Aichi-Nagoya News - Youth Perspectives

Opening Session

© Youth reporter
From left to right: Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, the Crown Prince of Japan and HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa, President of Mohammed VI Foundation open the conference by addressing past achievements and future challenges

by Emily Grabo

The Director General of UNESCO and His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan opened the conference by invoking a spirit of action and progress as the UN Decade on ESD draws to a close and the world's education community plans next steps.  The Opening Ceremony began with the traditional Japanese Kyogen artist Mansai Nomura performing the divine dance Sambasa that shows gratitude to nature. The shared concern and respect for nature and the environment showed was reflected in the opening addresses of the lead speakers.

“Building the foundations for lasting peace and sustainable development starts in the minds of women and men, and this begins with education,” stated Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO. It also means that people must explore new ways of seeing, producing and consuming.  That in turn requires new ways of thinking in order to shape new knowledge, values and skills.  It is all necessary because new challenges are emerging constantly all over the world – the rising cost of natural disasters.  His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan is certain that education is the solution to these problems. He is right in believing that the approach of ESD has taken root over the last decade: more than 14 million students and 1.2 million teachers in 58 countries are engaged in action-oriented learning for sustainable development.

Yesterday – today – tomorrow.  A decade of learning for sustainability has ended. Participants are looking back at the journey of ten years of education for sustainable development.  Education for sustainability means connecting sustainable development issues with teaching and learning.  Ultimately this requires connecting environmental issues with cultural, economic and social concerns all over the world. 

Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco, President of the Mohammed VI Foundation, and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP (through a video statement), gave explicit examples of these actions and brought these numbers to life.  Moreover, Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan, has already anticipated the future. He wants to promote ESD in the international community through a new UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize.

The conference began in this shared spirit of action to create sustainable societies and economies. Over the next three days, it will celebrate the past decade of Education for Sustainable Development and chart the way ahead.

Session Two: Celebrating the UN Decade of ESD

©Ryohei Masukawa
Panel debate on achievements and challenges of the DESD, with (from left to right): Stephen Cole, Moderator, Angelina Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, South Africa, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, Susan Hopgood, President, Education International, Tariq Al Olaimy, 3BL Associates, Bahrain

By Martins Mozga

There is a lot a human can do in 10 years, yet there is even more that can be done by people working together.  The second session of the World Conference on ESD celebrated the achievements of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

The final report for the decade summarizes significant accomplishments since it began in 2005.  Education for sustainable development has been supported by schools, universities and their surrounding communities.  In addition, ESD initiatives are being supported by local goverments all over the world.  Their aim is to make not just a green economy but also a green society.  ESD is being recognised in practically every corner of the world, which is an enormous achievement in itself.  However, the prevailing atmosphere at the conference is that this is just the beginning.  Everything that has been done over last decade will be the base on which to support the future.

ESD has launched a new concept of global citizenship.  The environment is everyone’s issue, and there is no place better than schools to teach this kind of thinking. However, education without action has little use. Education and taking action should be indivisable; only then will there be real change.  At the panel discussion during the session, Susan Hopgood, President of Education International, stated:  “This message is easy to sell, because young people understand it instinctively.’’  Which means that you need to introduce us to a new idea and that we, the youth, will know what to do with it.

Session Three: Looking beyond the UN Decade of ESD

©Becca Willi
Jacob T. Kaimenyi, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Kenya speaking at the UNESCO World Conference on ESD in Aichi-Nagoya, November 2014

by Becca Williams

In 2004, the United Nations launched a ten-year international initiative called the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), with the aim of "enabling citizens to face the challenges of the present and future and leaders to make relevant decisions for a viable world."  Today, at the UNESCO World Conference on ESD, participants from around the world come together to mark the end of this decade of action and to discuss and celebrate these past ten years of work.
But one cannot dwell on the past forever.  What happens for the UN's initiative in 2015 and beyond?  A panel of ministers from different Member States addressed this question at the ESD Conference, in relation to their respective country’s plans for future education on sustainable development.
Madiha Ahmed Al-Shaibani, Minister of Education in Oman, outlined her country’s program on education for sustainable development as a twenty-year initiative in “mainstreaming ESD at every level of education… in every sector of society.” The Minister stressed her country’s attempt at adopting the fundamentals learnt in the previous Decade as a work plan for the following years.
Jacob T. Kaimenyi, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Kenya, critiqued the collective “need” for countries “to closely focus on what is being implemented around the world.”  Instead, he said, change must first occur at a local level in order for it to reach a global audience. The Cabinet Secretary spoke of Kenya’s Green Schools Initiative Program that organizes schools as “agents of change” within a community.
Bangledesh’s Minister for Education, Nurul Islam Nahid, spoke highly of the DESD program’s intentions and how the past Decade positively impacted the future of his country. The Minister outlined a few of Bangladesh’s current and post-DESD national sustainable development strategies, which include the free distribution of textbooks in classes from 1-10 and the integration of social and environmental issues into school curriculums. Nahid concluded with the following statement, “ESD allows every human to acquire the knowledge, skills and values essential to a sustainable future… [and] should be introduced in all curriculums.”
In Somoa, as Magele Mauiliu, the country’s Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, stated that further efforts toward sustainable development through education are being implemented with the aim of making quality education available to everyone, “with a focus for the most vulnerable… to ensure that education contributes to further building of peace.” The Minister emphasized that Samoa’s “national economic, social and environmental goals can only be met with quality education for all of our people.”

Finally, Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, Vice-Minister of Education in Germany, outlined sustainability as “a holistic understanding of human kind, the environment and all it’s needs.” In thinking critically of the goals for her country’s future, she asked “How can we firmly anchor this principle in our everyday life?” To Ms. Quennet-Thielen, the answer remains clear: “Through education.” The Minister noted a few of Germany’s efforts toward a sustainable future, two of those being the involvement of civil society and the “cooperation between education and researchers.”

Each of the post-DESD programs outlined by the above Ministers are unique and specific initiatives, yet they all gear toward the same goal: the development of a sustainable future through education. The all-encompassing challenge is the lack of equal amounts of local and global involvement. Cornelia Quennet-Thielen of Germany stressed this in her speech when she said, “Think locally, act globally. Changes begin in the mind.”
“We need to work together on one ship. If this ship sinks, all of us sink," concluded Mr. Kaimenyi, the Cabinet Secretary from Kenya.

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