Costa Rica Initiative

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Sustainability initiatives improve lives in Costa Rica and Uzbekistan

In Costa Rica, an innovative recreational park has opened new horizons for people living with the dire social and environmental consequences of extreme poverty. Meanwhile, in Uzbekistan’s Aral Desert, a programme is encouraging the local population around the rapidly disappearing Aral Sea to adapt and live sustainably.

The two projects are separated by thousands of miles and diverse geography, but the common thread is Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which imparts the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and behaviour needed to think and act for a sustainable future. As the leading UN agency for ESD, UNESCO supports countries in developing education that incorporates crucial issues such as biodiversity and climate change.

UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity
Addressing Climate Change

ESD is the impetus for the 32-ha Parque La Libertad, in Patarrá, Costa Rica, which serves three communities where clean water is scarce and young people fall prey to gangs and drugs. Almost half of the population is under 40 and the school dropout rate is 54 per cent.

The park, created by the Ministry of Culture and Youth in 2007, offers access to cultural and recreational activities, technology and a clean environment, along with technical and other training opportunities, all with the aim of promoting social, economic and environmental change.

The same principles are at work in the ‘Green Belt in Aral Desert’ programme in Uzbekistan, launched in 2014, which connects a network of more than 20 higher education institutions and 50 research centres. So far it has boosted the capacities of more than 1 million youth, trained more than 100,000 people to plant forest on the dried seabed and developed more than 100 ecotourism routes. It has created a School of Young Farmers focused on sustainable land use and food security, and it runs rural schools using ICT to conduct lessons.

Special attention has been paid to the Muynak people, a traditional fishing community living at the heart of the region. The project has provided 10,000 Muynak with clean water, along with training on water use and crop irrigation, as well as medical care.

Both the Parque La Libertad and ‘Green Belt in Aral Desert’ projects are past nominees for the annual UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which honours outstanding initiatives in the field.