UNESCO launches ESD for 2030 Global Network

On 4 October 2022, hundreds came together online to participate in the launch webinar of UNESCO’s ESD for 2030 Global Network (ESD-Net 2030). With the support of the Government of Japan, UNESCO’s new network aims to facilitate the implementation of the ESD for 2030 framework and its Roadmap by enhancing knowledge sharing, collaboration, mutual learning, advocacy, monitoring, and evaluation, among a wide range of education stakeholders. The launch webinar introduced the objective and planned activities of the Network and featured interventions from several Member States as well as an interactive session highlighting the relationship between culture and sustainability.

What we need to do is make continuous efforts to make the concepts of ESD always fresh and updated, and I hope this network will provide the opportunities at which we can keep ourselves updated and learn with each other.
Mr Shun Shirai, Deputy Secretary-General, Japanese National Commission for UNESCO

The webinar provided an overview of the ESD for 2030 Country Initiatives – country plans that map, mobilize and create synergies among ongoing and new ESD activities that Member States are currently developing and implementing as part of the ESD for 2030 Roadmap. It is now time to systematically embed ESD in all aspects of education systems, and that this can only be possible when all stakeholders talk to each other, break down silos, and connect the dots.

Emphasis on collaboration and networking

Panelists from Saint Kitts and Nevis, Oman, Zambia, Germany and Lao PDR shared experiences and lessons learned on how they have prepared or are preparing their own ESD for 2030 country initiative including challenges and successes within their specific contexts. For example, Bianca Bilgram, Head Task Force Education for Sustainable Development at the German Commission for UNESCO shared the development process for their country initiative. To achieve the goal of empowering all learners by 2030 to act sustainably, Germany established a National Platform (NP) for ESD with over 300 national stakeholders from various sectors and industry, including government, science, civil society, youth, and academia to implement the national action plan on ESD.

ESD for 2030 Germany

Further, the speakers shared how they have embraced the opportunity for collaboration and cooperation. Khalid Al Mawali, Head of Higher Education and Scientific Research Section of the National Commission for Education of Oman, described the country’s efforts to diversify their financial resources through collaboration with private sector partners in implementing ESD activities. Professor Overson Shumba, Director Centre for Academic Development of Copperbelt University in Zambia, explained that one of the challenges was that National Working Group members were coming from different sectors and had never worked in collaboration before. The perception was that education is the exclusive role of the Minister of Education.

There's a lot of work happening within our country, but sometimes there's a need for more coherence and a greater need for people to understand how their activities and their work connect to this overarching concept, which is education for sustainable development.
Ms Tricia Esdaille, Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Education, St. Kitts and Nevis

The ESD country initiatives, and ESD-Net 2030, provide an opportunity to overcome some of these challenges, by fostering collaboration and cooperation across a variety of stakeholders.

Culture, art and sustainability

An example of this intersectoral collaboration was highlighted in the second half of the webinar, as part of ESD-Net 2030’s series of global interactive learning workshops on ESD pedagogy, highlighting the unique role of art and culture in mainstreaming ESD.

Culture as ESD platform

Organized by Ki Culture, an international nonprofit organization working to unite culture and sustainability, the workshop invited participants as the leaders on ESD, to think about culture and about the opportunities that the cultural sector offers. For example, the facilitators highlighted the importance of museums and cultural institutions, with more than 95,000 museums in the world just waiting to educate and engage people with topics of sustainability. They provide informal learning spaces for all types of audiences from young children to elderly people, from all different backgrounds and really from everywhere on the on the planet. They provide opportunities for us to educate people about the holistic approach to sustainability through not just the lens of climate change, but also social justice, for example.

The workshop was then divided into 4 breakout rooms to dive deeper into innovative opportunities for ESD:

  • Utilizing cultural centers as informal learning platforms for education for sustainable development
  • How to use art to as an expressive tool for connecting people with sustainability
  • Practicing effective communication to empower us to become leaders for ESD in our daily conversations
  • Taking action in our workplace and daily lives to engage in sustainability.

Participants were then encouraged to try out some of these practices and prepare a short video or photo essay of their experiences.  

Art and culture can connect with people on an emotional and personal level not only through experiences and engagement, but also through creative expression.
Caitlin Southwick, Founder and Executive Director of Ki Culture and Sustainability in Conservation

This call to action not only sets a precedent for potential collaboration on ESD, and also mobilizes key stakeholders to accelerate initiatives centered on promoting and implementing ESD and efforts aimed at overcoming common local, national, and regional challenges.