The Asia-Pacific region faces a myriad of challenges, from environmental issues like climate change to social inequalities that hinder progress and development. In this context, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has emerged as a lever to tackle these pressing issues and create a sustainable future for the region. Recognizing the significance of ESD, the ESD-Net 2030 Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting was convened with the theme ‘Transforming Education for a Sustainable Asia-Pacific Region’, in Bali, Indonesia, from 12 to 14 June 2023.
The Meeting was co-organized by the UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Bangkok and the UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Jakarta, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MoECRT) of the Republic of Indonesia, under the generous support of the Government of Japan. Held in a hybrid format, it brought together 163 key stakeholders from 21 Member States across the region. The attendees comprised representatives from Ministries and National Commissions, international organizations like UNICEF, ASEAN, SEAMEO, GEP, and Save the Children International, as well as researchers, academics, NGOs, and youth organizations, all committed to advancing ESD.
The Meeting achieved several key objectives: 1) assessing the progress of ESD for 2030 Country Initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region; 2) providing countries with the necessary tools and resources to effectively promote and integrate ESD into their educational systems; and 3) fostering collaboration and coordination between Ministry of Educations (MOEs) and strategic partners at national, regional and global levels.
Setting the stage:-
Setting the stage for productive discussions, the meeting commenced with opening remarks by Mr Libing Wang, Director a.i. of UNESCO Bangkok, who addressed the attendees online and emphasized the shared goal of promoting ESD to address critical global challenges, such as climate change and social inequality. Ms Mee Young Choi, Director a.i. of UNESCO Jakarta, highlighted the importance of collaboration and knowledge exchange in advancing ESD, setting the tone for cooperation throughout the event.
Among the esteemed guests, Ms Fumie Hara, Assistant Secretary-General of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, expressed her country’s dedication to supporting education for sustainability. Dr Itje Chodidjah, Secretary-General of the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, conveyed Indonesia’s commitment to the cause, and Dr Iwan Syahril, Deputy Minister of MoECRT, Indonesia, further reinforced the nation’s determination to work towards a more sustainable future through education.
The stimulating panel and breakout sessions during the three-day meeting shed light on key issues around the five priority action areas in the ESD for 2030 Roadmap. For Advancing Policy, Dr Ethel Agnes Pascua-Valenzuela from Future of Education of ASEAN underlined the urgency of encouraging and building the capacities of governments to mainstream ESD in a systematic and holistic approach. To Transform Learning Environments, Mr Dorji from Bhutan shared suggested actions from the group discussion, including ensuring the inclusiveness of school infrastructure and facilities. Building Capacities of Educators is another crucial link to putting ESD into effect. Experts and participants pointed out that in some contexts where policies might already exist, they were not being translated into effective teaching at the classroom level, which further illustrates the critical need to integrate ESD into the pre-service and in-service teaching training as a mandatory requirement, thereby providing teachers with necessary resources for implementation. With regards to Empowering and Mobilizing Youth, youth representatives from Pakistan and Indonesia, along with educators closely engaged with youth groups, noted that the education sector should be more collaborative and innovative by integrating student-based, activity-based, and group-based for ESD learning. Additionally, local communities prove to be one of the key learning hubs on ESD, especially for transformative actions during daily lives. It is advised from the thematic group discussion to involve a wider range of stakeholders by strengthening linkages between ESD and their existing sustainability initiatives, e.g. Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) to Accelerate Local Level Action.
By fostering collaboration and sharing knowledge, the ESD-Net 2030 Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting aimed to drive progress towards a more sustainable and equitable future for the Asia-Pacific region. As the event progressed, it became evident that the collective efforts of governments, organizations, academics, and youth advocates are essential in promoting transformative education for a brighter and greener tomorrow. Through both knowledge exchange and peer-learning visits to two Green Schools in Bali, Member States have been encouraged and further empowered to advance with and implement their country initiatives, including those countries that are still in the preparatory stage, such as Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan and Thailand. All in all, greater synergies have been fostered in the field of ESD among strategic partners and key stakeholders across the region through this year’s dynamic and collaborative dialogue.