Youth for the Future: Environmental Youth Summit 2017-18



This autumn ECO-UNESCO is launching a new initiative to inspire, empower and engage young people to meaningfully engage with key policy makers and influence the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and their own futures.


The Environmental Youth Summit programme is an innovative 10 month initiative comprising a series of events, trainings and action projects for over 50 Irish and European young people (15-19). By the end of this project, funded by Erasmus+ with support from UNIDO, young people will be equipped with the knowledge they need to recognise and harness their power and the tools to influence the achievement of the SDGs. Young people will gain the confidence to voice their opinions to decision-makers on how Ireland can respond to present and future challenges.


Environmental Youth Leader Summit

Group website


As part of the Youth for the Future project, the motivated young people met in Dublin Castle for a 3 day Environmental Youth Leader Summit from October 31st – November 2nd. This involved 3 days of project work, workshops and discussions, all inspired by 3 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals; Climate Action, Sustainable Consumption & Production, and Sustainable Cities.


During the Summit, young people met with experts on the SDGs and environmental policy, including Kai Bethke, Director of the Department of External Relations at UNIDO; Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party; Brian Carroll, Assistant Secretary of the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment; and Duncan Stewart, presenter of RTE's Eco-Eye series. This was a valuable opportunity for young people to speak directly with the experts to get their voices heard on matters that influence their generation. 


Young people also had the chance to be inspired by Youth Activists who attended the Summit to share thier experience of taking meaningful action for positive change. The youth activists included Aisling Byrne, founder of a sustainable fashion start-up called Nu Wardrobe; Aaron Bailey, a community leader in Cloughjordan eco-village in Tipperary; and Claudia Tormey, the Relations Supporter at Young Friends of the Earth and co-manager of the Dublin Library of Things, a product reuse initiative.


The approach was very hands on with youths working in groups on activities and planning their action projects. There were outdoor excursions and fun activities to keep them on their toes including a trip to Leinster House, a visit to the Dublin Waste Water Treatment Facility, and even a hike to the top of Sugar Loaf in the Wicklow Mountains! In the evenings, they did a Halloween tour of the city, attended a music gig and had several social events like games nights.

Next steps

After the Summit the young people returned to their communities and will each carry out a Local Action Project putting the knowledge and skills they have gained into practice the skills and knowledge they have acquired in the project, bringing environmental benefits to their communities. Part of this includes engaging in peer-to-peer education in their countries of origin, which we hope will inspire and engage more young people in environmental and sustainable development issues.


Project Activity Timeline
30th Sept 2017


World Café with politicians. 

31st Oct ─ 2nd Nov 2017


Young people engage in meaningful dialogue with decision makers, government, academics and key guests.

8th Feb 2018


22nd May 2018


All Action Projects to be show-cased at ECO-UNESCO’s Young Environmentalist Awards Showcase and Awards Fina

8th Jun 2018


An award ceremony for all participants and policy makers.


First meeting of the Youth for the Future


On the 30th September young people met in Dublin for the first part of the project where they lively workshops before meeting with experts and policy makers, including Brian Carroll (Department for Communications, Climate Action & Environment); Breda Naughton (Department of Educations and Skills); Prof. Paul Walsh (Chair of International Development Studies in University College Dublin); Paul Melia (Irish Independent); and Sabrina Dekker (Climate Change Policy Analyst at Codema - Dublin's Energy Agency).










National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for Ireland

ECO-UNESCO, Ireland’s environmental education and youth organisation, greatly welcomes the publication by the Department of Education and Skills of the ‘National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development, 2014-2020’. This is Ireland’s first such strategy in relation to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and aims to ensure that learners are equipped with the relevant knowledge, skills, values and dispositions to become informed citizens acting for a more sustainable future.

ECO-UNESCO has been advocating for the development of a National Strategy on ESD since 2005 and is delighted that now, towards the end of the UN Decade for Sustainable Development (2004-2015), the Irish government has published its own 6-year strategy. ECO-UNESCO was a key stakeholder that informed this Strategy. The Strategy was informed in part by previous work undertaken in this field in 2007 by the Department of Education and Skills, work which was supported by ECO-UNESCO.

ECO-UNESCO is well regarded for its expertise and practical experience in the area of ESD. Its programmes such as the Young Environmentalist Awards, Green Pathways and Learning2Change Our World are highlighted in the Strategy as positive examples of successful and results focused ESD programmes already in operation. These initiatives are having a positive and real impact on developing the knowledge, skills and values for a sustainable world and particularly complements various recommendations in the strategy including Recommendation 30 which recommends ‘strengthening the role of young people as change agents for sustainable development’.

ECO-UNESCO’s other programmes such as the Youth for Sustainable Development Global Youth Leaders for Change, and the aforementioned Young Environmentalist Awards and Learning2Change Our World, along with its range of FETAC accredited training courses, all have a very strong emphasis on encouraging and promoting sustainable development. These programmes have educated, and continue to educate and engage thousands of young people around the country with sustainable development issues and their importance have now been further enhanced by this Strategy.  

