The UNESCO Conference on Education for Sustainable Development was held online on 17–19 May 2021. It gathered more than 2,800 participants from 161 countries, including decision-makers and those in the education for sustainable development (ESD) community across the globe (with an additional 10,000 viewers on the public livestream) to mobilise support for ESD for 2030 and commit to plans for action through the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development.
UNU-IAS participated in a virtual booth and live session on 18 May, titled Climate actions at the local level: RCE Experiences, in which Philip Vaughter (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS) spoke about the challenges in climate change education in formal school curriculums, including the focus on low impact actions as opposed to those which have greater impact or address adaptation. The session also introduced participants to how Regional Centres of Expertise for Education on Sustainable Development (RCEs) have delivered innovative solutions towards climate action through quality education, working together with institutions at the local level, with examples given from the recently launched publication, “Tackling Climate Action at the Local Level: Education for Sustainable Development Projects from the Global RCE Network” and video, demonstrating examples of successful approaches for implementation and of moderate to high impact actions.
UNU-IAS contributed to two other sessions on 19 May of the conference – the first, Putting ESD into Action A (Part II), moderated by Fumiko Noguchi (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS), focused on Priority Action Area 5 (Accelerating local level actions) which looked at how ESD could be implemented at the local level. The session brought together five speakers from various sectors including city governments, NGOs, national governments, and higher education, with speakers sharing good practices and ESD tools before discussing the way forward, focusing on the role of communities.
In the second, Jonghwi Park (Head of Academic Programme, UNU-IAS) shared the role of networks, in particular the Global RCE Network, to advance sustainable development at the local level by leveraging multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs). In an analysis of RCE projects conducted under the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD, it was found that 54% were led by higher education institutions (HEIs) with three in five targeting community actions, demonstrating the opportunities for HEIs to mobilise ESD efforts via MSPs in local communities.
The conference ended with adoption of the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development, which calls for urgent action to accelerate sustainability and climate action through education, with a commitment to ESD. This commitment will be taken forward towards 2030 through other key processes such as UNFCCC COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow.
For more information about the UNESCO World Conference on ESD and videos of various sessions, visit the UNESCO website.