The Story of Non-formal

We mentioned briefly on Saturday that we were successful in getting non-formal education back in the outcome document.   I think we’ve recovered enough to tell you all about it…

As Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, we know the importance of non-formal education as we are involved with it every week.  You can imagine our disappointment then when it wasn’t included in the draft outcome document. Luckily, we had the Major Group for Children and Youth on our side, and the events that unfolded demonstrate exactly why youth should participate, and continue to participate, in UN processes.

A long journey for that little word

Non-formal education is curriculum-based education that occurs outside of school through extra-curricular activities such as Guides and Scouts. Clearly, WAGGGS and its Member Organizations would continue educating without it specifically in the text, but the inclusion legitimizes the work that we do.   As one of the WAGGGS key messages, the work for it began long before Rio+20.  In May, Darlene (Canada) attended the informal-informal (discussion of the text) where she spoke with negotiators about non-formal education, while Emily (USA) helped the MGCY draft amendments to the text.

(A summary of) the hard work at the conference

On arrival at Rio+20, WAGGGS delegates began lobbying governments through handouts with proposed text, emails, partaking in informal discussions with negotiators and many met with their government representatives.  On Saturday, negotiators met to discuss the education section. The youth rallied in the room, putting unspoken pressure on the negotiators to make a decision.  Switzerland came through for us and suggested the inclusion of the new paragraph, with the EU, US and Australia showing overwhelming support for it.  The US went as far as to say: “What you learn inside the classroom is just as important as what you learn outside the classroom – in groups such as the Girl Scouts”. Despite this, the proposal was immediately opposed by the G77.

The final challenge

Without the support from all negotiators a proposal cannot be accepted, so although there was a huge amount of support for the proposal, there was still a lot of work to do. In the couple of hours that discussions were suspended, youth from around the world joined together to speak to the lead G77 negotiator from Indonesia and their unified voice persuaded the G77 to support the proposal.


Just before the strike of midnight, the education chair from Norway confirmed consensus on the proposal and the youth clapped.  It was unique that youth stakeholders inspired the inclusion of a new paragraph just days before high-level negotiations and goes to show the power of youth when they get together and speak out with a unified voice. So here it is:

Education 2bis   We encourage Member States to promote Sustainable Development awareness among youth, inter alia, by promoting programmes for non-formal education in accordance with the goals of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

But it’s not the end….

There are still several days of the conference left, so we need to ensure that non-formal education remains in the text.  Remember #EducationEverywhere.

/Maggie with thanks to Emily

Originally posted on 

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