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Greening Education for a Sustainable Future: Insights from the 2023 UN SDG Summit Follow-up



Following the impactful discussions of the 2023 UN SDG Summit, a dynamic follow-up event--sponsored by the Permanent Missions of India, the Republic of Korea, and Tunisia to the United Nations, UNESCO-APCEIU, and 2nd Generation Recycling Energy Consortium--took place on November 13, 2023, at the United Nations Headquarters. This gathering, organized by IVECA International Virtual Schooling, the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CoNGO), and the National Mission for Clean Ganga of the Indian Government, with support from the United Nations Department of Global Communications (UN DGC), marked a notable step forward in the global pursuit of sustainability.


Aligned with the overarching theme of the UN SDG Summit 2023, this follow-up event sought to harness the power of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity among a diverse array of stakeholders. With a particular focus on global citizenship education (GCED), the event aimed to showcase viable solutions explored by IVECA students from India, South Korea, and the United States, underscoring the pivotal role of GCED in fostering collaboration among youth and multi-stakeholders. This collaboration serves as a catalyst in advancing environmental sustainability, offering invaluable insights that contribute to the theme of the 2024 Summit of the Future: "multilateral solutions for a better tomorrow.”


Setting the stage for this inspiring event, Ms. Jayashri Sarah Wyatt, Chief of Education Outreach at UN DGC, opened the floor. Her welcoming words resonated with the transformative power of education and the "orbital perspective," urging collective action for environmental responsibility. “This orbital perspective reminds us of our shared humanity, of the things that connect us, and how interconnected our destiny on this planet that we all call home is.” This powerful call smoothly transitioned into the Opening Plenary, where H.E. Ambassador Yojna Patel, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, emphasized India's commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). Integrating the "Mission Life" into India's education system, she stressed the imperative of collaborative efforts beyond the state, advocating for multi-stakeholder partnerships.


Further reinforcing the global commitment to education, H.E. Amb. Hyunwoo Cho, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN, championed the students’ dedication to global citizenship education. Praising their efforts, he sowed seeds of hope for more "green heroes" across the globe. Following his remarks, the first session, covering “Youth’s Solutions and Suggestions for Sustainable Environment,” was thoughtfully guided by Ms. Katheryn Good, Head of the Non-governmental Liaison Service at the UN DGC, underscoring the pivotal role of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity in achieving the SDGs.


Amidst this symphony of voices, Team USA from Long Island University-Post, led by their professor of International Studies Dr. Scott Carlin, took to the floor, showcasing their project, “Clean Green NY: Environmental Education & Affordable Housing.” The interconnectedness of the New York housing crisis with climate change was vividly portrayed as the team proposed a holistic approach through their website and workshops. Their narrative illuminated the significance of multi-stakeholder collaboration for sustainable and affordable housing solutions.


Team Korea, represented by students Hyolee Kang and Hanim Goh from Kyunghee University, unveiled “Circular Waste Management: From the Street to Cleaner Energy.” Dr. Hyosun Kim, Vice-chairman of the Korea Carbon Finance Association, guided the team in addressing Seoul's waste problem with a green circular economy focus. Their presentation strongly suggested establishing resource recovery facilities equipped with eco-friendly technology for waste incineration. They emphasized the importance of community consensus, proper policies for a circular economy, and public-private partnerships for sustainable waste management.


Team India from Shobhit University of Engineering and Technology, led by Dr. Amar Garg, Professor in Microbiology and Environmental Science, embarked on their presentation: "Eliminating Plastic Waste from the Water in Circular Economy". Confronting the menace of plastic pollution, they proposed converting plastic waste into energy under a circular economy, showcasing the potential of an eco-friendly incineration technology they studied as a feasible solution. The team stressed the cost-effectiveness and environmental friendliness of incineration, calling for public-private collaboration to maximize impact.


In the midst of these powerful student presentations, Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor in Economics and Global Leader in Sustainable Development, delivered a keynote address. He shared insights into the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network's efforts which emphasize the importance of active curriculum development. Dr. Sachs seamlessly wove the thread of global citizenship education and sustainability into the fabric of the event.



IVECA founder Dr. Eunhee Jung skillfully guided the audience into the conference’s session, a high-level panel on multi-stakeholder partnerships for global citizenship education (GCED) towards the SDGs. Dr. Jung's reflections on youth-led impactful actions supported by diverse stakeholders set the stage for Isabella Saylor, a former IVECA participant who presented an innovative solution for SDGs 1 and 2 at the UN, to share updates on Jee Foods, a non-profit started as outcome of her IVECA experience five years ago, underlining the ongoing commitment of high school students to SDG initiatives.


