Building peace in the minds of men and women

ESD Prize Blog 2017


Award event at UCL University College London
© University College London

In this blog, the laureates of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development give us regular updates on their projects, experiences and intiatives. It was started in November 2015 by the three winners of the 2015 ESD Prize, and continued later by the laureates of 2016, 2017 and 2018 who are writing in turns every month.

December 2017: Incredible stories of community learning

by Lama Khatieb, Zikra for Popular Learning (Jordan)

As a team of local knowledge enthusiasts, we took the plane last month to Paris, profoundly pleased to be among the winners of the UNESCO-Japan ESD Prize for the year 2017. We spent three amazing days at the UNESCO Headquarters, the team members were very warm and welcoming, making us feel like we have a family there the entire time. We were also honoured to meet the other laureates (from Hard Rain and Sihlengeni Primary School) and learn about their inspiring projects.

One of our favourite encounters in these three days was with Professor Kazuyuki Mikami, President of Miyagi University of Education, who shared incredible stories from early learnings he developed for sustainability observing his grandmother’s practices, which is part of a heritage Japanese community people still carry generation to another today. One example would be the tradition of dividing the harvest of trees into three parts, collecting only the middle third of the tree fruit, leaving the lowermost third to travellers and passers-by and top third of the tree to birds, an astounding system of resource-sharing, community cohesion and connecting to nature and land.

We spent a couple of days to explore Paris after the three-day event. We were keen to visit museums that enclose rich holdings from our region, whether it’s historic, artistic or cultural. We visited the Jacques Chirac Museum (Musée du Quai Branly), the Louvre and the Arab World Institute. We explored the local cuisine and were lucky to be invited to the house of a local family who shared with us their passion for music and dancing.

Since our return to Amman we have been busy with several projects: we are carrying on with the Traditional Music Identity Project in three public schools; we are working on a booklet/publication on how traditional paradigms affect our ability to fabricate community solutions; and we are carrying on with our community-based tourism projects as winter is a high season for our program.

November 2017: Designing a maze - educating on sustainable development

by Lloyd Timberlake, Hard Rain Project (United Kingdom)

We at the Hard Rain Project (HRP) have been having a lot of fun since the UNESCO-Japan Prize ceremony early this month designing a maze to educate the world about the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Winning the prize gave us the inspiration, and the seed money, to commission David Craddock, former head of exhibits at the UK’s famed Eden Project, where Hard Rain originally launched, to develop the maze concept.

The current iteration has nine cul de sacs that bring home the urgency of the SDGs. These dead ends will show, with humor and drama, things like a high-carbon future, over consumption and political apathy. The corridors will explain the 17 very radical Goals, such as ending hunger and poverty, all by 2030. We will show the benefits of success and the horrors of failure. The ‘goal’ is a room portraying a human world in harmony with the natural world.

The Maze is meant to create political will among the publics for sustainable development, hoping they pass that will on to the political leaders who must themselves negotiate a political and policy maze to reach the Goals.

We have experience to build on. Our award winning Hard Rain and Whole Earth banners have been seen in person by 15 million people on all continents. They appeared at venues such as the UN Headquarters, the London Olympics and the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Exhibitors provided much of the funding and labor, so HRP spent less than USD 100,000 over 10 years on the exhibitions.  

Our goal is to place at least one maze on each continent and have them travel as widely as possible. We are currently raising money for one proof-of-concept maze, an expense of some GBP 98,000 (USD 130,000).           

For more information contact Mark Edwards or Lloyd Timberlake.

September/October 2017: “ESD is growing consistently, every day.”

by Miki Konishi, Okayama ESD Promotion Commission (Japan)

There is only one very positive answer to the question “How is ESD doing in Okayama?”: “It’s growing consistently, day by day.”

Okayama City has gone from strength to strength since winning the 2016 UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD and the UNESCO Learning City Award 2017 with a host of activities.

So what’s new? In August, we organized a tour and stamp rally in a large shopping mall to let children learn about sustainable production and consumption while also introducing them to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thanks to the event, they now know to look for labels which indicate Fair Trade or organic food and they learned why responsible consumption matters.

Coming up very soon is the annual ESD Forum and ESD Okayama Award 2017. The award was established in 2015 to contribute to showcasing good practices derived from community-based ESD in Okayama Prefecture (Okayama Regional Prize) as well as in the world (Global Prize).

This year we received 44 applications for the Global Prize from 29 countries, and two projects won the award.

Winning the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD raised the profile of the city at home and abroad and the number of people coming to look at and learn about our ESD initiatives from Japan and abroad has increased.

