Tag Archives: Education

Engaging Youth to Conserve Coastal and Marine Environments

By Kerstin Forsberg

As I write this article, my country, Peru, is experiencing one of its greatest natural disasters of all time. Due to a phenomenon known locally as the coastal El Niño, intense warm ocean currents have caused heavy rainfall in some parts of the country, which led to flooding and landslides that have severely impacted the lives of over a million people.

Many assert that these types of natural phenomena can be intensified by climate change, while sceptics claim that there is still not enough data to justify this. By now, however, there should be a consensus that humanity intrinsically depends on the ocean, and it is thus our obligation to protect it. The ocean is our planet’s main life source. Two out of three breaths we take are oxygenated by the ocean. It defines our climate and provides food security. A healthy ocean guarantees subsistence and survival. We would think that such a critical notion should be embraced and preached by all, but that is not the case.

The severe disregard that people show the ocean came to my attention at an early age. In 2007, I was a 22-year-old undergraduate student researching threatened sea turtles in northern Peru. After observing the increasing mortality of these species, I approached schools in fishing communities to inquire about their initiatives in marine education. To my surprise, these issues were not being addressed by the local education system.

Soon after, realizing that there was an urgent need to connect people to the ocean, I founded Planeta Océano, a non-profit organization that empowers coastal communities through marine conservation, research, education and sustainable economic development. We also established the Marine Educators Network, with over 50 schools in Peru, to incorporate marine issues into education systems in a cross­cutting manner. With this network we have built capacity in educational institutions, developed game-based learning and engaged thousands of students in youth-led initiatives that positively impact their communities.

The network also provides youth with training in marine conservation, project development and leadership. Participants identify local environmental challenges, and receive technical and financial support to work towards solutions. To date, over 400 young people have been engaged in youth-led initiatives ranging from mangrove reforestation to advocating for sustainable fisheries, among others.

In addition to this incubator of young conservationists, we have involved youth in all Planeta Océano programmes. Youth act as ‘citizen scientists’ and are taught how to carry out research, collecting data to benefit fisheries management and threatened species, and how to help promote sustainable economic activities, such as ecotourism. At Planeta Océano, youth start as volunteers, but over time they can access leadership positions and assist in the management of activities, projects and programmes. Youth can also help guide design strategies and agendas, and engage with stakeholder groups, including fishermen, schools, businesses and authorities.

This approach has allowed us to reach over 500,000 people in Peru and enhance the personal and professional development of hundreds of youth. It has sparked multiplier effects and ownership in local communities, since messaging comes from youth community members themselves. Together with youth we are changing how marine environments are perceived. We are contributing to local success stories, such as that of Josué Granda, the 4-year-old who helped his sister volunteer in our sea turtle research programme, and who now-at 14 years of age-leads a popular environmental club in his community. Another success story involves Edgardo Cruz, the fisherman who captured a vulnerable manta ray yet later became an ambassador for manta ray conservation. Youth have become key actors in achieving legal protection for threatened manta rays, and reported new scientific evidence in support of sea turtle and elasmobranch conservation, among other activities.

As a young entrepreneur once myself, my journey with Planeta Océano has allowed me to witness the huge potential of young people in conservation and sustainable development. It has shown me the importance of engaging youth not only as participants and collaborators, but also as genuine strategic partners.

Youth are already coming up with creative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.1 Thus, tapping into youth-a population of around 1.8 billion people worldwide-and their energy and potential for innovation and creativity is extremely timely. Despite global goals urging greater conservation efforts,2 only 3 per cent of the world’s ocean is protected;3 overfishing and eco­system degradation jeopardize food security; and sea level rise endangers the well-being of coastal communities. Nevertheless, young people remain one of our largest untapped resources for advancing the global marine conservation agenda.

This is where scaling marine education becomes critical for harnessing the potential of youth. Marine education can provide young people with the skills, tools and perspectives necessary to conserve marine environments.

If we want to further engage youth in marine conservation, however, we also need a broader systemic change. This includes, for example, further incorporating youth leadership and counselling into local, national and international institutions; increasing connections between youth and relevant stakeholders; and boosting funding for qualified youth leaders. Moreover, we need to engage entire communities—women, teachers, fishermen and children—in the design, implementation and monitoring of conservation and management efforts at every stage of these processes.

It has been 10 years since my team and I started working in the field of marine conservation. As I look back, I recognize the impact that education, partnerships and support have had on our own early career development and on our community. In the same way, engaging more youth and a greater number of local communities can promote positive change, help overcome environmental challenges and enhance effective strategies for conservation worldwide.

Furthermore, by engaging youth and coastal communities, we can also bring people together, fostering good citizenship, peace and pride, and ultimately, building communities of optimism and hope. This is exactly what marine conservation and our world finally need.

For more information on Planeta Océano, visit www.planetaoceano.org.

Notes

1       For more information on youth Initiatives, see YouthActionNet website. Available from http://www.youthactionnet.org. For more information on youth entrepreneurs, see Forbes website. Available from www.forbes.com/30-under-30-2016/social-entrepreneurs/.

2       Louisa J. Wood and others, “Assessing progress towards global marine protection targets: shortfalls in information and action”, Oryx, vol. 42, No.3 (July 2008), 340-351.

3       For more Information, see Marine Protected Areas Atlas. Available from http://www.mpatlas.org/.

 

Author bio:

Kerstin Forsberg is Director of Planeta Océano, Peru.

A Continent of Hope

By António Guterres

Far too often, the world views Africa through the prism of problems. When I look to Africa, I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

I am committed to building on those strengths and establishing a higher platform of cooperation between the United Nations and the leaders and people of Africa. This is essential to advancing inclusive and sustainable development and deepening cooperation for peace and security.

