UNESCO Director-General awards UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development

The laureates of the 2016 UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD were named by the Director-General of UNESCO on 15 September 2016: the Centre for Community Regeneration and Development  (CCREAD-Cameroon) from Cameroon, the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission from Japan, and the National Union of Students UK   (NUS-UK) from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This is the second edition of the Prize, which was established in 2014 to honour and showcase outstanding and innovative ESD projects and programmes within the framework of the Global Action Programme on ESD (GAP). Generously funded by the Government of Japan, the Prize comprises three annual awards of US$50,000 each.

Winners are selected every year by the Director-General of UNESCO on the basis of recommendations by an independent jury composed of five international ESD experts. The three laureates of this year’s Prize were chosen from among 120 nominations submitted by 64 UNESCO Member States and 10 NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO.

The Prize on ESD and its laureates highlight the crucial role of education in connecting the social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Find out more at: http://en.unesco.org/prize-esd/2016laureats


How to summarise GEM? Here’s one take – “Education – We the planet” …

In the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization alerts us that education “will not deliver its full potential unless participation rates increase and sustainable development guides education system reform.” The GEM Report also examines “the destructive impact that climate change, conflict, unsustainable consumption, and the increasing gap between rich and poor have on education.”

Despite its 535 pages of UNESCO jargon, the report is rich in evidence. It does, indeed, “provide readers with an authoritative source” of data to help them “argue for the value and importance of education at all levels of decision making.” And it starts with the very title: “Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All.” At last, we, the people, are one and the same with Earth.

Here are paraphrased the report’s major findings:

— Between 2008 and 2014, 84 percent of the world’s youth completed upper secondary school in high-income countries, in contrast to 43 percent in upper-middle income, 38 percent in lower-middle income, and 14 percent in low-income nations. Across 76 countries, 20 percent of the 25- to 29-year-olds in the richest nations had finished at least four years of college/university, compared to less than 1 percent in the poorest. In 2014, 63 percent of countries achieved gender parity in primary education, but only 46 percent in lower-secondary, and 23 percent in upper-secondary schooling.

— Between 2005 and 2015, school facilities in 26 countries were used for military purposes. Among refugees, 50 percent of primary- and 75 percent of secondary-school-aged were out of school.

— From 2005 to 2014, 758 million adults — 114 million aged 15 to 24 — could not read or write a sentence; nearly two-thirds were women. In 2014, 82 percent of the teachers had minimum qualifications to teach in pre-primary, 93 percent in primary, and 91 percent in secondary schools.

— In at least 35 countries, governments spent less than 4 percent of their GDP and less than 15 percent of their total expenditure on education. UNESCO remarks that such investments need to increase at least sixfold to account for the $39 billion annual education finance gap, but in 2014, the levels were 8 percent lower than at their 2010 peak.

Under current trends, primary school completion for all people might be achieved in 2042, lower secondary school in 2059, and upper secondary school in 2084. Note that upper secondary schooling for women in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 shall lead to 300,000 fewer child deaths per year in 2050. Not only that, upper secondary completion by 2030 in low-income nations shall increase per capita income by 75 percent by 2050, and accelerate poverty reduction — or its elimination — by 10 years.

Prosperous nations have their own problems: 1 in 10 countries in Europe and North America will not achieve universal upper secondary completion by 2030. Why does this matter? The GEM Report responds with cost-benefit projections: a 5 percent increase in male high-school-graduation rate in the United States would add $20 billion to the economy via reduced crime and higher input to the workforce.

And from a humanitarian perspective, providing universal upper secondary schooling to the world by 2030 would prevent 50,000 disaster-related fatalities per decade by 2040-2050. Yes, education saves lives.

For UNESCO, education is the most effective tool for reducing fertility rates. In Madagascar, for example, a single extra year of schooling extends the space between births by 0.5 years. Environmental education correlates with better “green knowledge” and sustainable lifestyles. However, only 73 percent of 78 countries’ curricula mention “sustainable development,” 55 percent “ecology,” and 47 percent “environmental education.” The latter is crucial for disaster preparedness: “If education progress is stalled, it could lead to a 20 percent increase in disaster-related fatalities per decade.”

