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Mission 4.7 partners participate in UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development

By Raquel Armendariz, Global Schools Program


On May 17-19, 2021, a group of distinguished supporters, including Mission 4.7 co-chair and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) President, Professor Jeffrey Sachs; and Mission 4.7 partners, Global Schools, the SDG Academy, and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens; participated in the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), an online global conference gathering decision-makers and professionals from the world’s education and sustainable development communities.

Organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany, the conference was held to enhance awareness on sustainable development challenges and officially launch a new global framework ESD for 2030 for the period of 2020-2030 as well as its roadmap for implementation. In light of the environmental challenges disrupting our social, economic, and cultural systems and increasing pressure over our planet and its inhabitants, the new global framework ESD for 2030 sets out ESD at the center of the conversation, as it plays a crucial role in supporting efforts to equip learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to contribute to a more sustainable world.

On the first day of the Conference, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs participated in the plenary session “Creating the change we need in the time of crisis-ESD for 2030,” which, through two panels, discussed the role of ESD in addressing major sustainability challenges in a time of planetary crisis and in light of UNESCO’s new the ESD for 2030 Roadmap.

The first panel of the session, moderated by Mission 4.7 co-chair and UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini, emphasized that on the verge of the multiple crises caused by our own behavior, “It’s possible to change course and transformative education is the only choice.” The session started with remarks from HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa that said we must support “global equitable sustainable development that serves everyone.” She also highlighted the work of Morocco through the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection and partnering with Global Schools on the Pilot Project Country Reports to raise awareness and train young people on ESD. Remarks from the Education Ministers of Germany, Japan, Kenya, Suriname, and the United Arab Emirates followed. All of them presented and reaffirmed their countries' work in meeting the challenges by introducing new educational practices and approaches in educational institutions for students to learn about ESD.

The second panel was moderated by Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Member of the Mission 4.7 Secretariat and Director of the Division of Peace and Sustainable Development at UNESCO. The panel also featured Prof. Sachs; Dr. Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD and member of the Mission 4.7 High-level Advisory Group; Susan Hopgood, President of Education International; and Eleanor Terralong, Director of Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council. At the panel discussion, Prof. Sachs reminded the viewers of the commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, while emphasizing the importance of digital empowerment and accessibility worldwide to achieve these goals.

We cannot achieve ESD without kids having access to online educational tools. We need schools online, it’s only this way that we will accelerate the curriculum access, and we will be able to train teachers,” he said.

Professor Sachs addresses the audience at UNESCO Conference on ESD

Dr. Schleicher addressed the state of environmental education and global issues on the school curriculum and performance, and stressed the importance of ESD in helping students to make a personal difference and build resilience. At the same time, Susan Hopgood emphasized that ESD must help provide students with the inspiration and tools to achieve literacy on these subjects. Finally, Eleanor Terralong spoke on her own experience championing change and ESD in her own country, Jamaica.

To conclude the panel, the speakers discussed the work of each of their respective organizations in addressing the most pressing issues. Here Prof. Sachs highlighted the remarkable work of SDSN and its partners, such as the Ban Ki-moon Centre and Columbia University, in “helping develop the rapid spread of the new curricula and to campaign for the connectivity and financing that we need.”

On the same day, Global Schools hosted the session “ESD localisation in Morocco, Ghana, and Turkey: launch of the Global Schools Country Reports,” which featured the launch of Global Schools’ Draft Country Reports with experts from the three pilot countries. More than 60 researches from Hacettepe University (Turkey), University of Education (Ghana), Millennium Promise (Ghana), the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection (Morocco), and Al-akhawayn University (Morocco), analyzed national textbooks, curriculum, and policy to develop localized curriculum on sustainable development and global citizenship.

The session, moderated by Amanda Abrom, Program Manager at Global Schools, presented the final project outcomes and the findings used to create a toolkit to localize sustainability education for national curricula. Global Schools Director Sam Loni perfectly summarized the challenges and outcomes of advocating for ESD at a local level and the importance of developing this process so it can be repeated elsewhere. “Our project had two objectives, one is to localize the global competencies by adapting them to local circumstances, and the second one was based on those efforts then identifying the opportunities and really from that to really use the process to build an effective toolkit so that this can be replicated in other countries and lessons can be learned.”

Sam Loni presents the outcomes of the country research pilot at the UNESCO Conference on ESD

The three country research directors followed, discussing the projects' findings for each of their countries. Dr. Öztürk from Hacettepe University presented the results from Turkey, which indicated a potential for creating ESD leadership focused on participation and cooperation. As he said, "[the] Global Schools Program is a perfect program to fulfill objectives of the 2030 Agenda." In Morocco, as Dr. Marzouk from Al-akhawayn University explained, the research showed that including students and carrying out a pre-test with them is essential to understand the content, the pedagogy, and how students react to it. Finally, Prof. Richardson from the University of Education in Ghana reaffirmed the commitment of the country to implement ESD through an advocacy team that pushes ideas so the reviewed curriculum can have a good performance.

The three country research directors join the event to present the results of the country research pilot at the UNESCO Conference on ESD

Mission 4.7 partners also participated in the session: “Transformative education: Implementing SDG Target 4.7,” where Global Schools and the Ban Ki-moon Centre joined Bridge 47 in exploring how Mission 4.7 and Bridge 47 advocate for the implementation of SDG Target 4.7 and examined best practices globally. The event demonstrated how Target 4.7 seeks to ensure that all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality and global citizenship.

Graphic recording by Coline Robin (

Throughout the conference, approximately 2,500 stakeholders from all regions of the world joined online booths and live sessions to showcase innovative projects and support the global advancement of ESD.