That is the message I carried to the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — my first major mission as United Nations Secretary-General.

Above all, I came in a spirit of profound solidarity and respect. I am convinced that the world has much to gain from African wisdom, ideas and solutions.

I also brought with me a deep sense of gratitude. Africa provides the majority of United Nations peacekeepers around the world. African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees. Africa includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

The recent resolution of the political crisis in the Gambia once again demonstrated the power of African leadership and unity to overcome governance challenges and uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

I left the Summit more convinced than ever that all of humanity will benefit by listening, learning and working with the people of Africa.

We have the plans in place to build a better future. The international community has entered the second year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an all-out effort to tackle global poverty, inequality, instability and injustice. Africa has adopted its own complementary and ambitious plan: Agenda 2063.

For the people of Africa to fully benefit from these important efforts, these two agendas need to be strategically aligned.

It starts with prevention. Our world needs to move from managing crises to preventing them in the first place. We need to break the cycle of responding too late and too little.

Most of today’s conflicts are internal, triggered by competition for power and resources, inequality, marginalization and sectarian divides. Often, they are inflamed by violent extremism or provide the fuel for it.

The United Nations is committed to working hand-in-hand with partners wherever conflict or the threat of conflict endangers stability and well-being.
But prevention goes far beyond focusing solely on conflict. The best means of prevention and the surest path to durable peace is inclusive and sustainable development.

We can speed progress by doing more to provide opportunities and hope to young people. More than three out of five Africans are under 35 years of age. Making the most of this tremendous asset means more investment in education, training, decent work, and engaging young people in shaping their future.

We must also do our utmost to empower women so they can play a full role in sustainable development and sustainable peace. I am pleased that the African Union has consistently placed a special focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

I have seen it again and again: When we empower women, we empower the world.

I travelled to Africa as a partner, friend and committed advocate for changing the narrative about this diverse and vital continent. Crises represent at best a partial view. But from a higher platform of cooperation, we can see the whole picture – one that spotlights the enormous potential and remarkable success stories in every corner of the African continent.

With that perspective, I have no doubt we can win the battle for sustainable and inclusive development which are also the best weapons to prevent conflict and suffering, allowing Africa to shine even more vibrantly and inspire the world.
António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations

Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

By Qian Tang

Qian Tang is Assistant Director-General for Education at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

A collective sigh of relief was heard from the international education community when the sustainable development goals (SDGs) proposed by the Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly in July 2014 included a stand-alone goal on education.

Earlier on in the OWG process, there were genuine concerns that education might not emerge as a stand-alone goal, or that there could be a repeat of what happened in 2000 when the scope of the international agenda for education fell short of the ambition and the holistic approach set by the education community.

It was April 2000 when the world gathered in Dakar, Senegal, for the World Education Forum and adopted six Education for All (EFA) goals. It committed United Nations Member States to 1) expand early childhood care and education; 2) universalize primary education; 3) improve access to life-skill learning; 4) achieve 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy; 5) achieve gender equality; and 6) enhance the quality of education. A few months later, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established at the United Nations. Featured among the MDGs were universal access to primary education (MDG 2) and a target on gender parity in education, as part of the goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment (MDG 3).

There is now a remarkable opportunity to provide a more aspirational vision for education in the post-2015 development agenda. Preparations began more than two years ago in 2012, when the international education community, co-led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), began a broad and intensive consultation to define the future education agenda. This extensive process culminated in the Muscat Agreement adopted at the Global EFA Meeting in Oman in May 2014, representing a shared vision of education for the future.

The global education community was reassured that the proposed SDG 4, which calls for the international community to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, was closely aligned with the proposed goal in the Muscat Agreement. Although there are some discrepancies between the targets in the Muscat Agreement and those proposed by OWG, the seven targets and three means of implementation under SDG 4 set forth an ambitious education agenda that will pave the way for a transformative and sustainable future.

As the specialized agency of the United Nations in education, UNESCO stands by the conviction that education is a fundamental human right inextricably linked to the realization of other rights. As such, it is a public good for all individuals and the foundation for human fulfilment, peace, sustainable development, gender equality and responsible global citizenship. As a catalyst for development, education is a key contributor to reducing inequality and scaling down poverty; and full access to quality education at all levels is an essential condition for accelerating progress towards the achievement of other sustainable development goals. In other words, sustainable development begins with education.

The internationally agreed education goals of EFA and the MDGs have made far-reaching gains over the past 15 years. Countries have used these goals as targets and standards to rally domestic political will to reform and improve their education systems, while donors have used them to align their development aid policies and priorities in education with the international goals and targets.

Since 2000, the international community has made tremendous progress in expanding educational opportunities and has made education and learning a reality for millions of children and adolescents. Despite rapid population growth, the number of primary school age out-of-school children dropped by 42 per cent between 2000 and 2012, with the number for girls seeing an even greater drop of 47 per cent. The number of out-of-school adolescents also reduced by 31 per cent between 1999 and 2011; while during the same period, the pre-primary education gross enrolment ratio increased from 33 to 50 per cent. Among 161 countries with data, the number of countries which achieved gender parity increased from 91 in 1999 to 101 in 2011.

These extraordinary successes demonstrate that achievable and measurable solutions are within reach, to unlock the potential in all learners and to create a prosperous, healthy, just and equitable world. The international community must build on the achievements and lessons learned over the past 15 years, while continuing to identify innovative solutions and approaches to tackle the unfinished business of the Education for All Agenda. For while we have come a long way, there are still an estimated 58 million children who are not going to school and around 100 million children who do not complete primary education. The poor quality of education at the primary level has resulted in some 250 million children leaving school without learning to read, write or count, while an estimated 782 million adults, 64 per cent of whom are women, still lack basic reading and writing skills.

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