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Vision into action – YES (Youth Encounter on Sustainability)

IWC turning sustainable vision into action by hosting Youth Encounter on Sustainability.

“The realisation that other people’s dreams align with mine,” said Nnaemeka Okochi of Nigeria, gave him “an increased level of optimism” that his vision of sustainability, equity and justice in the world can be turned into action.

A group of young people from around the globe – the cradle of tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers, who must live and deal with the impacts of choices made by previous generations – have gathered to explore these same possibilities of turning vision into action, at the first Australian Youth Encounter for Sustainability (YES) in Noosa, Australia, hosted by the International WaterCentre.

“The individual stories that I’ve heard at YES have helped me to know that other people are concerned about the same things as I am,” Nnaemeka said. “It has given me great hope for the future.”

The issues Nnaemeka and the group are examining were first discussed at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and from these questions sprang the inspiration for the YES program.

“Until you hear it from other people – people from Nepal, Tibet, Nigeria – until you hear about the pain between the developed and the developing worlds,” says Ragnar Haabjoern from Sydney, “you don’t get a real experience of the dialogue that needs to occur between countries.”

Ragnar spoke about the holistic global insight he is gaining from the experience of meeting and speaking with other young people from so many different backgrounds. “I now see how what I do nationally can be transferred to international situations.”

The International WaterCentre, a Brisbane-based company, has partnered with ETZ Zurich to host the first Australian YES program from 30 January to 16 February 2009. University students from around the world are exploring the complex economic, ecological and social aspects of sustainable development while bringing their own perspectives and experience to the discussion.

The focus of education for sustainability is lifelong learning in a practical context, taking a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural approach.

In the YES program, the learning process itself is considered to be as important as the information that is actually taught. It addresses knowledge, core skills and values, through academic work, field experience, training, and cultural and social activities.

 “It’s amazing to be with people from so many different countries and disciplines and discussing these things,” said Mariana Garcia Coni from Argentina. Much more than just a series of traditional university lectures, Mariana says, “the nature of the process means that we investigate sustainability problems and issues from different points of view and analyse them through holistic approaches.”

To date, few multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural programs targeting the tertiary education sector have been offered in Australia. It was to address this issue that the International WaterCentre decided to host the YES program in Australia this year.

A joint venture of four leading Australian universities, the International WaterCentre provides education and training, applied research and consultancy in integrated water management, making it an ideal organisation to host the YES course. The company is a leader in promoting new ways of thinking about water management, acknowledging the multi-dimensional nature of water challenges and the roles politics and society play in shaping solutions.

Through the Youth Encounter on Sustainability, the International WaterCentre hopes to play an exciting and important role in turning vision into action for a viable, sustainable future.


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