Some 80 participants from 20 Euro-Mediterranean countries converged to the city of Heraklion in Crete over three days (24-26 June) to report on the region’s collective progress and share the valuable lessons learned in implementing the Action Plan of the Mediterranean Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (MSESD).

The Strategy and its corresponding 5-year Action Plan (counting from the end of 2016) are instrumental towards enabling all people to develop knowledge, skills, values and behaviours necessary for making sustainable development a reality, and undertake concrete actions for a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

The Mediterranean Committee on Education for Sustainable Development (the body that guides and monitors the implementation of the MSESD Action Plan) met on the 24th of June to review the Committee’s activities, discuss on orientations for the next period (2019 – 2021) and the overall framework of collaboration and available resources. The members of the Committee are: UNESCO, the UNESCO Venice Office, the Union for the Mediterranean, UN Environment/Mediterranean Action Plan, UNECE, the League of Arab States, the Ministries of Education of Cyprus (Chair), Croatia, Greece, Malta, Portugal and the Ministry of Environment of Jordan.

A 2-day intensive workshop followed on the 25th and 26th of June giving the opportunity to officials from Ministries of Education and Ministries of Environment, educators of all levels including academia, NGOs, etc. to report on their progress achieved since the last regional meeting that took place in Cyprus in November 2017. These were grouped under the following thematic priorities:

  • Sustainable consumption and production, with special emphasis on green, blue and circular economy.
  • Ocean literacy, with special emphasis on combating marine litter and in particular plastics.
  • Biodiversity issues, with special emphasis on Natura 2000 sites, Biosphere Reserves and other protected areas as laboratories for sustainable development.
  • Human rights, refugees and inclusive societies.

Achievements ranged from national plans, strategies, programmes and projects related to ESD and the Sustainable Development Goals. As in 2017, the need for strengthened collaboration among countries, stakeholders and initiatives was highlighted. The Chairman of MIO-ECSDE, Prof Scoullos, promised to appropriately report the events’ results and also convey, on behalf of everyone, the Heraklion outcomes to the UNESCO ESD & GCED Forum in Viet Nam (2-5 July 2019).

At centre stage of the Heraklion events were the local efforts of the Asterousia Mountain range in becoming a Biosphere Reserve (BR). BRs are considered as ideal places for applying sustainability in practice. They can be embraced by scientists, planners, policy-makers, businesses and local communities to bring diverse knowledge, scientific investigation and experiences to link biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development for human well-being. BRs aim for local development and this aspect has important educational and awareness raising potential for the people within, around and outside BRs, as well as for the visitors. BRs can be considered as “Sustainable Development learning laboratories” providing opportunities to promote their special natural and socio-cultural values as well as opportunities for local development in a sustainable way, particularly within the lense of SDG 15 (Life on land).

The events were organised by MIO-ECSDE, MEdIES and the UNESCO Chair on ESD in the Mediterranean with the valuable support of the Heraklion Development Agency, the Region of Crete, the Union for the Mediterranean, the UN Environment/MAP and the Ministry of Education of Cyprus. They were also held under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Environment & Energy, the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO.