Mediterranean countries discuss progress on Education for Sustainable Development

60 representatives of Ministries of Education and Environment as well as of NGOs from 18 Mediterranean countries and of five International Organizations, including UNESCO, met in Nicosia, Cyprus, from 22 to 24 November 2017 to share experiences and discuss advances in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at policy-level.

This was the first meeting of the Mediterranean ESD Steering Committee, of which UNESCO is a member and which was established at a Ministerial Conference in December 2016 in order to help implement the Mediterranean ESD Strategy and Action Plan.

The meeting was opened by the Minister of Education of Cyprus, Costas Kadis, who said that ESD is a “strong instrument” to tackle the many problems – such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, armed conflict and displacement – that the Mediterranean region is currently facing: “Our efforts to maintain peace and human rights have not been sufficient, they must be further enhanced. We must take action individually and collectively, through ESD. … The aim of the Mediterranean ESD Strategy is to create citizens whose actions and values will be inspired by ESD.”

The Mediterranean ESD Strategy is closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNESCO Global Action Programme on ESD.

At the meeting, all member countries presented their recent progress on establishing and implementing a national ESD strategy and action plan. Many had made great advances, mainstreaming ESD into both formal and non-formal education systems and undertaking capacity building for educators and trainers. Representing Tunisia, Mr Mohamed Ftouhi said: “For our region, ESD is imperative, not a choice.”

Among the remaining challenges identified were mobilization of resources, inter-ministerial collaboration and involvement of the private sector, as well as establishing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Professor Michael Scoullos, UNESCO Chair on Management and ESD in the Mediterranean, who was part of the organizing team, said that the way forward was close collaboration among countries, and with UNESCO and other International Organizations.

UNESCO promotes ESD in the Mediterranean region through its Global Action Programme (GAP) and its GAP Partner Networks. One of UNESCO’s key partners in the region is the Mediterranean Education Initiative for Environment and Sustainability (MEdIES) whose Secretariat provided technical support to the meeting. Other GAP key partners are based in Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Spain. For example, the Lebanese NGO Organisation de Développement Durable (ODDD) works with youth and communities to promote sustainable living at both the local and international level, while securing economic development, social equity and environmental protection. ODDD recently established a sustainable public transportation strategy for the world’s oldest inhabited city, Byblos, and trained a group of university students in order to implement it.

The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe in Venice is implementing ESD (SDG Target 4.7) in an interdisciplinary manner and taking into account the regional context and specific demands of the Member States. Several recent activities can be highlighted: the Arc of Inquiry project focused on improving science education via female teachers and students (the last workshop took place in Albania in October 2017); the MAB Youth Forum in Delta Po River, Italy (September 2017), and the 2nd Open Balkan UNESCO Chairs Meeting, focused on ESD (Bucharest, Romania, October 2017).

A project from Jordan recently won the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD 2017: Zikra for Popular Learning empowers community members to revalue their identity and culture, through the cultivation and sharing of their local knowledge in relation to sustainable solutions. Zikra has created several programmes to communicate its vision, one of which is Exchange Tourism, which bridges the gap between urban and rural communities.

“The progress on ESD in the Mediterranean has been exemplary”, said Miriam Tereick, representing UNESCO Headquarters at the meeting. “It serves as an inspiring model for other regions in the world.”