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UNESCO values the inclusion of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED) in the 2030 Agenda, and provides support to countries worldwide to transform their education systems and to meet their education obligations under the SDGs.

UNESCO Week for Peace and Sustainable Development will seek to contribute to generating new partnerships and ideas to amplify joint actions for a sustainable and peaceful society.

In today’s turbulent world, we are increasingly interdependent and interconnected. Global challenges – from conflict and violent extremism to poverty and the consequences of climate change – affect all societies, touching every human being. Effective and lasting solutions require new forms of global solidarity and cooperation. In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly took a significant step in this direction by committing to implementing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

How do we maintain this momentum? For UNESCO, education is the key strategy. Education is a basic human right, and a force for sustainability and peace. We must make the most of its transformational power for equity and inclusion, for social mobility and global solidarity. Education is not only an integral part of sustainable development, it is also a key enabler for it.

This is why UNESCO values the inclusion of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED) in the 2030 Agenda: Both are under SDG Target 4.7 and are, indeed, relevant for the achievement of all other SDGs.

ESD is about equipping people everywhere, and particularly children and youth, with the capacities to engage as informed citizens in shaping sustainable societies. GCED is about learning to live together in a world under pressure. It concerns new forms of cultural literacy and competences, on the basis of respect and equal dignity.

ESD and GCED go hand in hand. Together they are designed to provide everyone with the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values – particularly values – necessary to shape a sustainable future. Young people and learners need the cognitive and socio-emotional skills, such as creativity, empathy, compassion, sense of solidarity and responsibility, which will prepare them for the world of work. This means empowering young people to become change agents themselves, able to craft sustainable solutions at every level. It means rethinking the goals of education to foster these skills, attitudes and behaviours that all societies need today and tomorrow.

International awareness of the importance of a holistic approach to education, including values and behaviour change, has been growing steadily in recent years. From Rio+20, throughout the UN Decade of ESD (2005-2014) and its follow-up Global Action Programme on ESD (GAP), the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2012 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which entered into force last year, decision-makers in countries around the world have recognized the transformative role of education.

While awareness and recognition on the international agenda have been achieved, the challenge now is to keep not only governments but people all over the world mobilized to reach these goals. The cross-cutting and ambitious objectives of ESD and GCED call for a fundamentally different approach to education: They need to be implemented through new forms of pedagogy that support an understanding of complexity, provoke critical thinking and expand learning beyond the classroom. For this, we need safe and sustainable learning environments as well as teachers who have the competencies, independence and confidence to apply such pedagogies.

Many promising approaches and practices are already being undertaken around the world. Through our global network of more than 10,000 UNESCO Associated Schools (ASPnet), we promote a whole-institution approach to sustainability comprising the school environment and local community.

UNESCO provides support to countries worldwide to transform their education systems and to meet their education obligations under the SDGs. We are developing resources to support policy-makers, to shape new curricula, to assist teachers and to promote education for peace, human rights as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Such resources are freely accessible through our online GAP ESD Clearinghouse and GCED Clearinghouse. UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), founded in 2012, is active across the world through its YESPeace Network for global citizenship, peacebuilding and sustainable development, and its youth action Changemakers Programme.

Results in recent years have been encouraging: ESD and GCED have gained considerable momentum worldwide and examples of effective strategies abound.

Viet Nam, Kenya and Costa Rica are developing national frameworks for ESD with UNESCO’s support.

Sixty teacher education institutions in Southern Africa receive training with support from UNESCO to include ESD in pre and in-service training programmes and to change their institution’s culture towards one that is conducive to ESD.

In partnership with a consortium of universities in the Arab States region, UNESCO is developing an online course (MOOC) intended to provide students with hands-on experience aiming at spreading the skills of intercultural dialogue.

A Human Rights Education Curriculum Development pilot project was launched in Africa in 2016.

All these efforts make it clear that ESD and GCED are two major programmes that can help make education relevant to today’s biggest global challenges.

Stakeholders of these new approaches and discussions of their good practices will be brought together for the first time under one banner during our UNESCO Week for Peace and Sustainable Development: the role of Education, jointly organized with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO from 6 to 10 March 2017 in Ottawa, Canada. Two fora will be held back-to-back, with sessions open to participants of both: the UNESCO GAP ESD Review Forum and the Third UNESCO Forum on GCED.

This joining of forces could not be more appropriate or timely. Within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we hope that the UNESCO Week will contribute to generating new partnerships and ideas to amplify joint actions for a sustainable and peaceful society.

For more information on the UNESCO Week for Peace and Sustainable Development: http://en.unesco.org/esd-gced-week


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