UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity
Education and awareness
Education is essential for the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity and its conservation. It is also crucial for mainstreaming biodiversity. The erosion of indigenous and local knowledge and the associated decline in sustainable traditional land use threatens biodiversity and ecosystems services, as well as communities’ contributions to accomplishing SDG 4 (inclusive and quality education). It is therefore vital to integrate biodiversity into education and learning programmes.
Lack of awareness of biodiversity and its importance is common, with biodiversity sometimes perceived as a resource to be exploited, for example through unsustainable logging or poaching of wild animals. Communication on biodiversity is a crucial issue that must be addressed to achieve the objectives of the SDGs and the CBD.
- Education is essential for the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity and its conservation.
- The future of biodiversity will depend on the global collective action of an educated society, including efforts to promote local and indigenous knowledge of biodiversity.
- Conserving biodiversity requires an inclusive approach that speaks to and involves everyone.
- Advocacy on biodiversity should seek to communicate in language and methods suitable to a variety of age groups and communities.
UNESCO's role in education
UNESCO leads the global Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda and actively supports education on biodiversity. The Organization has initiated activities to strengthen biodiversity education and learning, notably in the area of teacher training and the development of learning materials in the context of biosphere reserves, World Heritage sites and UNESCO Global Geoparks, with the involvement of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) and UNESCO Chairs.
UNESCO actively contributes to communication, education and public awareness of CBD Plan of Action 10 (strengthening formal and informal education on biodiversity), implementation of Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 and the UN Decade of Biodiversity.
The Global Ocean Science Report offers advice for strategic investments in ocean science capacity including for women and African and SIDS scientists studying ocean biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Ocean Teacher Global Academy and its regional training centres provide a learning environment for ocean scientists worldwide. UNESCO coordinates the implementation of the Global Action Programme on ESD. Its activities also contribute to addressing the place of biodiversity in sustainable consumption and production and to education for sustainable lifestyles in the framework of the 10YFP3 Programme on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education and the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL)/UNITWIN programme.
Pirque Agro-ecological School: promoting culturally acceptable, socially just and ecologically sound education (Chile)
The Pirque Agro-ecological School is the first educational institution in Chile to implement an innovative form of teaching based on student-teacher trust to apply this relationship to the environment in its educational programme. The school prioritizes students who have not been accepted into other schools and those willing toopt for training in the agricultural field. Since the school was established in 2005 more than 2,000 students have attended, 100% of whom have graduated, and 75% of whom have graduated with a technical diploma in agriculture and livestock, finding job opportunities immediately after completing their studies.
Indigenous knowledge transmission of the Mayangna in Nicaragua
UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme has worked with the Mayangna people of the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua to document their indigenous knowledge, specifically of turtles and fish, and to develop educational materials that can be used in schools. The aim is to provide materials that bring Mayangna knowledge into the classroom, encouraging both students and teachers to engage more widely with the knowledge of their elders and other community members. Another aim is to improve respect for Mayangna knowledge among non-Mayangna children and the general public, who may not be aware of the knowledge held by the Mayangna people or their role in managing the BOSAWAS biosphere reserve. Materials developed include books in Mayangna and Spanish, teacher’s manuals and posters.
- Conocimientos del pueblo Mayangna sobre la convivencia del hombre y la naturaleza: peces y tortugas
(available in Spanish and Mayangna)
Awareness and communication
A key challenge is to draw attention to the importance and urgency of biodiversity mainstreaming in the context of Agenda 2030, in order to achieve the high-level support necessary across governments, the UN system and civil society to inform the negotiations of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Another challenge is to elaborate a common powerful narrative to communicate biodiversity in political settings and to civil society. This narrative must be able to engage key stakeholders including youth, business and private sector in the process, and inspire them to become actors in this transformation towards resilient societies.
UNESCO’s communication and branding projects address the values of biodiversity and engagement with stakeholders through the co-design of toolkits and the sharing of concrete examples of successful biodiversity and sustainable development. Clarifying common values about biodiversity enables UNESCO to communicate key messages at both local and international levels and to support Member States in the implementation of their respective communication strategies through educational materials, workshops and UNESCO Chairs.
Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP)
Through the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme works to ensure the long-term survival of chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos and their habitats in Africa and Asia.
Coordinated by UNESCO and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) GRASP is a unique alliance of nearly 100 national governments, conservation organizations, research institutions, United Nations (UN) agencies, and private companies.
UNESCO/UNEP YouthXchange Guidebook on Biodiversity and Lifestyles
Developed by UNEP and UNESCO in close collaboration with the Secretariat of the CBD, this guidebook helps young people aged between 15 and 24 to learn about the different dimensions of biological and cultural diversity and to develop essential skills to take action for its conservation. The guidebook highlights the interactions between biodiversity and the lifestyle choices of young people, and untangles the connections between food, consumption, culture and biodiversity conservation. The goal is to promote learning to preserve biodiversity through responsible lifestyle choices, by providing starting points for action for young people.
World Heritage Education Programme
The UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme, initiated as a special project in 1994, gives young people a chance to voice their concerns and become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The programme is led by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in coordination with the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) and in close cooperation with UNESCO Field Offices, National Commissions for UNESCO and other partner stakeholders.
UNESCO/CBD Biodiversity Learning Kit
The UNESCO/CBD Biodiversity Learning Kit was piloted by secondary schools of the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet). Consisting of two volumes, its content is a contribution to the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020) and supports the implementation of the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, coordinated by UNESCO.
MAB global communication strategy
The MAB programme has developed a tool kit for engaging stakeholders and a global communication strategy and action plan, co-designed by the MAB diverse and unique community, with concrete examples provided by participative biosphere reserves of the WNBR. Target audiences include local business, youth and children, community leaders and local residents.