The distinguished panel discussion continued with H.E. Amb. Adel Ben Lagha, Deputy Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the UN. He expressed his gratitude for the event's focus on education and multi-stakeholder collaboration, highlighting students’ contributions. “Today I'm particularly pleased to listen to youth and youth solutions and perspectives for a sustainable environment. I strongly believe that youth should be more involved in decision-making processes because it is them and their children who will inherit today's world and who will be impacted later on by the action we take or we don't take today.” He emphasized the urgency of collective efforts and showcased Tunisia's commitment to empowering youth as environmental leaders.


Mr. G. Asok Kumar, Director General NMCG, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, brought the Indian perspective to the forefront, highlighting India's "Catch the Rain" campaign. Engaging youth in environmental sustainability, he emphasized the importance of youth involvement and showcased the success of the National Mission for Clean Ganga's initiative. “Youth have a very important role to play in the sustainability of the programs we take up. They are the ambassadors of the future,” he said.


Mr. Robert Skinner, Deputy Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Global Communications, stressed the critical role of member states as multi-stakeholder partners in fostering GCED for environmental sustainability. He outlined the UN Department of Global Communications' strategies on convening, engaging, educating, and connecting, aligning with the theme of global collaboration for sustainable development.


In a video message on behalf of Ms. Stefania Giannini UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Mr. Christopher Castle, Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development, emphasized the pivotal role of a robust partnership between global citizenship education and greening education. “Global citizenship education is an important means to transform learning environments into vibrant spaces that not only provide quality education, but also engage learners in social initiatives, unlocking their creativity with remarkable results.” He underscored the need for multi-stakeholder commitment and investment in the future of education, aligning with the event's theme of education's role in sustainability.


Ms. Lily Gray, Senior Liaison Officer at UNESCO NY Office, delivered a crucial address following Director Castle’ emphasis on partnerships. Ms. Gray underscored the urgent need for enhanced environmental education, “the case for climate change or for the strengthened environmental education is more than clear” she said, and cited UNESCO statistics that revealed that only half of national education policies and curricula currently address climate change. In response, she introduced UNESCO's Greening Education Partnership, a youth-driven initiative to transform schools, curricula, teacher training, and communities over the next decade.



Adding an interdisciplinary perspective to the proceedings, Dr. Mohamad Aly Etman of the Yale School of Architecture shared insights from a research project on "Building Materials and the Climate." The research aimed to address carbon emissions in the built environment, emphasizing the importance of governments and their support of sustainable building practices.


Mr. Jeongseok Lee, Director of EcoFlame, took the stage to introduce their combustion technology that can create ultra-high temperature flame to burn waste using raw pyrolysis oil without refining, resulting in cost-efficient and eco-friendly incineration. Addressing plastic waste challenges, “Less than 10% of current plastic waste is being recycled. Most of them are being landfilled or incinerated,” the technology showcased potential solutions for plastic waste management and energy production, aligning with the circular economy.


Mr. Heekyu Kwon, representing Dr. Jinwoo Lee, Director of Technology at Dohwa Engineering, delved into eco-friendly facilities and their role in handling environmental pollution. Mr. Kwon emphasized the complexity of environmental issues and highlighted the need for multi-stakeholder partnerships. He also introduced pyrolysis technology, which extracts fuel from waste plastics that can be used for power generation, heating water, or vehicles in some cases. Installing EcoFlame’s incineration technology, he illustrated the environmental benefits of building energy circulation systems for eco-friendly sustainable cities.


As the threads of insightful discussions and visionary presentations wove through the event, Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, President of CoNGO, took to the podium for the closing remarks. He eloquently highlighted the significance of students' contributions to human and planetary flourishing. Dr. Bautista called for global citizenship education embodying trans-local awareness and trans-border organizing, aligning with the event's overarching theme of ethical collaboration for global challenges and leaving all in attendance feeling inspired. “We must give green light to the harnessing of collective wisdom necessary to solving local and global challenges, ensuring that our global citizenship education is about prospering in the multilateral arena of climate justice, of health justice, of racial justice, of migration justice, of labor justice, and so much more.”


The event stands as a pivotal moment in the ongoing global dialogue on sustainability. The diverse voices, ranging from distinguished leaders to dedicated students, not only enriched the discussions but also underscored the profound impact achievable through collective action. The insights shared and collaborations formed during this event now serve as a guiding force toward a future characterized by innovative solutions and enduring influence. Together, we possess the means to create a sustainable legacy, adhering to the belief that authentic and sustainable transformation rises from a united and inspired vision for a better tomorrow. A student presenter reflected, “I realized that as a youth, I have much to learn from all, but beyond learning, I want to become a changemaker who can have an influence on the world. I am grateful for such a precious opportunity.”



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