‘We are all in this together’ – some thoughts from UNESCO

I have just returned from UNESCO Paris after a 2 day Partner Network meeting that was very informative and surprisingly useful. I know many people who are a bit cynical about these UN-type events but this could not have been more different. 87 organisations plus UNESCO staff with some real tasks and opportunities to network for the key goals of embedding ESD more and scaling up. The Global Action Programme is the follow on from the Decade for ESD and is UNESCO’s major contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are also responsible for SDG 4 – Education. However there are many people currently saying that education and learning for sustainability should be throughout all the goals, especially as each country cannot just pick the ones they want to work on. They operate as a package – and it is about our own responsibility as well as supporting developing countries. This principle is called ‘universality’ and tries to get over the idea that we cannot trade off our own unsustainable choices and behaviours by sending money to those less financially well off. This is strongly saying – ‘we are all in this together’!
So after our successful youth policy forum on the SDGs on the 29th June, I was keen to meet up with other youth organisations working on the SDGs – and there are many, with a plethora of names! Very useful networking and some great contacts have been made.
The second most exciting thing was hearing about a scaling up programme and process being developed in Sweden. It had ESD at its heart – so it was about a reflective, learning process and not just about ‘working harder or smarter’ – terms you often hear, but pretty hard to apply to education or people to be honest. Oh yes – it does work theoretically if you think of students or people as widgets on a factory line. Oh that it was that easy! We could all have achieved our goals by now and be happily and sustainably retired!! I am hoping to bring these researchers and their methods across to the UK – let me know if you would be interested in a seminar looking at scaling up.
So back to monitoring and evaluating the GAP and SDGs – the photo shows a few ideas being discussed currently about the SDGs. The top one for SDG 4 is pretty well agreed and would be mandatory for all countries.
Indicator 25 (4.7.1)
Extent to which (i) global citizenship and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies, (b) curricula, (c) teacher education and (d) student assessment.
Scaling up
The others below are optional for each country to think about if they get final agreement. They do of course only refer to Goal 4 and not the contribution education can make to all the other goals.
SEEd is also now partnering with UKSSD (UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development – Co-chaired by Stakeholder Forum and WWF-UK). Part of this emerging work is helping the Office of National Statistics think about how they will advise government on data gathering and reporting on progress. The news is that this is not just government’s work but the work of all of us. So finding mechanisms to record and share your work and progress will be on the cards. So get ready! Indicator 25 shows how much work we have to do in the UK!
Which brings me to reporting on the Global Action Programme. In the autumn SEEd will be asked to fill in a survey of work to date – and as a membership organisation this means your work too! So we will be sending the survey out to SEEd members – if you are not a SEEd member and want to have your work recorded as part of this programme, I would urge you to sign up. Unfortunately we cannot extend this beyond members as resources will not allow us to do that! So if you work on sustainability and education on any of the areas of :
-policy;
-whole institution approaches ( including teaching and learning, leadership, facilities etc;
-teacher education;
-youth or
-community work, then sign up here before the end of September to be included.
Have just read over this – am realising how busy we have been and how busy we are all going to become. These are huge ambitions – but they are essential if we are to have a smooth transition to a sustainable future for our young people.
Keep up the good work!Draft indicators
Ann Finlayson
Executive Chair, SEEd