The President emphasized the importance of the North-South Dialogue and FAIRTRADE in their contribution to a broader understanding and awareness of development policy at parliamentary level and in the population. Through numerous campaigns and educational programmes by FAIRTRADE, Austrians today understand global relationships much better, for example the effects of consumer decisions in Europe on people in Africa, Asia or Latin America.
FAIRTRADE Austria was founded 25 years ago and the first fair-trade coffee came into the local supermarkets. Today, 90% of citizens know the FAIRTRADE seal. The aim of FAIRTRADE is that small farmer families and workers on plantations in the global South can live a safe and good life and determine their own future, through fair prices for their crops and decent working conditions.
FAIRTRADE is an established and functioning system in global trade and makes a significant contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 SDGs (Agenda 2030, Sustainability Goals) must also be implemented in Austria in accordance with national framework conditions by 2030.
The focus of the DIALOG event on SDG 4.7 - Global Citizenship Education - was that education is seen as the engine of societal change. The SDG 4.7 aims to ensure that all learners gain the knowledge and skills to support sustainable development. The current (inter)national challenges make it necessary for people to be able to understand global issues and interdependencies and to reflect them sensitively.
Politics and society are called upon to strengthen the role of education in this regard. Education in this context must empower people to deal critically with global developments, to understand the complexity and variety of diverse perspectives, to think about what is fair and unfair, and to refelct how globalization phenomena relate to their everyday lives and to the scope of their own actions.
At the event, held on December 11 at the Press Club Concordia, education experts from academia, schools and extracurricular education underlined the need for global citizenship education. The school education is no longer the sole frame of reference in a globalized world. Global education is the prerequisite for promoting democracy. In Austria, there are numerous individual initiatives and activities, both in terms of the SDGs in terms of Global Citizenship Education. However, there are structural weaknesses and an inclusive overall strategy that would firmly anchor global education in the education system is missing.
More information also on the Homepage of the Kommission für Entwicklungsforschung (KEF).
On Thursday, 22nd of June 2017, members of the Austrian parliament discussed the status quo with regard to the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) in Austria with representatives of the civil society. The SDGs were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 and have been valid for all states since 2016, as Margarita Langthaler, facilitator from ÖSFE, explained in her introductory remarks. Jutta Kepplinger from the NorthSouthDialogue of Parliaments (PNSD) stressed the necessity of the dialogue between MPs and experts from science, NGOs and ministries, as well as the inclusion of as many MPs as possible from all committees. The latter is also of great importance with regard to Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development, which not only concerns the development policy subcommittee. The chairman of the Family Committee and of the Joint Parliamentary Peer Group of the PNSD, Hon. Georg Strasser, pointed out that both the broad contexts and the microsystems should be considered and analyzed with regard to education.
In his presentation Dr. Gottfried Biewer (Head of the Educational Sciences at the University of Vienna) delivered a detailed gap analysis of the Austrian situation for each sub-goal of SDG 4. In some areas, Austria already fulfills the objectives in its entirety, for example by having compulsory schooling for children aged between 6 and 14/15. However, there are deficits, e.g. the missing structures for access to school education and/or training for non-school-age youths with migration background.
Dr. Andrea Schmölzer, Head of the Department for EU Coordination and Multilateral Affairs at the Federal Ministry of Education, explained the approach of the Austrian Federal Government, namely the integration of SDGs into relevant existing strategies and programmes (mainstreaming), coordinated by an inter-ministerial working group. A first stock-taking report of all Austrian ministries was published in autumn 2016. The primary objectives of the ministry are to increase the level of education among pupils and target groups in adult education, as well as the improvement of opportunities and gender equality in education.
Gabriele Eschig, Secretary General of the Austrian Commission for UNESCO, is convinced that society needs to undergo a transformation process to achieve social, ecological and economic sustainability. Education plays a central role in this process. The goal of Global Citizenship Education is the ability to participate and analyze different contexts in the globalized world. The current set-up of political education separates local, national and international spheres, which is obsolete.
