On 6 to 10 March, 2017, two Earth Charter International Secretariat staff attended the UNESCO Week on Peace and Sustainable Development in Ottawa, Canada. The weeklong event brought together over 400 people, including 50 youth delegates, from two transformational movements in education: Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED). These two spheres have the shared purpose of preparing people to create more peaceful, just and sustainable societies.
The event opened with acknowledgement to the indigenous territory where the event was held, and with an opening ceremony and remarks from Maliseet Elder Mac Saulis. Speeches, panel discussions, presentations, workshops, intergenerational dialogues, a world café, and music were to follow throughout the five days. Participants from government, NGOs, businesses, and educational institutions presented their various projects, initiatives, and goals, and dialogued around the future direction and challenges for ESD and GCED as well as possibilities for collaboration.
Woven throughout the various presentations and activities during the week, three themes continued to arise: engaging young people, technological innovations, and capacity building for teachers. On the theme of engaging young people, UNESCO built this into the very structure of the event, selecting and brining 50 youth delegates to Ottawa for the week. These delegates, specially selected from thousands of applicants, came representing different organizations and networks related to ESD and GCED.
One the Action Areas of GAP is on mobilizing and engaging youth in ESD. Partner Network 4, a network of organizations recognized by UNESCO for their contribution in this area, has met annually at these GAP meetings to scale up, build synergies, and implement a flagship project related to mobilizing youth in ESD. Earth Charter International (ECI) holds a co-chair for GAP Partner Network 4, and recently designed the ESD Leadership training script as part of the Flagship project.
During the week, key partners in Partner Network 4 met to offer feedback on the new training script, to debrief on their experiences running pilot workshops, and to plan the following phases of the Flagship—an ESD Young Leaders Network for training alumni and an ESD Young Leaders Conference in 2018. Meanwhile, all key partners across all five Partner Networks reviewed their collective progress toward their GAP commitments and flagship projects.
Using technology and social media to engage young people was another recurring theme. One way that ECI is rising to this challenge is through one of their GAP Commitments, a 10-week online training for young leaders in ¨Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics¨ which includes weekly tasks online and offline. In addition, ECI has developed and launched a free photo-sharing app, MAPTING, in collaboration with Soka Gakkai International, for sharing positive actions contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The photos and videos are linked to the related SDGs and Earth Charter principles and pinned to a shared world map. Other organizations are finding new ways of using social media, digital story telling, virtual reality, and online platforms to expand, enhance, and develop new ways of doing ESD.
In addition to youth participation and new technologies, many participants were focused on training teachers for ESD and GCED. In this area, ECI was able to share their online certificate programmes and intensive in-person courses for educators on Transformative Learning while learning about the platforms, methods, content, and structures that other organizations are using or considering.
Beyond participating in the planned events during the event, ECI staff were delighted to reunite with old Earth Charter friends, meet students and professors from online courses in person, and meet new potential partners and collaborators. They were also keen to ground ethics and values as the foundation of the dialogue on education for a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.