Giving a young perspective on the 2014 UNESCO ESD World Conference
by Emily Grabo
“Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future.” – This means including main sustainable development issues in teaching and learning; such as, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption. ESD also equally addresses all three pillars of sustainable development - society, environment and economy - with culture as an essential additional and underlying dimension. By doing that it enables every human being to learn the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation.
In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to start the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) from January 2005. DESD was ten-year international initiative with the aim to promote and imply ESD internationally. The 2014 UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development marked the end of the UN decade. The conference took place from 10-12 November 2014 in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan. It attracted more than 1,000 participants, among them 75 ministerial-level representatives of national governments as well as heads of intergovernmental organisations. Furthermore, 52 young ESD leaders attended the conference as youth representatives, working alongside the general participants.
As part of the youth delegation Becca Williams (21), Mārtiņš Mozga (18) and I were invited to give a young perspective on the conference. We worked as Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) alongside three Japanese students from the Tokyo, Waseda Journalism School and professional journalists, Julie Saito and Neil Ford of UNESCO. In pairs we were assigned to attend different panels and workshops every day. This allowed us to get a detailed insight into the programs, achievements and challenges on ESD. However, it also meant each of us could not access all facets of the conference. But most importantly, we were able to voice the young generations which need to be reached by ESD, and work together for a sustainable future.
During the three days I reported on two major events which therefore had the greatest impact on my perspective on ESD. My first article was on the Opening Session on the first day of the conference. Amongst others in the conference was opened by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan and Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. In the words of Irina Bokova the conference is a “call to action” since the planet is reaching the limit of its capacity to support life.As a young participant and reporter, it was impressive to see as well as feel the spirit of action and progress shared by all participants. Reporting about the Opening Session enabled me to learn more about the roots, but also the future perspectives of ESD. Most important, it demonstrated the significance to create a platform for like-minded people to share their experiences and results on ESD. Through event like this people are able to empower each other and create an international community.
In contrast to the many achievements, the similar challenges of the different UNESCO Member States in implying ESD were striking. I learned more about these by reporting about the High-Level Round Table in the afternoon of the first day of the conference. 75 ministerial-level representatives attended the discussion to share their views, experiences and challenges of integrating ESD into their countries’ policies. During the two-hour debate two very different arguments were most outstanding to me. On one hand the report of the Indonesian delegate was very enlightening. He said that “when ESD was introduced two years ago [...] Indonesians at that time were becoming very individualistic, materialistic and high-competitive that created social unrest and exhaustion of natural resources” but ESD created a balance between nature and society. Now the Indonesian government spends 20% of financial support on education. To me, it was interesting to see how ESD is able to change social, economic and cultural relations and is able to reach all levels of society.On the other hand the concerns expressed by the Turkish minister at the high-level round table, intrigued me: “Education systems need to be structured around that common goal to create peace in the world.”
Over the three days I was not only able to get more experience as a journalist, I also learned more about international relations and especially the internationally shared goal to promote and imply Education for Sustainable Development. The views expressed by the different participants of the conference highlighted the range and depth of ESD: When implying ESD you have to connect all dimensions of sustainable development - society, environment and economy as well as culture. Furthermore, ESD grasps further: it aims to improve the quality of life both locally and globally for everyone. By doing that ESD not only means to provide education for everybody but also to give a voice to every human being. This includes giving young reporters like me and my colleagues a possibility to share their perspective.
About the Author:
Emily Grabo, age 18, attended 2014 UNESCO ESD World Conference as a young reporter of the Foundation for Environmental Education. She is currently in her final year at high school in Berlin. She enjoys reading and writing about environmental topics as well as classical
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