Monday, 18 January 2021

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Students empowered by UN’s #Back2School campaign

UNIDO visited the British School of Brussels. © UNIDO Brussels

Over the past two weeks, UN officials from various programmes and agencies, including UNESCO and UNIDO, UN youth delegates and UN associations took part in the #Back2School campaign, organised by the UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) to mark UN Day (24 October). Kicked off by Alexander De Croo, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation, the campaign engaged and informed students in Belgium and abroad about the work of the UN, the importance of global cooperation, climate action and the sustainable development goals.

Alexander De Croo, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, at his school in Ronse

Broad participation

Participants involved in the campaign included Mr Patrick Gillabert, Head of the Brussels UNIDO Office and his team who went to the British School of Brussels, and Ms Louise Haxthausen, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels who visited Vesalius College/VUB.

UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels / Timo Diers
Ms Haxthausen presents at the Vesalius College / VUB in Brussels on the occasion of the “Back2School” initiative. She addressed an audience of 15 students who already had good background knowledge about the workings of the UN and explained the work of UNESCO more in-depth as well as the SDGs.

UNRIC itself sent out its staff to both the Dutch and French-speaking parts of Belgium. The centre’s Deputy Director, Caroline Petit, visited Athénée Royal de Bruxelles 2 in Molenbeek and was joined by 23-year-old Jiu-Jitsu world champion Amal Amajahid. Marian Blondeel, UNRIC’s Head of the Benelux & EU desk went back to Sint-Jan Berchmanscollege in Westmalle (Antwerp province). Representatives from the two Belgian UN associations, Zeynep Sila SAGINC from VVN Jongeren/UNYA Flanders and Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse from the Association Pour les Nations Unies (APNU), also supported the campaign.

Back2School at Athénée Royal de Bruxelles 2 in Molenbeek
#Back2School at Athénée Royal de Bruxelles 2 in Molenbeek

Future generations play a key role

Thanks to its success, the two-week campaign marked the beginning of a series of sustained educational meetings, underscoring that schools and youth play a key role in shaping the future and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Belgian UN Youth Delegates Flore De Pauw and Lisa Koopman are invited to present the UN’s work in their schools later this year, and UNRIC’s desk officer for Italy Fabio Graziosi is set to visit his high school Virgilio in Rome.

The UN Environment Programme will be approaching schools in spring 2020 ahead of World Environment Day (5 June), to raise awareness on the work of the UN and in particular the topic of biodiversity.

17-year old student Abdul at Athénée Royal de Bruxelles summarised the importance of the campaign in a few words: “We live in a complex world today. But if we all work together, we could build a better world for everyone.”


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