Regarding citizenry involvement in public life, education encourages constructive political participation. In 106 countries, higher levels of education have correlated with peaceful protests (civil disobedience) rather than with chaotic violence. Interestingly, between 1996 and 2010, low literacy in 123 countries was associated with reduced tax revenue. Thus, education motivates civil responsibility.

“A sustainable future is about human dignity, social inclusion and environmental protection. It is a future where economic growth does not exacerbate inequalities but builds prosperity for all” writes Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, in her introduction to the GEM Report. And I am with her: “if done right, education has the power to nurture empowered, reflective, engaged and skilled citizens who can chart the way toward a safer, greener and fairer planet.”

Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. is co-director of New England Science Public. He lives in Bristol, R.I.

Source: Your View: Education – We the planet

Soft power, Unesco, SDGs and ESD

‘Soft Power for Peace and Development’ – Remarks by Irina Bokova, DG, UNESCO

Back in late May, we posted a link to UNEP and UNEA’s talk of the ‘softest of soft power‘ as reported in a New Scientist article.

Continuing this theme at our blog rather than on the journal’s Facebook page, we post a link to Bokova’s remarks in Sri Lanka. Offered at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies, these are available in full at the link below – a timely reminder of some of the wider debates given the recent release of the GEM report?

A few snippets are reproduced below. Discussion welcome:

… The promises of the new agenda embody a new transformative vision for peace and the planet.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were developed in a process that involved all States, drawing on the key lesson of the Millennium Development Goals — that success requires national ownership, and that ownership means capacities.

Very often we hear the appeal for a ‘paradigm shift,’ and I agree.
It is a paradigm shift in its commitment to inclusion and ownership.
It is a paradigm shift in its global vision, bringing all countries together, developed and developing, middle income with Small Island Developing States.
Taking this forward calls for connected action across sectors, from education to water management to empowering girls and women, linking progress in human development with effective measures against climate change.

I wish to pledge here UNESCO’s support to Sri Lanka in all its efforts to consolidate gains, to catalyse new progress.
This starts with Sustainable Development Goal 4, “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” which UNESCO did so much to shape.
Our starting point is clear.

Education is a human right, essential to dignity and empowerment.
It is a multiplier for more inclusive and sustainable development.
In advancing gender equality, poverty eradication, sustainability — it is a force for peace.
Whether in Tokyo or Nairobi, Asuncion or New York, educating a child is the smartest investment a society can make in its future, in lasting peace.
The evidence is overwhelming.

UNESCO’s forthcoming Global Education Monitoring Report shows that, on average, every additional year of education boosts a person’s income by 10 percent and increases a country’s GDP by 18 percent.
Working with Member States and partners, UNESCO is leading forward the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

I look forward to deepening UNESCO’s partnership with Sri Lanka – especially, in advancing education for peace and human rights, education for global citizenship, education for sustainable development, to bolster reconciliation through new skills for dialogue and solidarity.

Empowering girls and women must be a special priority – Sri Lanka is participating in UNESCO’s project, supported by China/HNA, to enhance girl’s and women’s right to quality education through gender sensitive policy-making, teacher development and pedagogy.
This is not only a human rights issue – it is about building more just and inclusive societies.

Science education and education for sustainable development are core parts of our cooperation — building capacity also to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity.
A similar holistic approach guides our work to advance mangrove conservation, through awareness-raising, education and research, community livelihood activities, especially for women.
All this seeks to bolster the resilience of societies, to give them every chance to meet goals they set for themselves.
This must start with respect for human rights, as the compass direction for all action.

Sustainable Development Goal 16 sets the bar high — to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

The rule of law, good governance, democratic practices as you rightfully mentioned – these are essential for healthy society and sustainable development.

I wish to commend the Government for Sri Lanka for its commitment to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists – let me underline the importance of Sri Lanka’s recent Right to Information Act, which provides access to public information to all women and men.

UNESCO has worked with Sri Lanka, to support media ethics and self-regulation, to promote gender equality in and through the media, to build capacity to report on poverty, to promote the right to information.

I see these as ‘soft power’ drivers for resilience and peace.
This is the importance also of promoting cultural heritage and diversity — as enablers and drivers of sustainable development, as platforms for dialogue and reconciliation.


PS for remarks from one of the lead authors on soft power, try the following as a starter [ warning: opens a word download ] – Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics – Joseph S. Nye – Edited transcript, 04/13/04 Carnegie Council Books for Breakfast.