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AUA Students Attend UNECE Forum on Education for Sustainable Development

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LIMASSOL, Cyprus From June 27 to 28, Edmon Nazaryan (BAB ’26) and Rustam Grigoryan (MBA ’24) represented the American University of Armenia (AUA) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Forum on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Titled “Empowering Youth for Sustainable Futures: Entrepreneurship Education and Youth Engagement,” the Forum convened more than 450 attendees from 45 countries comprising educators, policymakers, and young entrepreneurs to explore innovative approaches to entrepreneurship education and youth engagement in sustainability. The event was a significant gathering to foster dialogue and share best practices among stakeholders committed to promoting sustainable development through education. Nazaryan and Grigoryan’s visit was financed by the Government of Cyprus. The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment and the AUA Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) administered the University’s participation in the event. Other participants from Armenia included representatives of the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports (including Deputy Minister Arthur Martirosyan) and two non-governmental organizations focused on youth development.  

Report on the UNECE Forum on ESD

By Edmon Nazaryan and Rustam Grigoryan 

One of the central themes of the Forum was integrating entrepreneurship education into the broader curriculum, a strategy aimed at equipping youth with the necessary skills for sustainable development. In Cyprus, for instance, educational institutions have introduced hands-on entrepreneurial projects in schools. These projects encourage students to develop and pitch sustainable business ideas, nurturing creativity and practical business skills in addition to environmental awareness among students. 

Similarly, Macedonia has established innovation hubs within schools and universities, offering mentorship, resources, and funding opportunities for student-led sustainable projects. The hubs serve as incubators for new ideas, where students can experiment, learn, and develop projects that address various sustainability challenges. This model has effectively bridged the gap between academic knowledge and practical application, empowering students to become community changemakers.

Youth engagement in sustainable practices was another major focus of the Forum. Engaging youth in sustainability extends beyond classroom learning, involving them actively in real-world applications. Switzerland, for example, has implemented national youth councils focused on sustainability issues. These councils provide a platform for young voices to influence policy and decision-making processes and have been instrumental in driving national sustainability agendas. By involving youth directly in the political process, Switzerland ensures that the perspectives and ideas of young people are considered when shaping the country’s sustainability policies.

Additionally, various European countries have launched youth-led community projects that address local sustainability challenges. These projects empower young people to take ownership of their communities’ environmental and social well-being, fostering a sense of responsibility and leadership. Such initiatives not only directly impact local sustainability efforts, but also build the capacity of youth to lead future sustainability projects. These projects are practical learning experiences where young people can apply theoretical knowledge to real-world problems, enhancing their skills and confidence.

Several speakers at the Forum provided exciting and inspiring insights into the role of youth and education in promoting sustainable development. Dr. Anna Papadopoulou from Cyprus emphasized the transformative power of entrepreneurial thinking in sustainability. She shared an inspiring story of a student-led initiative that developed biodegradable packaging, gaining national recognition and local business support.

Viktor Ivanov from Macedonia highlighted the role of digital platforms in connecting young entrepreneurs with mentors and investors globally. By leveraging these platforms, young entrepreneurs can broaden their horizons and integrate into a global network of sustainable innovators.

Claire Müller from Switzerland presented data showing a significant increase in youth participation in sustainability councils. She attributed this success to targeted outreach efforts and the inclusion of sustainability topics in mainstream media consumed by young people. Müller’s presentation highlighted how strategic outreach and media engagement can significantly enhance youth participation in sustainability efforts, making them more inclusive and impactful.

Panel discussions were vital to the forum, providing a platform for in-depth dialogue on various aspects of ESD.

During the “Innovative Pedagogical Approaches in Entrepreneurship Education” panel, participants debated the challenges and opportunities in integrating entrepreneurship education into school curricula. They discussed various pedagogical strategies that can be employed to enhance the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education, such as project-based learning, experiential learning, and the use of technology in the classroom.

The panel on “Best Practices in Youth-Led Sustainability Initiatives” highlighted successful projects worldwide, showcasing how young people are taking the lead in addressing sustainability challenges. Panelists shared stories of innovative projects that significantly impacted local communities, providing inspiration and practical insights for others looking to launch similar initiatives.

The final panel, “Policy Frameworks to Support Youth Engagement in Sustainable Development,” examined the role of government policies in facilitating youth engagement in sustainability. Panelists discussed the importance of creating supportive policy environments that encourage and enable young people to participate in sustainability efforts. They emphasized the need for policies that provide funding, resources, and support for youth-led projects and the importance of involving youth in policy-making processes. The panel discussions provided a valuable platform for sharing knowledge and best practices.

To sum up, the UNECE Forum on ESD provided invaluable insights into the innovative approaches employed across various regions to empower youth for sustainable futures. The success stories from Cyprus, Macedonia, Switzerland, and other regions underscore the critical role of entrepreneurship education and active youth engagement in driving sustainable development. The insights gained from this Forum will be invaluable in guiding our efforts to integrate sustainability into our country and educational programs and empower us to become leaders in sustainable development.

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia (AUA), promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity protection and conservation, greening the built environment, sustainable energy, as well as information technology and the environment. Visit http://ace.aua.am.

The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) is a platform of the American University of Armenia (AUA) for promoting entrepreneurial education, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and startup venture incubation. EPIC provides an ecosystem for emerging entrepreneurs consisting of first-class facilities and collaborative workspace, programs and events, and a network of mentors, advisors, and investors. EPIC fosters the understanding and application of entrepreneurship in students and faculty at AUA to craft high-impact multidisciplinary ventures.