By UNESCO MGIEP
Youth Voices: Youth engagement in Europe around the issues of education for peace, sustainable development and global citizenship

August, 2017 | New Delhi, India

In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the role of young people needs to change from being mere beneficiaries to becoming active partners in implementing and monitoring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To celebrate the International Youth Day, 2017, the Youth for Education, Sustainability and Peace (YESPeace) Network is bringing together voices of youth from around the world with a focus on SDG 4, Target 7. Through a series of opinion pieces and blogs highlighting innovative work of various youth organisations, we will showcase the youth’s perspective on education systems from across the globe.

Youth engagement in Europe around the issues of education for peace, sustainable development and global citizenship.

60 years ago, the European Union was formed, mainly with the tenet of maintaining peace on the continent. In 2017, the world has changed, and whilst peace remains of utmost importance, two other essential issues must be prioritised: sustainability and the challenges of globalization.

As the world is becoming more interconnected, the challenges we face as a global community grow in complexity. Local actions in our respective regions have international ramifications, thus peace and security on one continent cannot be seen independently from that in other parts of the world. Social, economic and ecological sustainability – on a global scale – are crucial not only to ensure the prosperity of our own and future generations, but also to fight and prevent causes of displacement and conflict, caused by climate change and social injustice. Against common stereotypes, I think it would be ignorant to believe that the youth are unaware of the issues prior, or indeed apathetic to their importance.

A testament to the youth’s engagement with such matters can be seen through the ‘Generation What Survey’, which has been conducted since 2013 by a partnership of two companies in France and the European Broadcasting Union. It stands as an international portrait of how young people feel: more like citizens of the world, rather than citizens of Europe. Undeniably, our educational systems have failed to adapt such a sentiment to its fundamentals and have therefore not nurtured a concept embraced by many young Europeans. I believe if fully implemented through proper education for global citizenship it will prove invaluable in creating future policy makers, leaders and citizens who not only uphold the rule of law but act to fight global injustice and modify globalization towards a system of benefit to all, and not just a few.

Yet we, unfortunately, either underestimate the potential of our youth or neglect to give them a platform to engage with many of the issues facing our world. Whilst being director of the youth organization ‘AYUDH Europe’, I have been fortunate enough to have become inspired by young people from diverse backgrounds. I have seen first-hand the intrinsic sense of determination, ambition and dedication many young people share. Their uncanny insight into this world, is second to none to their curiosity and ability to look optimistically towards their future.

At AYUDH’s recent youth summit ‘Educate. Cultivate. Participate’ we adopted UNESCO MGIEP’s format of iTAGe (independently organized ‘Talking Across Generations on education’ event), as the concluding element of a weeklong summit with discussions around education, citizenship and sustainability. This highlighted just how eager young people want to transform both our educational and political sector to achieve our idealistic vision. It stands as a call for more youth engagement in education policies. Indeed, many of the senior panellists expected to deliver on exposé on the ingenuity of our education systems. However, they left surprised at the level of insight, maturity and sophistication that our nine youth panellists showed and came to appreciate that we must act in coalition with the youth to alter these systems to foster: empathy, emotional intelligence and a culture of the heart in young people. As Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a great humanitarian and the inspiration behind AYUDH, says: “There are two kinds of education: education for living and education for life.” While education for living is essential for success in the academic and economic sense, education for life equips young people with the knowledge, skills and values needed to lead an ethical, empowering and socially beneficial life.

I believe that once we have fostered an educational system that creates students with the previous qualities and true compassion, an unencumbered sense of motivation to move towards a peaceful and sustainable world will be guaranteed. Transforming our youth to have this mindset is no easy feat but remains paramount when one tries to achieve the sustainable development goals.

I do not stand solely on this matter. The global community through both SDG 4.7 and 12.8 have come a common census that we need to reform our educational systems. This means: revolutionising how we see both the formal and informal domains, reforming our curriculums and training our teachers to help form students who meet the needs of the future. Let us not be passive and expect others to implement the SDGS, let us make them happen. Let us not wait for the world to change and the world to wait on us.

So, as a citizen of Europe, I call upon our policy makers, educators and learners alike to transform our educational institutions from mere places of theoretical learning into hubs of action and platforms for dialogue, innovation and participation. I call upon young Europeans to be trustworthy, constructive and mature advocates and partners, initiating conversations and driving change. In a time where a majority of young Europeans recognizes growing nationalism as a negative evolution (Generation What survey), we need to ensure that education nurtures a mindset that reinforces the values and idea of Europe as a continent of peace, sustainability and global solidarity.

Opinion Feature author: Mr. Andreas NATH HIRSCH

Mr. Andreas NATH HIRSCH is the European Director of the AYUDH, the international youth movement of Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM). Andreas serves as the organizations Youth Representative to the UN and is a member of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development. He also represents AYUDH in the German National Committee of the No-Hate-Speech Movement, countering extremism and racism online.

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In commemoration of the International Youth Day, on the 12th August, 2017, UNESCO MGIEP is conducting various activities throughout the month of August 2017:

  • Gathering and sharing Opinion Features from Youth on the future of education
  • Organising a Partners meeting with the UN Youth Envoy, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake
  • Providing a platform to the youth to interact with the Director-General, UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova through a Youth Townhall during Ms. Bokova’s visit to India

YESPeace is a network of networks that connects youth and youth organisations working in the areas of education, peace, sustainable development and global citizenship. For the latest updates, sign up to the YESPeace Network and join the YESPeaceNetwork on Facebook.

For details / more information, write to us at yespeace.mgiep@unesco.org

Please also join the YESPeace Network community on Facebook.

Related articles and links:

AYUDH Europe

Youth and senior decision makers embrace UNESCO MGIEP’s iTAGe modality to engage in honest dialogue on role of education in sustainable development

UNESCO MGIEP’S YOUTH TOWNHALL On Harnessing the Indian Youth Demographic Bulge for a True Dividend: Vision to action for the 21st Century

YESPeace Network

YESPeace India launch

YESPeace Malaysia launch

YESPeace South Africa launch

YESPeace Pakistan launch

For more information, contact:

Ms. Piyali SARKAR DEBNATH– Programme Officer (p.sarkar@unesco.org)

Ms. Akriti MEHRA – Communications Specialist (a.mehra@unesco.org)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this Opinion Peace do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of UNESCO MGIEP.

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