RCE Graz-Styria reflects on local, regional and national GAP initiatives

RCE Graz-Styria, located at the University of Graz in Austria, and acknowledged as one of the first 20 RCEs in the global RCE has continuously implemented a wide range of research and education projects. The center has access to a broad network of scientific and societal partners. One of its partners is SEKEM Austria, a non-profit association to promote the SEKEM impulse in Egypt and Austria through networks and to strengthen the “Coalition of World Peace” through dialogue between orient and occident. For many years SEKEM Austria and RCE Graz-Styria have been working together on projects and initiatives on ESD in a transnational context.

Representatives of the RCE Graz-Styria and SEKEM attended the global RCE  conference and the UNESCO Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Japan in November 2014, where the Global Action Programme (GAP) was launched as a follow-up Programme of the UNESCO Decade for ESD.

A year later, RCE Graz-Styria and SEKEM Austria organised the event “The implementation of the GAP on ESD: Local initiatives and transnational knowledge exchange". More than 150 experts, students, pupils, scientists, NGO representatives, politicians and civil servants gathered at the University of Graz on 21 of January 2016, to learn more about the GAP and discuss further steps to foster ESD on a local, national and transnational level. They also reflected with local, national and international partners on the  current implementation of the GAP in Austria.

Friedrich Zimmermann, Director of  RCE Graz-Styria and Hermann Becke, Chairman of Sekem Austria, welcomed everyone and underlined the importance of working in all dimensions of sustainable development, within a transdisciplinary framework, bringing together societal and scientific partners.

The children’s choir SUPERAR, an initiative which offers free, high-quality musical training to children of diverse social and cultural backgrounds performed for the delegates. Their music is full of positive energy, transcends borders, and  the experience of making music together empowers those taking part and  ultimately boosts their chances in society. After this heart-warming introduction, the Secretary General of the Austrian Commission for UNESCO, Gabriele Eschig, talked about the background, the development and the aspirations of  the Global Action Programme for ESD.

In order to show in concrete terms how  the GAP has been implemented in Austria on the national level, three representatives of Austrian ministries gave insights on current ESD policies: Evi Frei (Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy), Peter Iwaniewicz (Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management) and Günther Pfaffenwimmer (Federal Ministry of Education and Women's Affairs).

Evi Frei addressed the importance of having a strategy and coordination of ESD in higher education. She presented the Alliance of Sustainable Universities in Austria as a best-practice example.  Peter Iwaniewicz, who is responsible for the development and implementation of ESD and the coordination and monitoring of NGO-cooperation and management of the non-profit sector, highlighted the importance of needs-orientated project development. He also showcased  the Forum ‘Umweltbildung‘ which connects expertise with innovative projects.  Günther Pfaffenwimmer, talked about current developments in ESD training for teachers in schools in Austria and presented the ÖKOLOG-Programme as a best-practice example of how schools can integrate ESD.

Participants interacted more freely  in a World-Café, organised after the talks. Here they learned about concrete regional, national and international ESD projects in Austria and discussed how each of below  projects contributes to the GAP Priority Action Areas.

·         GAP Priority Action Area 1: Advancing policy

“Education for sustainable development in schools in Egypt” with Bianca Fliß

http://www.educamp.eu/ and https://www.facebook.com/nileprojectegypt/?fref=ts

·         GAP Priority Action Area 2: Integrating sustainability practices into education and training environments (whole-institution approache)

URB@Exp: Towards New Forms of Urban Governance and City Development: Learning from Urban Experiments with Living Labs & City Labs: Transdisciplinary teaching in higher education: students of the institute for geography present their concept for a City Lab in Leoben” with Thomas Höflehner (RCE Graz-Styria)

·         GAP Priority Action Area 3: Increasing the capacity of educators and trainers

ConSus: Connecting Science-Society Collaborations for Sustainability Innovations in Kosovo and Albania” with Barbara Loimayr (RCE Graz-Styria)

·         GAP Priority Action Area 4: Empowering and mobilizing youth

OPEDUCA – Developing Open EDUCAtional regions for future-oriented learning and teaching. Anytime, Anyplace, with Anybody, through Any device – Pupils present their ideas on sustainable development” with Thomas Drage (RCE Graz-Styria)

·         GAP Priority Action Area 5: Encouraging local communities and municipal authorities to develop community-based ESD programmes

„Artistic ways to overcome the experience of flight: a project for unaccompanied, minor Afghan refugees” with Ernst Rose and Volker Mastalier (SEKEM Austria)

After the World-Café a final panel discussion, under the guidance of Friedrich Zimmermann, summarized the main findings of the discussion during the World-Café. A get-together at a vegetarian buffet completed the program and gave the participants further possibilities for networking and discussion. Photos of the event have been uploaded on our facebook page.

For more information, please contact:

Petra Wlasak