The discussion with the representatives of the ministries, NGOs and civil society revealed numerous aspects. There were views for and against the abolition of the "Sonderschulen" in Austria, and demands for a comprehensive Global Citizenship Education in the schools were raised. The extent to which the current educational reform can close the identified gaps is questionable. This depends on the implementation, which certainly requires a great deal of awareness and information work in some areas. Particularly with regard to the implementation of the SDGs, the extracurricular (political) education work of numerous NGOs is important, and resources are needed for this. At the political level, the inclusion of the SDGs in the government programme would be a clear signal, and a mandatory governmental progress report to Parliament, which already exists in Germany, would encourage a coherent approach and implementation. In general, the SDGs can not be viewed in isolation from each other, since all the objectives are interlinked, which is why an overall strategy would be necessary.
Fair trade opens up educational opportunities in the south and supports global education in the north
This year's FAIRTRADE exhibition in parliament was under the sign of education. Millions of children and adolescents worldwide work in mines and quarries, in the textile industry, on fields and coffee or cocoa plants. The vast majority of them have no basic school education. Poverty is one of the main causes of child labour, as the children and young people contribute to the daily survival of the whole family. Without adequate education, they have few chances to acquire knowledge and skills for their lives. A school visit and good education are central to a humane future of the children and adolescents.
The Director of the Austrian Parliament, Harald Dossi, opened the exhibition by pointing out that the legislature of each country has the obligation and the mandate to contribute to a better world. In this sense the support of FAIRTRADE and its initiatives for education in the south and in Austria is particularly valuable. The managing director of FAIRTRADE Austria, Hartwig Kirner, described the efforts that thousands of children and young people undertake daily to go to school in many countries of the global south. This underlines the importance of education for people. FAIRTRADE does not regard child labour as an individual problem for the families concerned, but as a result of an unfair world trading system. Promoting fairtrade structures is crucial to protect children and reduce poverty.
It is also important to disseminate information on the global context of economic, environmental and social aspects of our lives, especially in the countries of the global north. This knowledge is conveyed through the concept of global learning and promotes responsible action in the sense of sustainable development. FAIRTRADE is active in numerous schools in Austria as well as in the apprenticeship of large trade groups, for example in the training of the FAIRTRADE ambassador, which was described by Andrea Matanovic, an apprentice of the SPAR academy. In this way, global knowledge and connections are to be conveyed to children and adolescents, entirely within the meaning of SDG 4.
In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education has entered the SDGs as the fourth of seventeen goals. In addition, education is mentioned in sub-targets of other areas. This underlines its important role for sustainable economic and social development and for the achievement of all SDGs. But it is important to analyze the relation between different educational approaches in different contexts and their respective results. Under what conditions does education contribute to poverty reduction? Under what conditions does it strengthen democracy and participation?
SDG 4 provides for inclusive, fair and high-quality education as well as opportunities for lifelong learning for all people and is still far too little implemented in many countries of the world, also in Austria. Thereby, it is in particular education and training that enable (young) people to escape the poverty trap. Youths must be enabled by appropriate education to live a productive and humane life. The SDGs refer repeatedly to the concept of decent work, and in this context education must be more than the mere modeling of human capital for the globalized economy.
The speakers of the Round Table, Margarita Langthaler from the Austrian Research Foundation for International Development (ÖFSE), Helmuth Hartmeyer from the Institute for International Development of the University of Vienna, and Téclaire Ngo Tam from Global Education at Südwind, analyzed the SDG 4 with regard to its strength, weakness, opportunities and threats at the international and national levels. For example, the linear economic growth doctrine is also applied in terms of education - but important for sustainable development are skills that enable young people to critically question the global order in terms of economic, social and environmental aspects.
The discussion with the Members of the Austrian Parliament in the Round Table circled around questions about the mediation of global education outside an elite circle, but also on how to exchange experiences with peers from other countries on topics such as "What type of education do we want for our children and young people and for what purpose?" Ultimately, national decision-makers play a crucial role in developing binding laws and guidelines.