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Building peace in the minds of men and women

Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (2015-2019)


© UNESCO/Wahamba Development Organization

GAP Priority Action Areas

To enable strategic focus and foster stakeholder commitment, the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has identified five priority action areas to advance the ESD agenda.

Priority Action Area1: Advancing Policy

UNESCO works to develop policies on ESD based on cross-sector and multi-stakeholder approaches and which includes integrating ESD into international and national policies on education and sustainable development. UNESCO helps ministries of education and other sectors worldwide to design and implement policies on ESD to integrate ESD into curricula and national quality standards and develop indicators to establish standards for learning outcomes.

Our project

National ESD policies have been developed in Kenya and Costa Rica and are being translated into Action Plans with concrete roll-out programmes along with capacity-building policy implementers at provincial level. Vietnam developed capacity-building tools and policy briefs for ESD policy developers and implementers.  This experience will be used to develop ESD policies in other countries.

Priority Action Area 2: Transforming learning and training environments

Sustainable learning environments, such as eco-schools or green campuses, empower educators and learners with knowledge, tools and strengthened capacity to integrate sustainability principles into their daily lives. UNESCO promotes the Whole Institution Approach (WIA) to ESD in schools and all other learning and training settings encouraging sustainability in every aspect of school life and at each level of the administration including school governance, teaching/learning content and methodology, campus and facility management, engaging the community and forming partnerships

Actions include developing a vision and a plan to implement ESD in partnership with the broader community. Institutional leaders are encouraged to take a holistic view, transferring knowledge and content about sustainable development and participating in sustainable practices including taking actions to reduce the institution’s ecological footprint.

Our project

The Partner Network for this action area has defined the WIA concept in a background paper and maps existing initiatives in the school system and tertiary education sector. It aims to develop guidelines and briefs for ministries of education and heads of education institutions to encourage the promotion and scaling-up of the approach. UNESCO has also engaged its Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) in a whole-school approach project on climate change in over 250 schools in 25 countries.

Priority Action Area 3: Building capacities of educators and trainers

As powerful agents of change in the educational response to sustainable development, educators and trainers must first acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, values, motivation and commitment to introduce ESD into teaching and institutions, make education relevant and responsive to today’s global challenges and help society in general transition to sustainability. UNESCO supports the integration of ESD into pre-service and in-service teacher education with the emphasis on the sustainability of professional development programmes.

Our project

UNESCO supports teacher education institutions in Southern Africa, Central and South East Asia to design and deliver pre- and in-service training at secondary school level, with the purpose of increasing the number of teachers qualified to deliver ESD. Capacity development is targeted at heads, deans and educators of selected teacher education institutions with the aim of integrating ESD concepts and principles into the curriculum and teaching, learning and managerial practices.

The training is built around promoting sustainable learning environments and includes relevant content on climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction and sustainable consumption production. It also focuses on effective pedagogies that are interactive, learner-centred and action-oriented and promotes critical and systemic thinking, collaborative decision-making, and taking responsibility for present and future generations.

Priority Action Area 4:  Empowering and mobilizing youth

Young people have the potential and motivation to drive the sustainable development movement and young activists and leaders, are both beneficiaries and drivers of this action area. Today more than one billion people fall within the age bracket 18 to 35, the largest group ever to make the transition to adulthood. Youth are also an important consumer group and the habits they develop now will have a major impact on future consumption patterns. UNESCO’s actions are aimed at youth-focused and youth-led organizations, as well as institutions that serve youth in the public and private sectors, ranging from mass media and faith-based organizations to local and national governments.

UNESCO uses workshops for mass youth mobilization and empowerment offering information on essential themes such as SDGs, systems thinking, conflict transformation, leadership, empathy, visioning, communication, facilitation, networking, ESD action and monitoring.

Our project

The project’s goal is to empower 500 youth leaders worldwide to inspire and mobilize their peers to take action to build more sustainable, just and resilient communities. At the same time, it is creating a youth-led ESD network exchanging and collaborating to spread GAP ideas to a wider community. To that end, four leadership training workshops were held in February 2017 in New Delhi, Nairobi, Dublin and Beirut to empower youth leaders on ESD. Over 130 young people in the 18-35 age group, all of whom are active leaders in sustainable development in their communities and regions in over 30 countries, attended.

Following the workshops the newly trained youth leaders will be expected to conduct their own training workshops with their peers and they will be invited to join the network platform for ESD Youth Leaders, which will increase their impact locally and internationally. The network will liaise with Key Partners in all five GAP networks, providing youth leaders with mentorship.

Priority Action Area 5: Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level

Cities are home to half the world’s population and poised to absorb the bulk of future population growth. Thus they are key in addressing sustainability challenges. At the same time, many sustainability solutions can be found in rural communities. Local communities, both urban and rural, are key drivers for sustainable development.

Accelerating sustainable solutions

Empowering and increasing the capacity of cities and communities to integrate ESD is essential. Local authorities and leaders need to increase and strengthen learning opportunities for the whole community through formal, non-formal, and informal venues. UNESCO is working to improve the quality of local platforms for learning and cooperation and strengthening multi-stakeholder networks at local level with the aim to integrate ESD programmes and perspectives into communities’ planning and decision-making processes.

Main stakeholders include public authorities (such as mayors), local education stakeholders such as school board members and leaders of education institutions (school principals, university presidents), managers of private companies, civil society representatives, NGOs, associations and groups for the disadvantaged and marginalised, as well as individuals. Local media has an important role to play in mobilizing communities and circulating information and knowledge. Equally, the private sector has a crucial part to play in encouraging local sustainable development.

Our project

A series of regional workshops on the GAP on ESD and Cities began with a meeting of European and North American cities in Hamburg, Germany (2016) and was followed by a Latin America and the Caribbean regional workshop in Villa Maria, Argentina (April 2017). Workshops for Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Arab region will take place in the fall of 2017.

UNESCO is working with Gaia Education to develop SDG flashcards to train programme implementers and multipliers in cities and local communities.

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