Environmental education, defined as “a process aiming at promoting [people’s awareness of and concern] about the global environment and its associated problems, and developing attitudes, motivations, knowledge, commitment, and skills to work individually and collectively towards solutions,” is a tool for limiting adverse environmental change (Carvalho, et al., 2011). The United Nations (UN) declared a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)—from 2005 to 2014– and claimed that without education for sustainable development we will not reach a more sustainable future (Wals, 2012). Education serves to change attitudes, foster global citizenship, and empower people to become active social change agents (Brennan, 2008).
EcoPeace Middle East has taken that message to heart and through its educational programming aims to start a change in the Middle East. Through targeting anyone from highschool students to governmental ministries, EcoPeace has created a mechanism for acquiring knowledge and increasing awareness, and through that has developed the willingness for constructive cooperation in the Middle East. EcoPeace is initiating a process of change in a region which is threatened both by rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather phenomenon and also by conflict between countries and instability within them. EcoPeace has centered its programming around water, one of the most pressing issues in the Middle East.
Ecopeace’s educational programs are primarily the Good Water Neighbors program, and the Water Diplomacy for Young Professionals program. The Good Water Neighbors program, established by EcoPeace in 2001, aims to raise awareness of the shared water reality of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians and thus create political will for transboundary cooperation over water and sanitation issues. The Good Water Neighbors program is split into two aspects: the Youth Water Trustees program and the High School Diplomacy Major program. Both programs aim to teach high schoolers through experiential learning that connect individuals to their environment and lead them to understanding environmental issues in a regional context. Thus, EcoPeace has developed lectures and workshops on water diplomacy, national and regional camps, tours (both face-to-face and virtual), debate competitions to engage with the topics and additionally invests in teacher training across Israel, Palestine, and Jordan and curriculum development.
Likewise, the Water Diplomacy for Young Professionals program is a training program for 20-35 year olds aiming to create leaders dedicated to promoting cross-border environmental and water solutions. The program is split into two tracks: the Water Diplomacy track and the Green Social Entrepreneurship track. Within the water diplomacy track, young professionals from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan acquire negotiation and diplomacy skills and develop a network of change-makers.
EcoPeace Middle East is taking it a step further and utilizing its experience to help civil society organizations in other water- insecure regions advance their environmental goals. Through the Global Program, EcoPeace has utilized its 25 years of experience to train, educate, and consult leading international and grassroots organizations globally. EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors project was adopted in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014-2015 and carried out by the Bosnian environmental NGO Center for Ecology and Energy. A 2nd phase of the Good Water Neighbors project has begun in Bosnia-Herzegovina in July 2017, and following a successful one year pilot project focused on youth and GIS mapping in the Spreca River Basin, they are now expanding to the adult sector.
Climate change is an inherently global issue and world regions must come together to solve their shared issues and create a better future for the next generation. Particularly in conflict regions, this cooperation can be a mechanism for trust-building and conflict resolution, ensuring both climate security and human security. EcoPeace is a model for how this methodology can be put into action and work even in the Middle East.
Written by: EcoPeace’s Education Team in Tel Aviv