Seeing oneself as a Global Citizen was at the heart of this conference. My understanding of a Global Citizen is a person who: respects people from all walks of life, seeks to improve the quality of life for all citizens of the w
orld, and acts as a responsible, vigilant steward of our earth in which all of us share. If everyone would develop the attitude that they are a Global Citizen it would greatly facilitate
achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), created at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on September 15, 2015 and adopted by world leaders.
SDG 4, the development goal on quality education, was mentioned frequently as there are millions of children who do not go to school and education plays such an important role in lifting people out of poverty. However, all of the SDGs have an implication upon education, as a child needs clean water, food, sanitation, health, and a social environment of equality in order to fully embrace an education.The first morning of the conference was one filled with anticipation as everyone was looking forward to hearing Ban Ki-moon speak. He spoke of the time when he was a young boy and his school was destroyed. The United Nations stepped in and provided his school with much needed books. This made such a strong impression upon him. He values NGOs and said that they must be a part of the solution to today’s challenging issues. He said he saw NGOs as a Network of Global Opportunities. I found this statement to be quite true as the conference progressed and I met people from NGOs around the world working hard to enhance the quality of life for people around the world.
A couple of roundtables were scheduled each day. They consisted of a panel of speakers and a moderator focusing on a specific topic which concludes with questions from the audience.
The first roundtable was titled, ‘’The Right to Accessible, Safe and Inclusive Learning Spaces’’. The speakers spoke of barriers to education such as a lack of: classrooms, teachers, clean water, financing and equality. The path to resolving these issues included public awareness, training and policies set up at an international level. Ms. Rasheda Chaudhury, Vice-President / CEO of Global Campaign for Education / Campaign for Popular Education, mentioned that education was becoming more and more a commodity rather than a public good, and that education was the channel in which rights can be realised. A quote made during this roundtable which I found to be particularly meaningful was ‘’Global education is needed to open eyes to the reality of the world.’’
The second roundtable, ‘’STEAM Should Power the SDGs’’ stressed the importance of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) being the core of an educational curriculum. The panel said educational access to these disciplines is essential to improve the many facets of living standards such as public health, food and energy production, water access and infrastructure. Mr. Virgilio Martinez, Minister of Public Administration in Mexico, internet access needs to be more affordable in Mexico. Telecom monopolies need to be broken up to enable this to happen. He believes digital literacy should be integrated into basic education and sees value in distance learning through technology. Dr Seunghwan Kim, President of the Korea Foundation for Advancement of Science and Creativity, explained how Korea’s educational curriculum already applies the components of STEAM, thus providing students an education in science, technology, engineering, art and math to prepare them for the future. An interesting school project applying the principles of STEAM applied at a school had groups of students design a functioning thermos bottle. I was quite impressed with Samsung’s involvement in teaching technology to students. Ms. Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Corporation, said that only 23% of those employed in technology were women. Samsung is reaching out to girls to get them more interested in technology through an afterschool program called Empower Tomorrow. Empower Tomorrow is geared for girls in the fourth and fifth grades to get them excited about technology and engineering. Education in technology being made available to everyone is important to help people have a better footing not only to enhance their lives but the lives of the people within their communities as well. A quote made by one of the panellists which can sum up this roundtable focusing upon inclusion is, ‘’ If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The panellists of the third roundtable, “Children and Youth: Tomorrow’s Global Citizen’s Today” feel that SDG 4,Quality Education, needs to be met in order for there to be a foundation to meet the other 16 SDGs. Even though the worldwide primary school enrolment has reached 91%, there are still 58 million school age children out of school.
Ms. Christina Gallach, Under-Secretary –General of the UN DPI, said that only 2% of humanitarian aid goes towards education. However, schools are crucial for children as they are the only constant variable in the lives of many children. School is a place where children can go to make sense of the world.
Ms. Nasrine Gross, President / Founder of the Roqia Centre for Women’s Rights Studies and Education in Afghanistan / Kabultec, said that Afghanistan has a population of 30,000,000 and 60% of this population is younger than 25 years old. There are not enough schools to adequately handle this many young people, so in some Afghan communities the school day is in three hour shifts. In addition to improve the education for these young people, Ms. Gross said that it is important to also include the education of adults with SDG 4. Ms. Wendy Carbajal Sotelo, Director of Comite de Paz en Zihuatanejo, expressed the need for a global civics course to be taught in schools around the world. Better understanding of each other can lead to better partnerships which can then result in improved well being of global citizens.
The focus of roundtable 4: Global Citizens as Stewards of the Planet: Energy, Environment, and Climate Change was on using education and training to better enable people to protect the earth’s ecosystems. The panellists discussed the importance of sustainable consumption and production as well as renewable energy, and finding ways of working with environmental challenges such as climate change and population growth. Two of the panellists were young women who did an excellent job of representing their communities.
Ms. Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Human Rights Activist from the Tla’amin First Nation, is undeniably a powerful, passionate speaker about the environment and the rights of indigenous people. It is especially remarkable to think about how she is only fifteen years old. She rightly points out how the world needs to listen more to the voices of indigenous people. Ms. Blaney wants the traditions and language of her people and other indigenous people to be preserved, and the environment protected especially from large corporations which can lead a destructive path as they take natural resources and transport them. I think for Ms. Blaney, ideally Global Citizens would care about listening to all groups of people, have empathy for the plight faced by many indigenous people, see the importance of adapting curriculum so it is pertinent to one’s culture, understand that humans are connected to nature and must work to not only to maintain ecosystems but also find ways to revitalize them.
Ms. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, is also an advocate for the viewpoints of indigenous people to be taken into consideration when international decisions are made, and as the Co-chair of the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change, she is also an advocate for the environment. She has grown up in a pastoralist society and wants people to be aware of how great an impact climate change makes upon people, such as many of the people in Chad, whose livelihoods are so tied to natural resources. She feels strongly about the value in incorporating traditional knowledge with climate science to help reign in climate change.
In summary, the best possible solution to global challenges, such as climate change, is to listen to the wisdom of all groups of people.
During one of my lunch breaks, I meandered through the exhibits of
various NGOs. The Nutrition and Education International group has
introduced soybean farming to Afghanistan. This group not only teaches
the men farming techniques; it reaches out to women to give them
training as soy farmers, factory workers of soy products, or business
owners to enable them to earn an income. Good Neighbours is another NGO.
It is an international humanitarian development NGO. It was recognized
by the UN with a Millennium Development Goals award for their
achievements in Universal Primary Education. Educators without Borders
is a NGO established by Korean educators with tis global partners in
2007. It supports educational development cooperation in the least
developed countries. One of its projects is GAPA (Global Alliance for
Poverty Alleviation) in Burkina Faso, 2010 to present. The goal of GAPA
is to help poor uneducated women in rural areas to become self reliant
through literacy development and income generating skills training. The
NGO, Books International, creates storybooks in languages of children
in developing countries, so far it has delivered 100,000 storybooks to
more than 25 countries. At one of the NGO booths, I was given the
opportunity to use virtual reality glasses, so I could see what life was
like for a Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan. It served as
a great reminder of the extreme hardships some people face around the
world, and why it is important to remember that we are all citizens of
the same planet and must take action to help those in need.
American Women’s Club of Central Scotland