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Building Education for Sustainable Development: SERES joins UNESCO GAP meeting in Paris

SERES founder Corrina Grace has arrived in Paris for UNESCO’s 2016 GAP conference, joining representatives from around the world who are working towards education for sustainable development (ESD) goals. Over the next three days, presentations and workshops will allow representatives from member states to share best practices and envision methods for scaling-up actions globally. Having won the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD last year for the methodology of catalyzing youth leaders to sustainable action (pictured above), SERES was asked to present on their successful strategies for outreach and impact. What is the idea behind ESD, and how can SERES contribute?

A brief history of United Nations ESD

December 31, 2014 marked the end of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD).  This mission arose in 2005 out of the recognition to develop a cohesive global plan that would infuse sustainable development thinking and methodology into education to inspire lasting change towards an economically and environmentally just future.

Building on the sustainability paths outlined in the 1992 Earth Summit’s official document, Agenda 21, United Nations Member States defined the DESD goal as “to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning”. It was recognized that without creating a global educational strategy, changes across public, private and civic realms to create a more sustainable future would not occur.

After a decade of UNESCO leading the work of ESD by bringing together global actors to research, envision and plan ways to embed sustainability thinking into educational practice, they determined the necessity to continue the efforts through a more concrete, institutionalized process. In review of lessons learned, and as a response to the post-2015 refreshing of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD was established in 2014.

What are the goals of GAP?

The overarching goal of the Global Action Programme is “to generate and scale-up action in all levels and areas of education and learning in order to accelerate progress towards sustainable development”. Two key objectives are outlined within this goal:

“(a) to reorient education and learning so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development; and

(b) to strengthen education and learning in all agendas, programmes and activities that promote sustainable development.”

UNESCO GAP areas poster

UNESCO has identified five priority areas where these objectives will be facilitated. Through advancing educational policy, transforming learning environments, building capacity in educators, empowering and mobilizing youth, and accelerating locally-based sustainable solutions, the expectation is that sustainability thinking will stream through all levels of society.

With a collaborative education methodology that sees educators introducing sustainability concepts and activating the next generation to become change-makers, the hope is that the global community will not only reach a heightened awareness of processes of social equity and environmental stewardship but will also create and utilize the tools necessary to bring about positive social and environmental change.

SERES recognized as a GAP leader

SERES will share at GAP this week how a structured leadership program is an effective method for creating impact that leads to change in future generations. One of the five priority areas identified by UNESCO, empowering and mobilizing youth is a large-scale concept which in practice requires structured methods grounded in local spaces that are relevant enough to spark in them a desire for change.

SERES provides access to sustainability education by bringing youth-led workshops and leadership training to rural communities in some of the poorest regions of Central America. This leadership development program is localized but also connects young people to global sustainability issues, allowing their thoughts and voices to be validated and developed in a meaningful way.

Youth graduates of SERES training become community Ambassadors, dilpoma SERES (2)facilitators, and local government representatives. Their mission is to gather young people together in shared, safe spaces to facilitate workshops where they discuss key issues that impact daily life, such as environmental pollution, access to nutritious food and potable water, and economic justice. After identifying local issues and connecting these to the global sustainability crisis, participants construct their own Community Action Plan that will guide their actions towards creating a more sustainable world.

In these rural hubs of activity, youth connect and learn together, catalyzing a wider network of change-makers with the potential to ripple through all communities. GAP participants in Paris will hear from SERES a way to inspire youth leaders and growth of local networks through a scaling-across process of sustainable education and action that can be replicated in any region.

Through GAP, participants across the globe have the opportunity to collaborate and share best practices for building effective systems of collaborative education for sustainable development, working towards the goal that through education, positive changes will occur in the way people think and act in order to construct a sustainable and just society.

Follow Corrina’s updates from the conference on Twitter and Facebook @SERESProject.
Corrina with SERES co-founder Antonio.

Read more about ESD and GAP at UNESCO’s site:
Download the GAP folder

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