Third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education

Cheryl and Libby

Libby Giles (left) and Cheryl Stephens at the GCED Forum.

The National Commission shone the spotlight on global citizenship education in March, funding three representatives to attend the Third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education in Ottawa, Canada. Education Commissioner Cheryl Stephens attended, along with teacher and global citizenship advisor Libby Giles and Year 13 student Scarlett Parkes from Auckland Girls’ Grammar who co-wrote and presented an International Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship with an international team of young people.

Drawing together around 500 participants from all regions of the world, the forum connected to discussions, activities and events in UNESCO’s week for Peace and Sustainable Development: The Role of Education.



Excerpts from Libby Giles’ report summarising the forum are below:

The forum provided an opportunity to network in the field of global citizenship education and education for sustainability, with practitioners, theorists and those involved in policy development. The Associated Schools Network’s (ASPnet) was represented by teachers from 25 countries and a diverse youth delegation. Key progressions for the ASPnet have been the launch of its online platform, OLTA, enabling all schools in the network to communicate, collaborate, and share ideas and project work. Of the two planned major campaigns planned, Getting Climate Ready is first and has been launched through 25 member countries, including Canada, Germany and Korea. International schools coordinator Sabine Detzel facilitated an interactive workshop for teachers to ask each other what it was that transformed them to be agents of change and how they are encouraging students to be active.

Work of the ASPnet was woven and discussed throughout many of the workshops on global citizenship education. It was apparent that since the launch of GCED in 2013, there have been significant developments in the understanding and implementation of this complex idea with a number of agencies, individuals and groups working hard to meet the needs of students and make headway in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Education is the overarching and ultimate goal of all 17 SDGs. Key questions remain about how to practically implement GCED and ESD. Many question how this kind of holistic education that begins in early childhood and goes through to secondary school and career pathways, can be measured and assessed and others questions whether it should be. How can education beyond assessment be valued?

The youth delegation’s presentation of their white paper on global citizenship education was received with a standing ovation and provoked lively discourse on how best to engage young people in the complexities of the globalised world. Personal and moving perspectives were given from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. The forum was closed with an address by UN child author, 11-year-old Jona David, whose latest book The Mechanical Chess Invention is now available.

Delegates heard challenging and inspiring messages from key note speakers, including Rafiullah Kakar, former Taliban supporter and current peace activist who identifies as a feminist, about the need for educators to be able facilitate confronting discussions. Kakar stressed the need for philosophical discourse and experiential learning for students to decide how to create a fair society.

The Canadian National Commission and government are to be commended for hosting this event and for showcasing extensive and inclusive programmes and initiatives.


Comments from Cheryl

“The objectives of the forum were to exchange good policies for teachers with consideration of progress towards implementing GCED at the country level, as well as a specific focus on the role of teachers and teacher development.

There were multiple opportunities to discuss and exchange work with other National Commissions, potentially leading to enhanced cooperation, including a global project focusing on improving the lives of indigenous and marginalised youth.”

Comments from Libby

“While it is accepted that the SDGs cannot be realised immediately, the consensus seemed to be that in the face of rising nationalism and violent extremism, it is vital to educate for a deep understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. GCED is holistic education that begins in early childhood education, running through junior, middle and senior school, to tertiary education and beyond.

It was noted in a number of workshops and plenary sessions that students need to be media literate. Not only to access and navigate the complex web of information but to evaluate and verify. Recent circulation of and discussion around ‘fake’ news highlight the importance of media literacy.