Laureates of the 2021 UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development awarded for inspiring projects

During this year’s 41st General Conference, the Award Ceremony of the 2021 UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development was held on 19 November 2021 to recognize the outstanding contributions of three organizations to education for sustainable development. Funded by the Government of Japan, the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD was established in October 2014.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) empowers learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to address the interconnected global challenges we are facing, including climate change, poverty, inequality, loss of biodiversity. Learners are encouraged to act as agents of change in creating a sustainable society.

Due to sanitary measures, a hybrid award ceremony was held at UNESCO Headquarters along with a livestreamed webcast that connected the three laureates – World Vision Ghana (Ghana), the Media Development Center of the Birzeit University (Palestine) and Kusi Kawsay School (Peru) – to spectators from every corner of the world.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, praised the organizations for being the “boots on the ground” essential to implementing education for sustainable development. Vibeke Jensen, Master of Ceremony and UNESCO Director of Division for Peace and Sustainable Development, then introduced the three winners through a video screening.

This year's laureates, selected from over 100 nominations by Member States and UNESCO partners, illustrate that there are many paths, at all ages, to empowering learners to act for sustainability
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini

Along with the Secretary-General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, Yasushi Taguchi, and Chair of the International Jury of the Prize, Her Royal Highness, Princess Abze Djigma of Burkina Faso, Ms. Giannini presented each laureate with a certificate and check award of US$ 50,000.

The COVD-19 pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in societies including in education. It is important to empower people to take transformative actions on their own
Yasushi Taguchi, Secretary General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO

H.R.H. Princess Abze Djigma then moderated a panel discussion where representatives from each of the organizations discussed their values, inspirations, and outcomes.

Walking the talk – that is the most important. Bringing the bottom up and top down. The world changes when the top and bottom meet. That’s what’s happening here
H.R.H. Princess Abze Djigma of Burkina Faso, Chair of the International Jury of the Prize

In particular, each of the laureates highlighted the importance of education for sustainable development. H.R.H. Princess Abze Djigma began the panel discussion by conveying how impressed the jury was with World Vision Ghana’s project which is not only a traditional literacy project, but also one that aims to inspire children to take action based on what they have learned. In response, motivated by the belief that the development of every country follows the learning curve of its children, World Vision Ghana’s Technical Program Manager, Andrew Ofosu-Dankyi, emphasized the Unlock Literacy Project’s objective to build stronger children for a stronger future.

Through the Unlock Literacy approach, World Vision is enabling many vulnerable boys and girls in Ghana to learn to read and read to learn
Dickens Thunde, National Director of World Vision Ghana

When asked to give an overview of their winning project, Román Vizcarra Noriega, representing UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) Member Kusi Kawsay School, explained the Peruvian organization’s integration of indigenous culture and knowledge in their educational activities and practices. By drawing on ancestral wisdom, the organization’s principles are rooted in ecological coexistence.

It’s time for the silenced voices of all of the native peoples of the earth to be heard because this voice holds thousands of years of experience – experience in building societies that live in harmony with everything that exists, not just with other humans
Román Vizcarra Noriega, President of Kusi Kawsay Association

Similar to the Peruvian laureate, the Media Development Center of the Birzeit University in Palestine focuses on uplifting marginalized voices. The organization seeks to establish ethical and responsible media by promoting transparency, freedom of speech, critical media literacy, and citizen access to media.

The project allows Palestinians to invite the world into our lives and to tell our human story
Nibal al-Thawabteh, Director of the Media Development Center of the Birzeit University

The award ceremony came to a close with expressions of gratitude to the Government of Japan, Member States, NGOs and foundations in official relations with UNESCO, as well as for the cooperation of UNESCO colleagues both at Headquarters and in the Field offices, interpreters, and technical staff.