CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY PLEASE
Speech by Minister of State Damian English TD
Attending the closing the Global Schools Student Summit of 5 Navan Schools
Ardboyne Hotel, Navan
Tuesday Oct 25th 2016 – Closing session @ 3.30 – 4 PM
- Thank you all very much for giving me the honour of addressing you at the close of your very busy day.
- It is absolutely wonderful to see our schools, teachers and students being so proactive on the vital issues of development and sustainability, and to see how you have all come together here for Navan’s inaugural ‘Global Goals Student Summit’.
- I want to thank the organisers at Beaufort College, Principal Angela Crowcock and particularly Jenny D’Arcy, Noreen Carolan and students, for the invitation to help close your quite unique conference. Naturally, I thank the organisers, teachers and students of the other schools here with every bit as much sincerity.
- Beaufort College already does great work in its Green Schools programme and in a range of human rights and other areas. Noreen, I know, has coordinated the Development Education and Multicultural Programme at the school over the past few years.
- The four other schools represented here have similar pedigrees in this field, and it makes me very proud, as a Meath man, to share even part of the day with you. I can see more than a few faces here that I already recognise.
- I must acknowledge the practical grant aid that you have received for today’s forum, from WorldWise Global Schools. This organisation is among the leaders in making sure that we all engage with the UN Strategic Development Goals and other requirements. The aim is, essentially, to make the World a much better place than it is by 2030.
- By that date, most of you young people here will already be in positions of greater influence in society and in your careers. I sincerely hope that today’s summit will help start some of you, at least, on a pathway in development education.
- I began by referring to Meath, which may not surprise many here. I did so because it is important to remember that development education and sustainability are issues which, in many ways, must begin at home. If we cannot have our own houses in order, it is arrogant of us to expect that others will do so.
- We face significant challenges in development, even in lovely Meath. We have, for centuries, been ‘Meath of the Pastures’, home to Brú na Bóinne. We are now a focal point of what is called the ‘Ancient East’ as well.
- Yet, as we seek to preserve and promote these aspects of our heritage, we also have to grapple with the fact that County Meath is part of an ever-expanding belt of urbanisation around our capital city.
- We face the advance of motorways and infrastructure, as well as needing to build up our housing stock with a deal of urgency – an issue which I am grappling with in my current position. Thus, even at local level, we can see that development education is all about getting the balance right.
- When the National Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development was formulated in 2014, under the last government, it was inspired by the overall national strategy, ‘Our Sustainable Future’.
- I held a portfolio at the Department of Education and Skills when these strategies were developed and from the outset, we were determined that a number of key principles would form the basis of ESD in Irish schools.
- These included the need to be locally relevant while also linking the local to the national and international; emphasise social justice and equity; and focus on values and promote active democratic citizenship and inclusion as a means of empowering the individual and the community.
- Your work today has embraced all of those principles, and more beside.
- We cannot reasonably expect countries and peoples who are far worse off than the Irish are, to just accept international laws and decisions which, in the short term, may be very difficult for them to accept.
- This is why it can take so long for agreements to be reached by all nations, like the one in Rwanda recently which will see a major restriction on the use of CFC gasses, so damaging to the environment.
- Of course, many countries are still slow to deal with the challenges of CFC and other forms of pollution because, quite simply, they have few other options and may have suffered from decades or centuries of underdevelopment or misrule.
- It is essential that the wealthier countries, and I include Ireland in that, lead the way and show how it can be done. The biggest polluters, and ironically the biggest threats to development education, come from some of the most developed countries.
- It takes a long time for things to improve in terms of global development, no matter how much the United Nations, European Union, UNESCO and others try.
- Today, in Paris, a major UNESCO conference on the Sustainable Development Goals will conclude, for example. Even before that, we know that progress will be slow and painstaking and that even an end-date of 2030 may come too soon for the realization of some of the key goals.
- This is quite frightening really. The United Nations, Council of Europe and many other influential bodies have identified major challenges facing many parts of the world, including gender inequality, poverty, racial discrimination, intolerance and injustice – and yet there seems to be no solution to many of them in sight.
- This is where schools like your own come in, in a really meaningful way. It is for you, the inheritors of the Earth, its next generation of leaders, to seize the challenges and opportunities now presented to you, and make sure our world ‘develops’ rather than regresses.
- It was, I believe, a statement from World Wise Global Schools which summed this up in another way last year: ‘Development Education is education for transformation and positive change.’
- This is a tall order. If history teaches us anything, it is that we continue to make the same mistakes of previous generations, by and large. Only now the stakes are higher than ever. There are increasing global populations, widening gaps between rich and poor, more and more horrific methods of killing people in the name of some cause or other.
- The battle for human rights, tolerance, inclusivity and a better world is being won, but only slowly and we need the help of all of you, as active participatory citizens.
- We had a very stark reminder in recent weeks of the fragility of human existence in many areas of the developing world, with the frightful destruction and loss of life caused by the hurricane in Haiti. While the loss of life in a nearby developed country to the very same storm, was counted in single figures, the losses in Haiti were in their thousands and continue to rise, today.
- If you peel back the layers, you will see that poverty, climate change, poor housing quality and lack of proper development are all aspects of this terrible disaster. We tend to call these events ‘natural’ disasters, but the solution, or at least the means of easing much of the suffering caused by them, is very much in ‘human’ hands.
- In terms of Irish education, the recent introduction of a new Leaving Certificate subject, Politics and Society, is a very encouraging step in the right direction for us. I know my colleagues in the Department of Education and Skills were delighted at the interest shown by schools last year, when invited to apply for the subject.
- Eventually, forty-one post-primary schools began teaching the new subject in September this year, and it will undoubtedly help to supply the country with more workers in the field of development education in due course. It will be available to all schools from 2018.
- There are lots of other efforts going on at departmental and systemic level to promote development education. The revisions to Civic, Social and Political Education, the introduction of Digital Media Literacy, and the placing of human rights at the core of school, national and international viewpoints in Ireland.
- You are the next generation of development education pioneers. As such, you are following in the footsteps of many giants, and Irish giants at that.
- It is wonderful that you have had support and encouragement today, in addition to World Wise Global Schools, from representatives from many local and national bodies, including Irish aid workers whose organisations are among the foremost in the world when it comes to promoting and supporting development education.
- Before I close, I must tell you that I was asked by Jenny to mention to you how you can go about lobbying and pressurising for greater action in this area.
- The influence of the organisations represented here today, and others, has spread far beyond the bounds of Ireland, let alone Meath. If I were to give you one recommendation today on how best to have an influence on development education, I would tell you to join one of these organisations and become an active worker for change.
- May I close by simply thanking you all again for the honour and privilege you have afforded me today. It has been lovely to be with you, and to share some thoughts on this absolutely vital conference theme with you.
- There is an old saying: ‘Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh siad’ – ‘Praise the Youth and they will advance’. I think you have all come forward today in a really important way already, and I can assure you that any praise I am able to give you is very, very well deserved.
- Thank you.