A look at the future of Education for Sustainable Development at Costa Rica event

Over 90 Key Partners of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) met in San Jose, Costa Rica, from 25 to 27 April 2018  to ‘look into the future of ESD, together’ and plan the work of the Partner Networks until 2019.


As the GAP will end in 2019, UNESCO is carrying out a series of global consultations to reflect on the post-GAP period and the future of ESD. At the event, which took place at the University for Peace in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, UNESCO consulted with the GAP Partner Networks on a draft position paper on the future of ESD. The three-day meeting, organized by UNESCO Headquarters and UNESCO San Jose in cooperation with Earth Charter, included discussion and planning on the work of the Partner Networks until 2019.  


At the opening, Ms Alicia Vargas, Vice Minister for Education of Costa Rica told participants “ESD is a just, inclusive, and society-building process as well as individual development.” She said that ESD was already part of the curriculum in Costa Rica, which contributes to the SDGs through formal and informal education.


Ms Soo-Hyang Choi, Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development at UNESCO said: “This is the first external consultation that we hold on the draft position paper.  We welcome both positive and critical feedback from the partners, which prompts us to further reflect on the clarity of the position paper on the future of ESD.”


The first day included interactive town-hall discussions using an online survey tool and subsequent debates over key questions. Issues addressed ranged from the importance of ESD to the achievement of the SDGs, to its role in promoting values and sustainable lifestyles, especially among youth. Questions also addressed the role of ESD in empowering local communities to act for sustainable development, the relevance of ESD in the context of extreme poverty, as well as the extent to which technological advances would change the discourse on sustainability and ESD.


The second day built on these discussions through group visits to various ESD-related sites around San Jose. The sites ranged from green schools where ESD is integrated into the curriculum in creative methods, for women's empowerment through arts and cultural activities, and a national technical and vocational education and training (TVET) centre where ‘how to be sustainably productive’ is the priority. These site visits enabled participants to explore the practical and contextual insights on ESD in these communities and to interact first-hand with the people involved in these initiatives. In the afternoon, world café discussions allowed participants to reflect on the position paper in view of observations made during the site visits.


Speaking of one visit Mr Hilary Ngide from the Centre for Community Regeneration and Development (CCREAD) in Cameroon said: "We visited an eco-school which is located in a forest: so the forest is also the classroom. It was very interesting to see how everyone in that academic community was involved in ESD, from the school leadership to the administration, teachers and students. ESD is about giving people autonomy to experiment sustainability in practical ways, and this is what we saw in this site visit. It resonates with the position paper on the role of the individual and empowering them as a community; which we strongly sensed in this school visit.”


Ms Tintin Kartini from the Centre for Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education (Jayagiri Centre) in Indonesia, was impressed with what she described as ‘work with heart and hands in a high-risk community’ in a refugee centre where young women are building their capacities for life skills and are appreciated and recognized for their contribution to the community.


The sharing of opinions, perspectives, priorities and good practices continued into the last day, which mainly centred on the successes and challenges of the current GAP flagship projects' implementation, which is funded by Japan. One such flagship projects was the youth leadership programme on ESD, which saw regional, local and national capacity-building workshops on ESD successfully organized for 292 youth from 93 countries in total, who then conducted their own workshops empowering over 11,000 youth around the world.  Other flagship projects focused on the role of the local community in mobilizing ESD or on policy processes for integrating ESD into academic arenas and building the capacities of administrations and teachers.


The closing of the meeting also celebrated the launch of a new UNESCO publication “ESD volume of Education on the Move series: ‘Issues and Trends in Education for Sustainable Development”. It aims at providing policy-makers, educators, and other stakeholders with state-of-the-art analyses of topical issues pertaining to ESD.


The event comes at a time of heightened global interest on the contribution of ESD to the achievement of the SDGs. “This meeting has been extremely useful for us in helping design the post-GAP phase in consultation with all the partners, and we really hope that this process has been beneficial for you as well,” said Ms Soo-Hyang Choi. “We will aim to be as open as possible in reflecting these discussions in the final position paper.”


Participants left the meeting newly inspired and committed to push forward on ESD and further build on collaborations, partnerships, and possibilities at both local and global levels. The draft position paper on the future of ESD will undergo a series of consultations including the Technical Consultation Meeting on the Future of ESD (July 9-10, Bangkok, Thailand) and will be presented to the 206th session of the UNESCO Executive Board for approval.


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