New UNESCO UNITWIN global cooperation network on Education for Sustainable Development and Social Transformation with teacher education at the core

Lüneburg / Crete / Heidelberg / Makhanda / Toronto/ San José
15 November 2021

Earth Charter Center on Education for Sustainable Development, the University for Peace and its partners announce a new global UNITWIN cooperation programme on Education for Sustainable Development and Social Transformations called UNiESD&ST. The Network is based on six UNESCO and SARChI Chairs from Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Greece and South Africa. The global network of higher education institutions and internationally engaged organizations focuses on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a transformative force towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and a sustainable future for all. Leuphana University of Lüneburg will lead the coordination of the network co-hosted by five other eminent institutes of higher education and supported by leading organizations and think tanks on sustainability learning spread across the world. The new cooperation programme under the UNESCO UNITWIN Network will address teachers at all levels as key players to foster sustainable development and peace through education.

Ms Vibeke Jensen, Division of Peace and Sustainable Development, UNESCO says “The ambitions of Agenda 2030 will only be met if we reorient learning and education systems worldwide and empower teachers as change-makers for sustainable development. We welcome UNiESD&ST as a new force for global cooperation in research, policy development and implementation for ESDfor2030, to help ensure all learners are equipped to face the challenges of the present and future.”

UNESCO Chairs from Leuphana University, Heidelberg University of Education(Germany), University of Crete(Greece), Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development at the Upeace (Costa Rica), York University (Canada) and SARCHi Chair in Global Change and Social Learning System from South Africa join forces with their partners from 30 countries, comprised of universities, internationally engaged associations and UN-related institutions to strengthen the role of quality education in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through research, policy development and implementation of ESD with a focus on teacher education. Speaking on the occasion, Professor Matthias Barth, Board of Director at Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning and Principal Investigator of the project says “It is an honor to steer this global alliance co-hosted by ISDL at Leuphana University, as it is one out of 40 UNITIWN Networks worldwide and only the second one in Germany. Teachers are the cornerstone of our education systems and with the recognition of ESD as key enabler of all the SDGs, they are crucial in preparing future generations to understand and foster sustainability”. He continues to say that this global partnership will also bring knowledge and experience to contextualize the role of ESD in various regions.

Dr Lutz Moeller, Deputy Secretary-General at German National Commission for UNESCO says “ESD is one of humanity’s best tools to hopefully solve global sustainability challenges.  The Berlin World Conference on ESD, hosted in Berlin by UNESCO and Germany in May 2021, made a powerful call to action through the Berlin Declaration. Strengthening the role of teachers in promoting ESD and empowering young people as change agents are two particularly important demands. We are proud and grateful that through UNiESD&ST, a new and strong network will support us in this endeavour.”

Through this global network UNiESD&ST, the six founding partners will spearhead the collaboration to build capacities of teachers to impart quality education to learners to foster action on the SDGs with special focus on building forward better from COVID-19 pandemic. UNESCO announced the establishment of this cooperation programme as a UNESCO programme promoting international cooperation and networking between universities. It fosters worldwide collaboration and knowledge mobilization towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Teachers have always been at the frontlines of the responses towards sustainable development. To continue the focus on teacher capacity building while focusing on ESD for 2030 framework, UNiESD&ST will focus on three key areas: research, policy development and implementation of ESD at all levels of education with special focus on building global perspectives on ESD and teacher education. Under the partnership, focus will be given to regenerating the role of teachers by enhancing the quality of teacher education within the scope of the partners work and impacting policy work through research to build the national capacities for teachers to equip learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to live healthy lives, promote sustainable development and engage with the world as responsible global citizens. During the pandemic, the unprecedented disruption faced by the education system across the world has once more shown the importance of teachers to ensure access and retention in a quality education for all.

In 2019, UNESCO also adopted the ESD for 2030 framework to emphasize the role of ESD for the entire 2030 Agenda. UNiESD&ST will support UNESCO´s work with particular research designed to address the challenges of the ESD for 2030 Roadmap. The new framework which builds upon the previous work on ESD identifies ESD as a key enabler of all SDGs and an important measure of educational quality.

Leuphana University’s UNESCO Chair in Higher Education for Sustainable Development and the Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning will co-host the global network with its other five founding UNESCO Chairs and over 30 further partner institutions from Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas. The founding partners in this new alliance are:

The cooperation programme will be launched via poster exhibition at the forthcoming 5th UNESCO forum on Transformative Education and a virtual launch event at the second edition of “Sustainable on the Go Conference” being organized by York University in the occasion of International Day of Education (24 January 2022).

Background Information:

ESDfor2030 Framework

“ESD for2030” framework builds upon previous work of UNESCO on ESD. The framework explicitly recognizes ESD as a core element of educational quality and that ESD is integral to engagement with all of the SDGs and an important area of educational development in its own right.  To implement the framework, ESD for 2030 Roadmap was launched in 2019/2020 year as policy and action guidelines to realize the ideas as mentioned in the document.

For more details or interview requests, please contact: [email protected]

Leuphana University of Lüneburg:
Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning
Professor Matthias Barth/Ms Deepika Joon
Universitätsallee 1, Central Building, D-21335 Lüneburg, Germany
Twitter: @isdl_lg, please refer to #UNiESD&ST

York University:
Professor Charles Hopkins/Ms Katrin Kohl
Toronto, Canada
Twitter: @hopkinschuck / @KatrinKohl410

The Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development/University of Peace
Professor Mirian Vilela/Dr. Alicia Jimenez
San José, Costa Rica

Heidelberg University of Education
Department of Geography – Research Group for Earth Observation (rgeo)
UNESCO Chair on Observation and Education of World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve
Professor Alexander Siegmund
Heidelberg, Germany

University of Crete
Professor Vassilios Makrakis,
Heraklion, Greece

Rhodes University
Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka
Grahamstown, South Africa
Twitter: @RUelrc2