Speaking following the publication of the ‘National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development, 2014-2020’, Elaine Nevin, National Director of ECO-UNESCO said “This is a hugely positive step for Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland. I am delighted to see that the Strategy contains eight key areas and that there is a strong emphasis on ensuring that learners understand sustainable development in the context of 'the what', 'the how' and 'the why' and will motivate and equip them with the necessary skills to take real action for a sustainable future. I commend the Department of Education and Skills on this Strategy and look forward to working with them in its implementation.”

Along with its youth programmes and adult accredited training programme in Sustainable Development, ECO-UNESCO is also currently involved with a new EU funded education initiative which is planning to enhance the way teaching and learning occurs at the university level to equip students with the skills needed to counter increasing social, economic and environmental inequalities. University Educators for Sustainable Development (UE4SD) is a project that brings together 55 partners (mainly universities) from 33 countries across Europe and beyond. ECO-UNESCO is the Irish partner for this project which is seeking to re-orient higher education curriculum, particularly at third level in order to incorporate sustainable development into third level institutions.  

University Educators for Sustainable Development (UE4SD)

The first meeting of all partners of UE4SD (University Educators for Sustainable Development) was held in Prague in October 2014. The project funded by the European Commission and led by the University of Gloucestershire commenced in October 2013 and involves 55 partners in 33 countries over a three year period. ECO-UNESCO is the Irish partner in this project which is seeking to provide support to and build competencies in third level educators to incorporate knowledge and skills associated with sustainable development into third level institutions and into their disciplines.
A Mapping of professional development opportunities in ESD competencies of third level educators in institutions in each country was carried out in early 2014 by project partners and a state of the art report on ESD of University Educators has been compiled which highlighted the current work underway. Work is now underway on the development of a Toolkit and the establishment of an Academy in year 3 of the project.

The project focuses on support for third level educators, to enable them to prepare students, regardless of their courses or specialisation, to understand and apply their professional and global responsibilities in sustainability. The project includes plans for university staff to develop professional competences and the academic leadership capabilities linked to Education for Sustainable Development. For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

UNESCO World Conference on ESD Japan 2014

Between the 9th and 12th November 2014, ECO-UNESCO’s National Director Elaine Nevin attended the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development “Learning Today for a Sustainable Future” in Nagoya, Japan as the Irish delegate.  Over one thousand people representing countries all over the world met for the the 4 day event which was attended by key UN representatives including Irina Bokova, the Secretary General of UNESCO, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations as well as Japanese government, the Japanese crown Kōtaishi Naruhito Shinnō and an address by Ban Ki MoonA key note address was given by Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco. The Conference attracted delegates from Libya, Kenya, Sudan, Canada, China, Germany, Sweden, Palestine and Finland, amongst others; with 75 Ministers and a high level roundtable co-chaired by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.

The UNESCO World Conference marked the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2015). The Conference celebrated the successes of the DESD (Decade Education for Sustainable Development), looked at lessons learned and at how we can re-orientate Education to build a better future for all.

Nagoya Conference (1) 6‘ECO-UNESCO, as Ireland’s environmental education and youth organization affiliated to the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations is one of the leaders of ESD in Ireland and was delighted to attend this important conference.  In particular as Ireland has published its National Strategy on ESD, this was a great opportunity to learn from and share with countries around the world. ECO-UNESCO’s many programmes including Youth for Sustainable Development; Global Youth Leaders for Change, the Young Environmentalist Awards and Learning2Change Our World promote ESD in Ireland’ commented Elaine Nevin. ‘Education is one of the key ways we can address global environmental challenges, such as Climate Change and food security. ECO-UNESCO in Ireland is looking forward to proactively promoting the Global Action Programme in Ireland,” she added. 

To

Bonn Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development

In April this year, UNESCO hosted a conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Bonn, Germany where it carried out a mid-term review of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).

Elaine Nevin, National Director of ECO-UNESCO attended with hundreds of representatives from countries all over the world. Ireland has still to finalise and implement its strategy; a draft was launched at a conference in December 2007. The Bonn declaration from the Bonn Conference was released in July.

Read the full text of the Bonn Declaration(PDF document - 79 KB)

ESD National Strategy Discussion Paper

The Discussion Paper on the development of a National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development was presented at the "Have Your Say" Conference held in Croke Park on the 7th December 2007.

Download "Discussion Paper on the development of a National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development"(PDF Acrobat Reader file - 584 KB)

The Conference provided people with an opportunity to discuss the Discussion Paper and provide feedback. There was a variety of speakers on day including Minister for the Environment John Gormley, Professor Charles Hopkins UNESCO Chair at the University of Toronto and Dr. Roland Tormey from the University of Limerick with ECO-UNESCO facilitating on the day.

ESD Research Project

Download "Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland"ECO-UNESCO’s Research Project on behalf of COMHAR, April 2007 (PDF Acrobat Reader file - 796 KB)