Side Event at UN ESCAP Discusses Climate Change and the Right to Education

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  • 2023•05•23     Bangkok

    Photo: UNESCO/Chairat Chongvattanakij

    On 17 May 2023, UNU-IAS and UNESCO co-organised a side event of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) 79th Session, on the theme “Climate Change and the Right to Education”. The event discussed how the right to education — including access to and continuity of quality education and lifelong learning — is being threatened by the effects of climate change, as well as the critical role of education in climate solutions.

    Opening the session, Borhene Chakroun (Director for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, UNESCO) explained how the discussions would inform UNESCO’s work, in particular the Greening Education Partnership and the development of resources, guidelines, and policy support for decision makers.

    Faryal Khan (Programme Specialist, UNESCO Bangkok) introduced a regional study on climate displacement and the right to education conducted jointly by UNESCO and UNU-IAS in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Tuvalu, and Viet Nam — Asia-Pacific Regional Synthesis: Climate Change, Displacement and the Right to Education.

    A presentation by Rolla Moumné (Right to Education Programme Specialist, UNESCO) introduced global initiatives which had framed the development of the publication, aiming to ensure the right to education for affected persons as well as their inclusion in national and regional systems. Common issues that emerged from the research included disrupted learning due to the use of schools as emergency shelters; climate-induced losses leading to economic migration and exacerbation of poverty; and inconsistent disaster response measures, delaying students’ return to learning.

    Highlighting the susceptibility of Asia and the Pacific to climate change displacement, Jonghwi Park (Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS) explained that the region accounted for 80% of the global climate-related displacement from 2008 to 2020 due to factors such as population density, rapid urbanisation, and geographical characteristics. She emphasised five key takeaways from the study: (i) multiple and complex scenarios related to climate mobility create unique barriers to access to education; (ii) the need for data-based prioritisation in emergency aid; (iii) greater inclusion of education is needed in national climate adaptation plans; (iv) lifelong learning must be ensured for everyone, including adults and adolescents; and (v) climate displaced persons can also include teachers. Policy recommendations to address these issues include providing lifelong learning opportunities for climate displaced people to ensure their economic and social well-being in new settlements; including the education sector in national climate adaptation plans; and establishing international agreements and conventions to recognise climate displaced persons.

    Chongrak Thinagul (Director, Climate Change Cooperation Promotion Division, Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Thailand) highlighted the country’s Climate Change Master Plan 2015-2050 and its approaches to adaptation, mitigation, and capacity building. Anindya Dutta (Project Officer – Migration Environment and Climate Change, International Organization for Migration, Thailand) outlined the linkages between climate change and human displacement, and the state of education in Thailand. He stressed that a comprehensive approach was needed to support people needing to move, those already on the move, and those who stay — as they may not have the ability to relocate.

    Dr Park introduced the Greening Education Partnership, an open and inclusive community of Member States, organisations, and institutions working to enable every learner to be climate-ready. It was launched as a global initiative following the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022. Rika Yorozu (Head of Executive Office and Regional Programme Coordinator, UNESCO Bangkok) explained that the partnership aims to strengthen implementation to: (i) foster better coordination and collaboration; (ii) improve knowledge management and research; and (iii) strengthen the advocacy and communication and monitoring of progress.

    Deepali Gupta (Advocacy and Partnership Specialist, Global Partnership for Education) discussed climate-smart education systems aiming to protect education in times of crisis and advance quality, relevant, and equitable education. Since education plays a critical role in shaping skills, behaviours, values, and attitudes, it can be a significant driver of sustainability.

    Discussion addressed the lack of preparedness to empower learners around climate change, and the importance of a systemic response that aligns policy, strategy, budget, programmes, curriculum, teaching, and learning. When adjusting curriculums and greening education systems, timeline development should be a participatory process involving a wide range of stakeholders.

    In closing, Libing Wang (Director, a.i., UNESCO Bangkok) spoke about the importance of collaboration and synergies between Member States, UN agencies, and other organisations to address climate change-induced displacement. He stressed the need to identify key skills, competencies, values, and attitudes to raise climate change awareness.