UNESCO Experts Meeting Develops Recommendations to Strengthen Climate Change Education in Small Island Developing States

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable countries with regard to climate change due to rising sea levels and changes in climate extremes such as droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones/hurricanes. In order to discuss the role that education can play in adaptation to climate change and to reflect on the challenges that climate change poses to education systems in SIDS, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organized an Experts Meeting on Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development and Adaptation in SIDS on 21-23 September 2011 in the Bahamas. The meeting marked a defining moment in UNESCO's work on climate change for sustainable development, setting the stage for the Organization's action in support of SIDS for the remaining years of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and beyond.

The three-day meeting gathered around 100 experts, primarily from SIDS in the Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, representing a multi-disciplinary and diverse group of stakeholders. The group of experts developed recommendations which included among others:

  • the importance of linking education for disaster risk reduction and climate change education for adaptation in SIDS;
  • a proposal to develop a SIDS research agenda, where schools and communities can contribute through participation in research and benefit from the potential of SIDS to serve as living laboratories for long-term climate studies;
  • the support to interregional SIDS-SIDS cooperation;
  • the importance of learning from local and indigenous knowledge and respecting other systems of knowledge and values such as the relationship of people, land, sea, ancestors and the spiritual realm;
  • the need to diversify climate change communication and make use of information and communication technologies, especially social media and mobile phones in SIDS; and
  • to link climate change education and the arts.

The recommendations will serve as a contribution to the upcoming 17th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011 and the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012 as well as to the End-of-Decade Conference of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in 2014.

In the coming year, UNESCO’s Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) programme will implement at least four country programmes in Africa and SIDS for which it will develop tools including a Climate Change Education Teacher Education Course (which will shortly be piloted), policy guidelines and other activities to promote public awareness and understanding of climate change.

 For further information about the meeting and UNESCO’s CCESD programme please contact Julia Heiss (j.heiss@unesco.org).