The two UNESCO awards have truly been and will continue to be the driving force behind ESD promotion in Okayama.

We believe every single step forward, big or small, counts towards making our world more sustainable. So we are committed to continuing to promote interactive learning and cooperative activities among different generations and sectors in Okayama and beyond. To keep up to date with what we are doing have a look at our portal site Okayama ESD Navi. Don’t miss it!

August 2017: Our microgrants have supported not-so-micro sustainability projects

by Sophie Hemery, National Union of Students (United Kingdom)

When we learned last year that NUS won the ESD Prize for the Green Impact scheme, we knew immediately that we would use part of the prize money to award microgrants to Green Impact participants, to support their work with sustainability. Here are some of the fantastic things they've been up to thanks to our UNESCO award. 

For example, the University of Strathclyde have invested in their community garden. They've introduced a greater variety of crops, with more crop rotation, gotten more staff involved, focussed on biodiversity, committed to local collaboration, bought a birdfeeder and new tools, and held a workshop to make a sign. Phew, well done on all the hard work! 

At the University of Sussex, Sussexsport has purchased an electric bike to reduce staff car use when travelling between the two sports facilities on campus. Duty Manager Ben Ospalak explains: “The electric bike has allowed us to create a truly green alternative to driving around campus, and the basket allows us to transport heavy items that would be difficult to walk with. We're really happy to have been awarded the grant and hope other departments may see us riding around and be inspired to do the same!”

The University of East Anglia asked: water you doing with your water? They ran a water saving competition, in tandem with World Water Day, and used their microgrant to fund prizes. Entrants could either use meters to measure their consumption during a month, or enter a photo competition about water saving. Evidently, some took a humorous approach...!

The University of Chester wanted to use their microgrant to increase biodiversity on campus. They got students and staff on board, educating about the importance of biodiversity and holding a woodwork workshop to build bug hotels, and bird and bat boxes! We hope the critters are grateful for the efforts. 

To read more about the microgrants, click here!


July 2017: Moving towards multicultural coexistence

by Eiichi Tomonobu, Okayama ESD Promotion Commission (Japan)

Ever since the Stakeholder Meetings of the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development were held in Okayama City in 2014, opportunities for local young people to communicate with others from all over the world have expanded and inspired many new activities and cultural exchanges.

For instance, students of Okayama Municipal Takamatsu Junior High School learn about the rich historical heritage – including such sites as burial mounds – surrounding their school grounds. But the teachers at the school also teach them about cultures and histories of foreign countries, to help students understand different cultures to contribute to building an inclusive society. The school is also organizing online exchanges with people in other countries.

Along the same lines, some of the junior high schoolers visited Okayama University to meet with a group of Muslim students. They had halal lunch together in the university’s cafeteria and then visited a mosque near the campus.

Certain other schools and Kominkan (Community Learning Centres) in Okayama City carry out programs to promote international understanding as well. This year the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission is planning to conduct international exchanges with South Korea and Indonesia.

Multicultural education is one of the crucial elements of ESD. In Okayama, we are thrilled to continue our activities to help create a sustainable society.


June 2017: ESD Prize boosts vocational training in Cameroon

by Hilary Ewang Ngide, Centre for Community Regeneration and Development (Cameroon)

At CCREAD, we are continuing our work to help bridge the gap for women and youths to get self-empowerment skills and knowledge across Cameroon. Before winning the ESD Prize in 2016, it was very difficult for us, a micro ESD training unit, to procure materials and heavy equipment for training. But the opportunity to expand and consolidate our ESD interventions became a reality after we received the award.

By October 2016, our ESD training Institute enrolled fewer than 50 trainees per semester on professional training programs such as environmental impact assessment, community organization, project management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, to name just a few. In April 2017, CCREAD-Cameroon hit a new level by enrolling in a single semester 107 women and youths into the various training programs offered by the ESD institute, which has now been renamed the International Institute of Education for Sustainable Development (CIIESD). Women and youths across Cameroon have heard the success stories about the integrated ESD intervention piloted by CCREAD-Cameroon and they are storming the training center in Buea in large numbers to get themselves enrolled. Imagine that 450 applications were received for the current training session.  

Now our management has mobilized a 12-member team in charge of ESD activities across Cameroon for the current action plan. The special focus this year is to promote intensive Vocational Training. Trainees are provided with empowerment skills on ICT tools. Women and youths from disadvantaged backgrounds are learning tailoring and designing, thus gaining direct economic opportunities, while as “earth champions” they are trained on environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation and social and economic surveys for policy development modules mainstreamed into the ESD training programs.

