From November 15 to 17, Liam Kokaua represented the Cook Islands at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop for Youth Leadership Training on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Bangkok, Thailand.
UNESCO has been promoting ESD through the Global Action Programme (GAP) launched in 2014. GAP focuses on generating and upscaling ESD action at all levels and in all areas of education, and in sustainable development sectors.
Young people are both beneficiaries and drivers of ESD action and are therefore the focus of one of the five priority action areas under the GAP.
The workshop objective was to empower youth leaders from the Asia-Pacific countries to inspire and mobilise other young people in their home countries to actively engage in ESD in order to build more sustainable, just and resilient communities.
Kokaua formed a valuable youth network of successful individuals, working in areas including environmental degradation, poverty, human trafficking, exploitation of domestic servants, and war and conflict.
It was an eye-opening experience for Kokaua seeing the huge size of Bangkok, and the embedded culture of consumption there. He was able to see shorelines and wetlands full of plastic and polystyrene, and thousands of street vendors selling every type of product in single-use plastic. It was daunting, but also motivating for him to step up his work within our communities in the Cook Islands and abroad.
The final day consisted of a field trip to Bang Kachao Island, the “Green Lung of Bangkok”.
It gets its name from the fact that it is the last remaining natural green area in the huge city of over 8 million people, providing much-needed oxygen and green space for its inhabitants. It is also a popular tourist destination for both foreigners and even for people who live in Bangkok, wanting to get out of the city.
The island is a mixture of forest and agricultural area, which is the traditional livelihood of the people who live there. Workshop participants were taught how to use the ‘Sustainability Compass’ tool which is a method of applying the lens of (N)ature, (E)conomy, (W)ellbeing, and (S)ociety to analyse sustainable development problems affecting the island and its people.
One of the requirements of the workshop is to run a workshop for youth to address ESD, which will be implemented by February 2018.
Kokaua is now considering ways to create a real impact through this workshop to enhance Education for Sustainable Development here in the Cook Islands.
Meitaki ma’ata UNESCO and the Government of Japan for approving his application and funding this opportunity.