In a globalised world, the actions we take here and now have impacts elsewhere and into the future – both on people and on the planet. Global citizenship education is the key to unlocking our ability to make our actions and their impacts coherent with sustainable development.

Why is GCE relevant when talking about policy?

The climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic have stressed just how ill equipped our current systems are to tackle our biggest shared problems. We need to find tools that support a holistic way of thinking and working together in our search for solutions.

Glowing globe with SDG icons surrounding it

Global Citizenship Education (GCE) is a lifelong approach to learning that supports this search for solutions by enabling people of all ages to understand the realities of our local communities and global interconnections, to question structural inequalities, and to envision a better future.

The relevance of Global Citizenship Education isn’t confined to an education setting; it is important in all aspects of society because of the joined-up way of thinking it encourages. This is especially true for complex areas such as policy making. Within policy making specifically, an approach outlined in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 17.14 known as Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development is considered as key for achieving the SDGs.

What is Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development?

Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD) is a way for governments to put this kind of joined-up thinking into practice for the SDGs. It helps policy makers find systemic ways of working together; to capitalise on positive synergies and manage negative impacts across policy areas, rather than focusing on one isolated issue at a time.

Using a PCSD approach to policy means that sustainable development becomes a key focus of the decision-making process. It helps to integrate all dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental – across policy making, and takes into consideration not only the impacts of policies here and now, but elsewhere and into the future.

Jigsaw and lightbulb showing global citizenship education supports joined-up thinking for policy coherence

How can GCE and PCSD work together as tools for change?

GCE helps us to understand the ways in which these different dimensions of sustainable development are connected to each other, so that we can then implement a systemic way of approaching them; for ourselves, others and future generations. GCE supports a better understanding of PCSD by encouraging individuals to think critically about global issues, to understand the impact of specific actions, and to be empowered to create positive change as active global citizens.

Venn diagram showing how GCE intersects with and supports PCSD, supporting key competencies and reaching outside of government

By applying this global citizenship lens, policy makers are better prepared to approach decision making processes from a more holistic standpoint. But working towards a sustainable future requires everyone to get on board, not just policy makers. An important aspect of Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development, outlined by the OECD in 2019, is ensuring collaboration with different sectors, organisations and individuals across society – this is another principle that underpins a GCE approach.

Taking a closer look: PCSD in Scotland

Our recent article published in The Scotsman looks at the current landscape for PCSD in Scotland. The impact of Covid-19 has meant government action, including a planned inter-ministerial group on PCSD, has been delayed. Scotland’s international development sector, including those working on GCE, are calling for these efforts not to be left behind. Looking to the future, the article highlights a new Bridge 47 resource created in partnership with the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework Team, and Scotland’s International Development Alliance, amongst others. The resource will support Scottish policy makers to implement a PCSD approach, putting wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of policy, through global citizenship methods.

The below infographic from the upcoming resource shows the positive multiplier effect of education and SDG Target 4.7.

Infographic showing the multiplier effect of education and SDG Target 4.7 in achieving the other SDGs

Unlike other SDGs, SDG 4 quality education is not associated with negative impacts across the other goals. Recognised by the UN as a “vital means of implementation […] and a key enabler of all the other Sustainable Development Goals”, SDG Target 4.7 is linked to positive progress in every other SDG, providing far-reaching opportunities to work on several goals and policy areas at once.

Unlocking a better future: transformative education as the key

At Bridge 47, we believe that transformative education is the key to unlocking our ability to make decisions and take actions that are coherent with sustainable development. In this way, we see GCE as vitally linked to enhancing Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development.

GCE and PCSD are tools for change to help us first understand the interconnected issues we face in our world today, and then implement a systemic way of approaching them. Combined, they can help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and create positive, systemic change.

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Visit more resources on PCSD:

'Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development 2019: Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality' (OECD)

'Policy coherence: Scotland and beyond' (interactive story map, Scotland's International Development Alliance)

'Recommendation of the Council on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development' (OECD, 2019)

'Better Policies for Development 2015: Policy Coherence and Green Growth' (OECD)

PCSD Partnership - a multi-stakeholder partnership for enhancing PCSD (OECD)

About the Author

Kate Lesenger

Position: Events and Communications Trainee

Kate assists Bridge 47 with events and communications on a national level in Scotland.