Presently, CCREAD-Cameroon is looking for local and international opportunities to further expand the CIIESD to meet the public demand, offer greater training opportunities and create a hub for the practice of ESD.


May 2017: ESD change agents advocating for the environmental future of El Salvador

by Corrina Grace, SERES (Guatemala/El Salvador)

On 29 March 2017, SERES leaders made their voices heard in the government halls of San Salvador as the Legislative Assembly announced the passage of an unprecedented move toward sustainability. SERES team members cheered along with the rest of the nation as El Salvador became the first country in the world  to completely ban metal mining.

The law came about as a result of over 12 years of activism on the part of various sectors of civil society who continued to work to prohibit metal mining despite intense resistance from the mining companies. Many SERES youth leaders participated in the most recent campaigns and events that led to the passage of the prohibition.

One of the goals of the SERES leadership process, particularly for the ambassadors who form an international network of change-makers in Guatemala and El Salvador, is to increase civic and political participation in order to effect systemic change aligned with ESD values.

The youth leaders’ presence and participation in such an important national and worldwide achievement for sustainability is indicative of the myriad of ways in which SERES leaders are engaged in civic and political spheres as ESD change agents.

“To know that we now have a law that prohibits mining fills me with satisfaction,” said Wendy Pérez, SERES ambassador who was present in the capital for the historic decision. “This day will remain marked in our minds and hearts, and all of us who are part of this cause to create a more just and sustainable world.”

“To have achieved today the passage of this law has lit a candle of hope for all of the Salvadoran people. Today we can say, ‘Yes we could!’” said Yeymy Ruíz, SERES ambassador and youth representative on the executive board of Asociación SERES who was also present for in San Salvador when the announcement was made.

Civic commitment and political advocacy remain on the agenda for SERES youth leaders and ambassadors in El Salvador. On 28 May, a popular referendum will be held in the municipality of Suchitoto on the designation and protection of water as a human right. SERES team members, ambassadors, and youth leaders are currently working to mobilize other youth and members of their communities to take action at the end of this month and say yes to the human right to water in order to secure a more sustainable future for their communities.


April 2017: More recognition and partnerships thanks to ESD Prize – Japanese students visit Jayagiri Center as part of ESD International Exchange Program

by Tintin Kartini, Jayagiri Center (Indonesia)

Among the effects of winning the UNESCO-Japan Prize is recognition of Jayagiri’s works by colleagues both at the national and international level. Moreover, some of them are interested in looking more closely at what we are doing at the community level in practising ESD. For example, the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan (NFUAJ) visited us on 27 March 2017. 

NFUAJ is a non-government organization founded in 1948 in order to promote UNESCO activities in Japan and until now it has more than 250 associations as members. Since, 2011, the NFUAJ has been organizing the “ESD International Exchange Program” for Japanese ASPnet Senior High School Students. In 2017 the NFUAJ organized an essay contest themed “ESD” and selected 12 of 101 applicants as the winners. NFUAJ then sent the winners on a study tour to Indonesia, including to Jayagiri Center.

The visit to Jayagiri Center aimed to develop mutual undestanding among Japanese high school students and our learners and to deepen understanding of ESD practices.  Beside the 12 winners of the essay contest, the delegation consisted of NFUAJ staff, a teacher and staff of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. The delegation visted our office and also one of the laboratorium sites, Geger Sunten Comunity Learning Center (CLC). In the office, they were welcomed by our director and some staff members. Jayagiri’s director, Mr Muhammad Hasbi, informed about the framework of Jayagiri Center’s work as a center for development programs of nonformal and informal education (NFIE), one of which is the NFIE-ESD integrated program. Afterwards, we gave them an office tour including visiting our Parenting Class.

After visiting the office, the delegation went to visit Geger Sunten CLC. As the aim is to develop mutual understanding among the students, representatives from both side informed the audiences about their own school activities related to ESD.  Besides, the Japanese students also explained their experience in participating in the essay contest as well as what had they written in the essays.  The session then was continued with dialogue among students regarding with the daily activities, their schools and their hopes for the future. 

At the end of the visit, both sides gave cultural performances. Students from Japan gave a performance of Karate, traditional Japanese Dance, Origami, and other traditional games. Our students showed Jaipongan and Rampak Kendang - both are Sundanese traditional performances. When Jaipongan and Rampak Kendang were performed, some Japanese students joined the dance. In this session, it seemed that both sides enjoyed the moment and communicated in a friendly athmospher. We hope that this kind of events continue in the future!

Click here to watch a video about the visit of the delegation from Japan to Jayagiri Center


March 2017: Laureates converge in Ottawa for UNESCO Week

by Jamie Agombar, National Union of Students (United Kingdom)

March 2017 saw us laureates meet up again, this time at the UNESCO Week for Peace and Sustainable Development conference in Ottawa, Canada.

