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Sea Beyond program extended to 56 countries

Updated: 2024-01-27 10:07 ( China Daily )
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Speakers at the event include Vladimir Ryabinin (left), executive secretary at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Francesca Santoro (second left), IOC/UNESCO senior program officer and Lorenzo Bertelli (third left), Prada Group's head of corporate social responsibility.[Photo provided to China Daily]

UNESCO and the Prada Group announced on Tuesday the third edition of their Sea Beyond educational program, dedicated to the dissemination of "ocean literacy" and preservation. This collaboration, which began in 2019, underscores a joint commitment to advancing awareness of critical ocean-related issues.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO's director-general, emphasizes the vital link between humanity and the ocean, pointing out the threats posed by human activities. "If we want to succeed in saving the ocean, we must support scientific research and advance knowledge, but also invest in education," she says.

Azoulay praises the Sea Beyond program as "a very positive example of how to raise awareness among younger generations and move toward virtuous practices".

This year, the program will be open to 34,385 students in 184 secondary schools across 56 countries. The focus remains on the interrelation between the ocean and climate, as well as associated environmental challenges.

Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group head of corporate social responsibility, expressed optimism about its impact.

"The record number of students enrolled in this year's program shows that we are progressing in the right direction and that Sea Beyond is able to generate a real change," he says.

Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, stresses the importance of studying the ocean and the ocean processes in order to succeed in protecting it and achieve other sustainable goals.

Francesca Santoro, IOC/UNESCO senior program officer, emphasizes the urgency of the climate crisis and the connection between the ocean and the climate. She expresses the intention, through the project, to shift the narrative from the ocean "being the biggest victim of climate change" to probably "being our best ally in finding a solution for the climate crisis". She also highlights the fact that Prada and UNESCO aim not only to develop educational resources for students, but also to provide them with free space to use their creativity and imagination in helping to develop solutions to emergencies.

The initiative includes "ocean literacy" training sessions for students and teachers, with live lessons conducted by UNESCO ocean and climate experts. The program, which runs from January to June 2024, will culminate in an international contest in which schools will be asked to create an awareness campaign using text, graphics or interactive content focused on the adoption of more conscious behavior for preserving the ocean. Judging will be carried out by a panel of Sea Beyond "friends" known as Sea Beyonders — individuals who have placed a love for the ocean at the core of their personal and professional lives.

This new round will also witness fresh collaboration with the international nonprofit organization Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres (Libraries without Borders). The goal is to facilitate access to ocean education for children and young citizens in vulnerable communities, through the Ideas Box, a 100-square-meter mobile multimedia center. Jeremy Lachal, CEO of Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres, stresses the significance of access to knowledge in the 21st century.

The center is equipped with an internet connection, tablets, laptops, over 250 books and games, as well as plentiful training materials. The Ideas Box concept, initially developed by the French designer Philippe Starck for Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres in 2014, now benefits 115 communities worldwide.

"The new partnership with Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres is the first humanitarian project that is part of Sea Beyond. We want to inspire new generations and make them aware of the importance of the ocean and the need to preserve it, and we want to do this by leaving no one behind," Bertelli said.

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