UNU-IAS organised a series of events at the 10th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC), which was held on 3–7 November 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand on the theme “Local Knowledge, Communication and Global Connectivity”. This biannual event, held in Asia for the first time, brought together delegates from across the globe to enhance local knowledge with a global focus on environmental education.
A side event co-hosted by UNU-IAS and UNESCO Bangkok focused on “Environmental Education and Assessment Practices in Asia” (4 November). Representatives from universities in the Asia-Pacific region presented their environmental assessment initiatives – including members of the UNU-IAS-led Promotion of Sustainability in Postgraduate Education and Research Network (ProSPER.Net). Among them were the University of Indonesia, a member of ProSPER.Net, which hosts and leads the UI Green Metric World University Ranking; Siam University, which takes part in the UI GreenMetric; Philippine Normal University Visayas, which has an ISO 14001 environmental certification; and the TERI School of Advanced Studies, a ProSPER.Net member, which implemented the Alternative University Appraisal initiated by ProSPER.Net. The presentations demonstrated how learning for environmental sustainability is triggered and enhanced for campus communities by undertaking assessment. Subsequent discussions focused on how higher education may be able to contribute effectively to the achievement of the SDGs.
Two workshops on 5 November addressed climate action in education, and community engagement in education for sustainable development (ESD). The first, on the topic “The classroom, the city hall, the ivory tower, and the rising sea: Using a multi-stakeholder approach for education as a mechanism to implement local action on international climate policies”, used the UNU-IAS model of Regional Centres of Expertise on ESD (RCEs) to examine how multi-stakeholder networks can provide a more coordinated and effective approach for educating communities about meaningful actions to take in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Several RCEs presented projects they had conducted within their cities to change behaviour through education and create policy recommendations for their city governments. RCE Georgetown’s project catered to the vulnerable communities in the city susceptible to coastal flooding, whilst the project by RCE Iskandar (Malaysia) project focused on transforming to a low-carbon society, by building awareness within schools with the help of local authorities. RCE Sakon Nakhon (Thailand) presented on their experience with disaster risk management, when the university acted as a distributor in the face of a disastrous flood. A panel discussion considered topics such as populations and sectors that have been difficult to engage, along with common misconceptions about climate change. The importance of learning for adults was also discussed, in particular about local, solution-oriented actions.
The second workshop, “Community-based Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development” engaged over 40 people from universities, local governments, and NGOs, as well as youth, to discuss the challenges of localising the SDGs in their community-based ESD practices. It also explored how to use the SDGs to advance these practices, to overcome the tendency of ESD and the SDGs to become diluted when interpreted in local community contexts. In identifying the challenges, participants spoke about the need to begin by identifying local community problems in order to understand the SDGs, along with the need to contextualise any learning, rather than only learning the content. Structures impeding the relevance of education for policymaking were also discussed, as well as how the current education system could be transformed. The workshop highlighted how policies can be enriched through insights from local communities for 2030 and beyond.
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These activities were organised as part of the UNU-IAS project Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The project seeks to generate, accelerate, and mainstream ESD, by accelerating local and regional solutions to sustainability issues through education and training, re-orienting higher education towards ESD, and conducting capacity building activities that support effective ESD.