year for its exceptional whole-city approach to sustainability.  

The second 2016 laureate, NUS-UK, which received the Prize for its successful “Green Impact” programme in universities sent its “Head of Sustainability” on the trip. The third 2016 winner, the Centre for Community Regeneration and Development Cameroon, unfortunately had to cancel their participation.

Last year’s winners were joined by those of the first edition of the Prize in 2015, rootAbility from Germany, SERES from Guatemala and Jayagiri Centre from Indonesia.

Three days in Okayama, the laureates attended a second ESD Forum in Tokyo with high-level Japanese experts on ESD. Additionally, they visited a wide range of organizations, educational institutions and government offices with a stake in ESD in both cities. On the list were several UNESCO Associated Schools as well as  Key Partners of the Global Action Programme on ESD (GAP), such as the Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), the Goi Peace Foundation and the United Nations University (UNU-IAS).

Future collaborations

The last day was devoted to discussing future collaborations with each other and with their new contacts. These will include conducting research projects on outcomes of ESD, cooperating on grant applications, staying in touch through regular Skype calls and GAP key partner meetings, continuing the joint ESD Prize Blog and of course another reunion in 2018, with the next three laureates.  

The event closed with a fun karaoke evening, and with participants expressing their satisfaction: Miki Konishi from the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission appreciated the “great opportunity to rethink ESD by looking at the variety of different approaches to it.”

“The results totally exceeded everyone’s expectations,” reports Miriam Tereick, UNESCO’s focal point for the Prize. “So many exciting new connections were made, and plans for future partnerships.”

“We had planned some ‘ice-breaking’ activity on Day One to get people talking,” she adds. “It really wasn’t necessary. Everybody just seemed to hit it off immediately.”

The UNESCO-Japan Prize

The UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD honours individuals and organizations for outstanding ESD projects. Funded by the Government of Japan, it consists of an annual award of US$150,000 to be divided among three laureates. The Prize was awarded for the first time in November 2015. The deadline for nominations for the 2017 Prize is 2 May.  See here for further information.

The 5-day event was co-organized by UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan, the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO (JNCU), the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission, Okayama City and Okayama University.

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