Aichi-Nagoya News - Youth Perspectives (Day 2)

High-level Round Table at UNESCO ESD World Conference

Emily Grabo - 75 ministerial-level representatives of countries attended the high-level roundtable to share views and experiences on ESD

by Emily Grabo

Ministerial representatives gather at a high-level round table to share their views, experiences and challenges on integrating ESD into their countries’ policies

75 ministerial-level representatives of UNESCO Member States attended the discussion.  It was co-chaired by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. In total 35 ministers were able to share their achievements and express their concerns.  Each was given two minutes to speak.

“We have a critical year ahead of us, we have to continue the momentum and we have to keep what we have achieved already.” – With these words Irina Bokova opened the debate. She continued to highlight the importance of analysing the results of ESD as part of the Post-2015 Agenda which aims to help define the future global development framework of the United Nations. Hakubun Shimomura added: “The people gathered here today are promoting ESD around the world.” He concluded that “this discussion will be very important in formulating global momentum for sustainable education”.


Yuri Murakami - High-level round table

In the subsequent debate four key questions were addressed: 1) Why has ESD been adopted by some countries but not by others? 2) What are the success factors that enable the integration of ESD into education and sustainable development policies? 3) What prevents the creation of an enabling policy environment for ESD? 4) What actions are needed at national and international levels in order to enhance the policy response to ESD?

Many countries noted major successes in establishing ESD.  Greece  - the first to speak in the debate – provided an excellent example of the positive effect of the International Implementation Scheme of the decade.  The Greek minister stated that his country has founded more than 50 ESD centres with 45.000 programmes since 2005. These centres were attended by 1.5 million students and 83.000 teachers. Furthermore, “Greek universities are closely collaborating on education and research for sustainable development as well as its promotion” to broaden the impact of ESD.

Just as enlightening was the report of the Indonesian delegate. He said that “when ESD was introduced two years ago [...] Indonesians at that time were becoming very individualistic, materialistic and highly-competitive that created social unrest and exhaustion of natural resources.”  ESD created a balance between nature and society. Now the Indonesian government spends 20 per cent of its financial support on education. Many other countries achieved similar successes, such as Senegal, Equador, Kuwait and Switzerland.

The high-level round table also focused on challenges. Political instability was a major issue which endangered the implementation of ESD. The Palestine government was able to integrate ESD into their education system through European and Arabic support. However, due to the events in Ghaza which caused destruction and forced people to leave the country, “every effort collapsed”. The Turkish minister expressed similar concerns: “Education systems need to be structured around that common goal to create peace in the world.”

Countries with weaker economies, such as Namibia, Togo and Antigua, faced the problem of funding ESD programs and teacher training. The Antiguan delegate stated: “We are small states, we are vulnerable people and we look forward and invite a greater degree of collaboration on expertise ... especially from larger member states.”

This combination of achievements and challenges offered a broad and varied perspective on ESD that created a base to set future targets for the Post-2015 Agenda. Irina Bokova concluded that UNESCO and the UN member states are looking forward to creating a Global Action Programme to provide consistency and tackle common challenges, such as teacher training, quality of education and financing. The high-level round table ended with these words of the co-chair of the debate, Hakubun Shimomura: “I have high hopes that you will take home what we debated today and promote ESD ... through your strong leadership.”

The roundtable was a positive event that will lay the basis for future action.

Workshop Focus: Early Childhood Care and Education as a starting point for ESD

Becca Williams - Early Childhood Care and Education Workshop

by Becca Williams 

The second day of the World Conference on ESD was devoted to a wide range of workshops.  Topics ranged from “Children as Change-makers” to “Transforming the World into a Better Place through Higher Education and Research”, underscoring the importance of lifelong learning for sustainable development. 

The workshop that I attended, “Developing ESD Initiatives for Early Childhood Care and Education” was coordinated by the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).  It was dedicated to a critical analysis of current early childhood education systems around the globe as the basis for determining future directions, through what host John Siraj-Blatchford of OMEP termed the “holistic perspective”. Such a perspective, he stated, demands the participation of educators in all stages of life and learning, from early child to late adult. 

Next was a presentation by Ingrid Pramling-Sammelson, also from OMEP, on successful transformative teaching and learning projects. One that really stood out was a gender equality initiative conducted at a preschool in Kenya, where young girls were shown a video of Wangari Maathai performing a variety of roles in one of her socio-dramatic plays.  Seeing Maathai – a Nobel laureate and local hero – play different socio-economic characters inspired the young girls to take on different roles and break gender stereotypes.  Pramling-Sammelson concluded her presentation with the statement: “Children have agency, but need to be given the opportunity to use it.” 

The workshop then divided into discussion groups on different aspects of good practice in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).  Participants from Africa rejected a proposal for an Africa-focused group.  They  argued that the goals of the ESD conference are to work around global issues not separately, but together, united as a family of nations - because, as one participant stated “That is how we learn from one another!”    

The workshop ended with Ms. Pramling-Sammelson calling for a decade devoted to ECCE.  The session is just one example of the range of good practices and challenging situations that participants explored in a range of workshops through the day.

Young people speak out at a special Press Conference

Yuri Murakami
- Press Conference Youth participants

by Martins Mozga

52 young ESD leaders attended a Youth Conference in Okayama the week before the World Conference started.  They are now taking part in the main event in Aichi-Nagoya as youth representatives, working alongside the general participants. On Tuesday, they held a Press Conference of their own, to let journalists know their own unique perspective on ESD. 

During the conference, one youth leader from the Netherlands, Sybren Bosch, stated: "I feel surprised that youth form a separate chapter in the Global Action Programme for ESD, because the goal of the GAP is to come up with the future for the young people of today." He went on to say that youth perspectives should be integrated through the entire Programme, not isolated in a separate chapter. 

All the youth leaders at the conference stressed that young people must be strong-willed, so that adult leaders actually listen to them.  However, a young Japanese ESD leader, Madako Takei, gave a compelling example of how pressure from adults and teachers can positively influence youth lifestyle choices. She described how adults can help young people make good decisions about recycling.  So the pressure between generations benefits both young people and adults.  "By empowering and giving them a platform, youth can be activated," said Sybren Bosch.


Yuri Murakami
- Press Conference: Ms Otani, Ms Saeki

Mona Betour, PhD researcher and young ESD leader from Lebanon, spoke passionately about ESD on a daily basis. If you are a leader in your social group you can be an example and influence all the people around you, she said. 16-year-old Nadia Ramos also took part in the youth press conference.  She made very good points about how young people in the spotlight tend to learn more and how a sustainability club in her school benefits both students and the environment around it.

Funmi Oyatogun, from Nigeria, expressed the strong opinion that "We are not the leaders of tomorrow. The future is in our hands today." Furthermore, she was the only speaker who brought up the idea of integrating ESD into all forms of modern education, such as art, films and even sports.

By taking part in the ESD World Conference young people ensure that the older generations will not decide their future without considering them. Because it is the youth who are going to feel the consequences the most.

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