Twenty years and great aspirations at the 12th World WEEC Congress

Record-breaking numbers and prime factors were highlighted at the 12th edition of the World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC), which took place in Abu Dhabi from January 29 to February 2. Approximately 3000 delegates from 83 countries worldwide participated, alongside over 330 speakers who led more than 300 parallel sessions. Organized by the Permanent Secretariat of […]

Record-breaking numbers and prime factors were highlighted at the 12th edition of the World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC), which took place in Abu Dhabi from January 29 to February 2. Approximately 3000 delegates from 83 countries worldwide participated, alongside over 330 speakers who led more than 300 parallel sessions. Organized by the Permanent Secretariat of the WEEC Network based in Italy and the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, the congress brought together environmental educators, teachers, associations, and institutions from across the globe.

“The WEEC 2024 Congress,” remarked Secretary General Mario Salomone, “represents a global commitment to environmental education, mirrored by the hosting country’s presidency of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The United Arab Emirates’ pivotal role as our host has catalyzed a ripple effect that, I believe, will resonate far beyond the congress, inspiring significant change worldwide.”

The 2024 WEEC congress also marked twenty years since its inaugural gathering in Portugal in 2003, commemorated through a dedicated side event. It served as a platform to reflect on past commitments and set goals for the next two decades. Among these discussions was the announcement of the next edition, slated for September 2026 in Perth, Australia, organized in collaboration with the Australian Association for Environmental Education.

The rotation of congress locations worldwide aims to address diverse contexts, tailoring environmental education and sustainability efforts to specific regional needs, challenges, and resources. Each destination brings with it distinct traditions, cultures, economic structures, and social dynamics, offering pertinent insights, cutting-edge research, and effective practices.

To capture the unique narrative of the United Arab Emirates, the fifth day of the congress ventured into the field with a series of excursions spotlighting local environmental education initiatives. These ranged from exploring the Jubail Mangrove Park, where the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency has recently planted approximately 15 million mangroves to support the UAE’s goal of planting 100 million mangroves by 2030, to visiting the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center, the largest facility dedicated to marine research, rescue, and rehabilitation in the region.

Throughout the four days at the congress center, nine plenary sessions featured presentations from esteemed international speakers, including Mirian Vileda, Eureta Rosenberg, Akpezi Ogbuigwe, Purnima Devi Barman, Carlos Alvarez Pereira, Judy Braus, Kartikeya Vikram Sarabhai, Daniel Schaffer, and Gayatri Raghwa, among others.

A significant focus was placed on engaging youth, evident in the Youth Environmental Education Conference (YEEC) – a parallel event to the main congress since 2019. This edition saw substantial growth in both programming and participation, with around sixty speakers and hundreds of Emirati and international youth engaging in workshops, debates, and activities like the escape room and a daily podcast, a first in congress history, providing an innovative platform for sustainability discussions.

Connected to the YEEC area, a spacious exhibit zone facilitated interactions with local and international associations and universities. The “Sustainability Wall” showcased principles, objectives, and examples to inspire attendees to make a personal commitment to enhancing the sustainability of WEEC2024.

Emphasizing the concept of legacy, efforts were made to leave the congress venue better than before. As part of this commitment, the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency pledged to plant around 15,000 mangroves as a compensation activity. This tangible initiative, endorsed by WEEC, underscores the integration of environmental education into all facets of life.

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