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Aotearoa New Zealand is part of an interconnected and interdependent world.

The impact of political and financial decision-making, environmental change, natural disasters, conflict, extreme poverty, pandemics, and inequality, is seldom contained within national borders. Advances in technology, transportation, trade, migration, communication, and media means that the way we live is deeply connected to people and places all over the globe.

Thousands rallied for action on climate change (Photo: Auckland, 28 November 2015)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all United Nations Member States (including NZ) in 2015

© United Nations

Global challenges are complex problems that have a devastating impact on the global community. These challenges include political, health, economic, environmental, and/or social crisis.  While global challenges are global in nature, they are collaborative in solution, requiring governments, institutions, organisations, communities, and schools to work together towards collaborative action.

Sustainable Development Goals and global citizenship education

To address global challenges, countries around the world gathered at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September 2015, following a series of meetings and summits. This led to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all United Nations Member States (including NZ) in 2015

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all United Nations Member States (including NZ) in 2015

© United Nations

The 17 SDGs are accompanied by targets and indicators that aim to address, and respond to, significant challenges experienced in our world today. 

For the first time, these goals and targets held all countries to account by setting aims to address poverty, health, injustice, education quality, and environmental degradation within their own backyards. The intent is to foster collaboration between countries in order to achieve a more equitable, peaceful and socially just world. 

Global citizenship education aims to bring young people into conversation with the global challenges that are reflected in each of the 17 SDGs , and invites them to actively respond to these challenges. 

SDG Indicator 4.7 specifically addresses global citizenship education, and sets the target for learners to develop their knowledge of human rights, peace, gender equality, cultural diversity, and sustainable development through global citizenship education. It encourages young people to work towards a more just, peaceful, equitable, tolerant, sustainable and inclusive world. 

Responding to global challenges

Responding to global challenges invites young people to reflect on what kind of world they hope to live in, and what sort of future that they hope to see. It encourages them to think about the legacy they’d like to leave, and the contribution they want to make to humanity. This type of wondering encourages young people to think critically about the challenges facing humanity today, and think creatively towards achieving a more equitable, socially just and sustainable future. When done with care, it builds agency and hope. 

This global challenges tohu is based on collaboration and leaving a legacy. The blue triangle represents the world. 

Multiple coloured triangles surrounded by white triangles, designed to represent global challenges

Global challenges. Designed by Nikki Kenndy, Taputapu.

© Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellence

The white triangles represent contribution given outwardly to the world. The teal triangle represents the beautiful ideas, innovation, and skills that young people have acquired. The yellow triangle in the middle represents the potential that exists to achieve this transformative change.

Global challenges require interdisciplinary responses. Young people learn about human rights, social justice, equity, and peace through the social science, science, technology, arts, English, learning languages, and health and physical education curricula. 

Exploring global challenges invites students to examine the causes, and identify and evaluate possible actions. 

This critical investigation challenges learners to examine global challenges from a range of perspectives, and consider the impact of these challenges on different stakeholders, including those within their local community. This ability to think critically provides an important foundation to identify and evaluate the best course of action to lead to transformative change.

Through global citizenship education, rangatahi and young people are encouraged to take collaborative and responsible action within their own classes, school and/or local communities, in order to create positive, inclusive, sustainable, and culturally responsive change.  

This clip shows some of the ways in which learners are responding to climate change at Oropi primary school.

Engaging with global challenges requires cross-curricular learning and can develop students' agency

© Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellence

Useful links

Useful linksVisit New Zealand Sustainable Development Goals for lesson plans and learning resources curated as a public good initiative by Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Government.

The Human Rights Commission provides information about human rights education as well as a range of short online modules on human rights education. 

Global citizens is a world-wide movement working to defeat extreme poverty, demand equity, and defend the planet. Find out more how you can get involved, and discover what Aotearoa New Zealand is doing to make the world a more equitable, just, and sustainable place.

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