Green Economy Taskforce, Major Group for Children and Youth
Yesterday, during the closing plenary of Prep Com III, a new paragraph on education was presented to the Member States. The paragraph, encouraging Member States to promote non-formal education in the context of sustainable development, was brought about by effective coordination of the lobbying efforts of the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY). This breakthrough is a little sign of hope, in a process that has been overshadowed by a lack of ambition and worrying decrease in stakeholder participation.
The MGCY has advocated for non-formal education for a long time, as this is a topic that is very relevant for young people. Non-formal education includes structured forms of education that supplement classical educational institutions. Examples include youth clubs and scouting, as well as other forms of cultural and sport activities and more subject-specific learning. It can help to empower marginalised groups, such as women and girls, and assist those affected by disasters when the formal education system is not sufficient. During Prep Com III, with only one paragraph on education left to be agreed, the Green Economy task-force of the MGCY were not hopeful that informal-education would be included in the text.
Yesterday's evolution of the text on education was a major breakthrough for the MGCY. Following discussion with the responsible Chair and friended delegations, the MGCY set up an impressive lobby apparatus to include non-formal education in the text. All MGCY members – from all over the world – were mobilised at short notice to lobby delegations and spread the word within their networks. While no country appeared to oppose, none of them felt able to propose the change themselves. Given the fact that an amendment to an agreed paragraph was not possible, only a new paragraph, one that was agreed by all countries before the meeting, would be accepted by the Chair.
With the support of the Swiss delegation, a new paragraph – ‘Education 2bis’ – was drafted based on agreed wording of a UN resolution on youth from 2010. This text was shared with other delegations throughout the evening, with the aim of proposing the new paragraph in the final meeting of the Prep Com. There were six hours left to reach agreement. Printouts of the new paragraph were distributed and gradually offers of support trickled in. Although a lot of delegations were supportive, some had to wait for confirmation from their capitals. Thanks to the new paragraph the youth voice reached the very top!
As the meeting came to a close, last minute conversations and whispers were exchanged around the room. The last paragraph of the Education section was to be agreed upon and, with youth in the room on tenterhooks, the new paragraph was proposed by the Swiss delegation. However, the G77 were unable to agree without consultation with the rest of the group. The decision was postponed until later that evening. As the Chair attempted to move to the next section, the EU, Australia and the US continued to speak up in support of the new paragraph, stressing the importance of supporting stakeholder views. “What we learn outside the classroom is just as important as what we learn inside”, said one delegate. The facilitator brought these comments to a close, saying that a general agreement by 10pm was to be found in order to prevent the paragraph to be dropped.
The MGCY increased its lobbying efforts and focused entirely on G77 members. Little by little, the G77 expressed their support for the new paragraph. By the time the meeting resumed, the Swiss delegation felt confident enough to propose the new paragraph, which was agreed unanimously. The frantic 36 hours concluded as "Paragraph 2 bis" was announced in the plenary to applause.