While global leaders, government representatives and large numbers of environment and sustainability activists were boarding trains to the French capital at the end of November 2015 to negotiate a long overdue post-Kyoto climate treaty, some of us from the rootAbility team boarded our very own “train to Paris” a couple of weeks earlier to receive the UNESCO-Japan Prize for Education for Sustainable Development.
As a small team of ESD-activists who, since 2012, have been working hard to promote student-driven sustainability hubs at universities across Europe, we were deeply honored to be among the first winners of such a prestigious award. Spending two days at the UNESCO headquarters, accompanied by a very welcoming and at the same time inspiring UNESCO ESD-Team, will remain an unforgettable experience.
Not only did we have the opportunity to present our work to government representatives and UNESCO staff in a very cozy and interactive breakfast session; our time at UNESCO was sprinkled with little highlights, including a tour of of the UNESCO art collection, great food, long walks through the city and talks with other awardees and jury members, culminating in the award ceremony with Irina Bokova, Secretary General of UNESCO and Hiroshi Hase, Minister of Education of Japan.
Thinking back of it now, one feeling that lasts besides a deep sense of gratitude and the memories of our experience, is a sense of optimism that the global Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda will continue to gain political clout as the Global Action Programme unfolds. To me, the establishment of the UNESCO-Japan Prize for ESD as a rallying venue and multiplier represents a very important and welcome step towards justifying that optimism.
Since our return from Paris the city gave birth to a seemingly historic document in the fight against climate change, which not least, emphasizes the importance of education and training in the quest for a global transformation towards sustainable development.
At rootAbility – energized by the recognition and empowered to expand our efforts with the award money received – we’ve been continuing to push for student-driven sustainability hubs, delivering workshops and trainings in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
Also, we are happy to report that since beginning of November two new Green Offices have opened their doors at Hogeschool Utrecht and Universiteit van Amsterdam, thus raising the tally to a total of 21 Green Offices across the continent employing 105 students and staff with a yearly budget of 1.2 million Euros to implement ESD and sustainability projects. On a retreat in Rotterdam on the second weekend in January, we finalized a working agenda for the coming months to scale our impact. As a major goal from the retreat, we are now busy researching opportunities for a funding application.
By Valentin Tappeser. This post was originally published in a different version on the UNESCO blog.