January 11-13 2016 saw FEE member, the Centre for Environment Education, organise an international conference on Education as a Driver for Sustainable Development Goals in partnership with UNESCO, UNEP and the Government of India. Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful represented FEE at the conference, which took place in Ahmedabad, India.
The conference follows the launch in September 2015 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals following a global consultation. One of the goals is Quality Education. However, this conference focused on developing education in its broadest sense (including training and capacity building, communication, raising public awareness and formal education at all levels) as a cross-cutting theme relevant to all the goals. It is now accepted that policy instruments and technological solutions are insufficient to alone achieve sustainable development.
Strong emphasis was placed on giving the world’s 1.8bn young people, who will have to deal with the impacts of an older generation’s decisions, a louder voice and more of a say. The pupil led Eco-Schools programme was recognised as already supporting this approach globally. Presentations were delivered on Eco-Schools and EcoCampus at four workshops during the conference and demonstrated a clear route through the formal education system for supporting young people in bringing about lasting change not just to the physical environment but also in terms of behaviour change.
“It was horizon expanding” said Ian Humphreys. “Very productive and positive, despite the colossal issues we face.”
Eco-Schools gave a very positive sense of hope in this conference. Pupil led, hands-on and practical in nature, global and growing in scale, it supports young people in posing questions and challenging the status quo, seeking answers from multiple dimensions. It also supports critical reflection in our young people and develops an ethos of wanting to learn, to make change happen and to be part of that change.