The conference was a superb opportunity to meet leading ESD practitioners from all around the world, and another platform to present our work to a new audience.

As well as running various workshops, and networking through the sessions and receptions, we also set up and managed our own ESD Prize stall in the main hall.

The ESD Prize booth at the UNESCO Week in Ottawa

Together with Felix, from rootAbility, we took advantage of the conference to make some additional visits in the days before the conference. Both rootAbility and NUS-UK work in student engagement in higher education, so we spent a day at the University of Toronto meeting students and staff involved in student-led sustainability campaigns and initiatives. I also took time to visit the equivalent organisations of NUS in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students and Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, both based in Ottawa.

During the conference, we spent some more time with two of the Prize judges, Yoshi Nagata and Stephen Sterling, giving them updates on the work of all laureates, and how we have been using the prize money to bring about further positive change.  

At NUS-UK, since winning the UNESCO ESD Prize we have been on a bit of a mission to see how we can collaborate more on ESD with other national students’ unions around the world. We are currently working on a joint global survey of student attitudes towards, and expectations on, sustainable development.


February 2017: “Our ESD spirit is the same” – meeting the other laureates at Okayama Forum

by Miki Konishi, Okayama ESD Promotion Commission (Japan)

On 22 January 2017, the five laureates of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD – from Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan and the United Kingdom – gathered in Okayama City, Japan, to join the ‘Okayama ESD Forum 2017’. Unfortunately, Hilary from CCREAD-Cameroon had to cancel his participation.

The Forum was initially planned by Okayama City and the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission to celebrate winning the honorable prize together with the Commission’s stakeholders and the citizens of Okayama. But when we were in the middle of organizing the Forum, we were excited to receive the news that the other laureates would also be able to join [in the framework of a 5-day event co-organized by UNESCO and MEXT]. It became a great opportunity for people in Okayama to learn from them, and on the other hand to present various ESD activities in the Okayama Region. Around 400 people participated in the Forum.  

The laureates shared their vision, experiences and lesson learned. Their insightful comments gave us inspiration and energy to move forward. While the issues, targets and practices vary in each of our organizations and local contexts, our ESD spirit is the same.

In a panel discussion “Towards a new stage: Sustainable Community Development and the Role of ESD”, six representatives from various sectors in the Okayama region, including the Mayor of Okayama City, presented their ESD efforts, tangible and intangible achievements and their future perspectives.

At the end of the Forum, all participants were asked to write a message on a leaf-shaped paper, answering the question: “What is YOUR action toward a sustainable society?” Some examples of answers were: “I want to do volunteer activities in my community”, “Keep learning to contribute to building a mutually supportive society!” and “Meet and hope. Thank you!”. The participants recognized the importance of ESD, and made commitments for own actions. The ‘leaves’ formed a tree of hope.

As Professor Yoshiyuki Nagata, one of the jury members of the Prize, emphasized in his keynote speech, winning the ESD Prize is “not a final destination but a start of a new mission.” We will keep challenging ourselves as ‘change agents’, empowering ourselves and others, and moving together into the same direction: toward a sustainable future.

January 2017: “It is great to see the impact that the Prize is having on our work”

by Quinn Runkle, National Union of Students (United Kingdom)

Happy new year from all of us at the National Union of Students (UK)!

Since receiving the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD in October, we have had a very exciting couple of months. We made the decision to distribute £10,000 of the prize money as micro-grants for current individuals and teams involved in Green Impact. Our first round of micro-grants helped fund a variety of projects and initiatives including a living labs research competition for students at the Royal Agricultural College, marketing materials for a meat-free campaign at the University of Leicester Students’ Union and materials to make birdfeeders to increase biodiversity on campus led by a staff group at Aberystwyth University.

This month we have also launched subsidised places, using some of our prize money, for universities, colleges, and students unions to join our Responsible Futures programme. Responsible Futures aims to embed ESD across the formal and informal curriculum by providing institutions with a framework to facilitate change. It is often run by universities and colleges in conjunction with Green Impact to further their sustainability efforts.

It is great to see the ongoing impact that the UNESCO-Japan Prize is having on our work. It is enabling more new students, staff, institutions, and students’ unions to become involved in our programmes whilst also deepening the engagement of existing participants.

In the coming months we will be planning an event to showcase ten years of the Green Impact programme and celebrate the UNESCO-Japan Prize with colleagues here in the UK as well as meeting with the Japanese Embassy here in London to explore future opportunities.