Hard Rain Project wins prestigious UNESCO award

UK-based Hard Rain Project wins prestigious international sustainable development award

The Hard Rain Project, a UK-based education for sustainable development programme, has been selected as one of the three winners of the international UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 2017.

The UNESCO Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development rewards outstanding efforts to demonstrate leadership in Education for Sustainable Development globally. The prize, which is funded by the Government of Japan, consists of three annual awards of USD 50,000 for each winning project.

The Hard Rain Project (HRP), founded by world-renowned UK photographer, Mark Edwards, is a unique example of artists and scientists working together on innovative exhibitions, books films, talks and events to raise awareness of pressing global issues such as poverty eradication, environmental issues, and climate change. The HRP aims to influence the next generation of leaders, decision-makers students at colleges, schools and universities as well as the wider public.

The original Hard Rain exhibition is a close collaboration with the Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Bob Dylan. Each line of Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’ is illustrated with world-class photographs in a sixty-metre outdoor display that brings global challenges alive in a unique and unforgettable way. The successor exhibition, Whole Earth?, and its related activities, are a new tool for Education for Sustainable Development which is currently being rolled out to universities around the world.

It is estimated that 15 million people have seen Hard Rain and Whole Earth? exhibitions in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia and attended talks and associated events. This makes them among the most successful environmental exhibitions every created, attracting huge public and critical acclaim along with the endorsement of political and environmental leaders across the world.

Gary Brace, the UK National Commission for UNESCO Non-Executive Director for Education, said:

“It’s fantastic the Hard Rain Project has been awarded the prestigious UNESCO Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development. It’s extraordinary what the Project has accomplished since 2006, and both Hard Rain and Whole Earth? programmes are worthy winners in part for their cutting-edge work on using art and science to raise awareness of pressing global issues.

“This UNESCO prize recognises the role the Hard Rain Project has played in furthering the principles of Education for Sustainable Development around the world.”

“Being a recipient of the UNESCO Japan Prize will help Mark and the team continue their critical work, and raise the project’s profile beyond the 15 million already reached, to new audiences, and open up opportunities to work with other like-minded groups around the world.”

“It’s an exceptional achievement that this is the second time a UK applicant has been awarded this prestigious award, and it shows how UK organisations are contributing to making the world a better place through education initiatives”.

Mark Edwards, Director of the Hard Rain Project, said:

“Education is a key element in the transition to a much more sustainable society, yet it is often these projects that are hardest to fund. The UNESCO-Japan Prize has given much-needed support to organizations around the world that work to bring sustainable development alive.

Hard Rain Project is privileged to be included as one of this year’s three winners. Our approach – combining art with rigorous science – engages a wide public as well as school and university students. Thanks to the UNESCO-Japan Prize we can scale up our work and reach a new international audience.”

Jamie Agombar, Head of Sustainability at the National Union of Students, and previous UK recipient of the Japan Prize, comments:

“It is great to see Hard Rain Project achieve international recognition as one of the most impressive and impactful Education for Sustainable Development projects in the world.”

DEFORESTATION, NIGERIA. Child in front of ironwood tree trunk

DEFORESTATION, NIGERIA. Child in front of ironwood tree trunk. S216-3. HardRain


The other two winners of the 2017 UNESCO Japan Prize are Zikra for Popular Learning from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Sihlengeni Primary School from the Republic of Zimbabwe. The winners were selected by an international jury from more than 100 nominations, submitted by the governments of UNESCO Member States and organisations in official relations with UNESCO.

Commenting on the application, the independent UNESCO International Jury for the Prize said:

“The Hard Rain Project is a highly original international initiative harnessing the power of visual media blending art and science to raise awareness across the spectrum of pressing global issues, but also to stimulate thinking and inspire action towards more positive futures. There is evidence of its effectiveness in reaching a broad range of society including policy-makers and providing high-impact resources for educators globally. It also offers a model to those who seek to use visual and other creative means to promote education for sustainable development and address the SDGs.”

G.B. ENGLAND. London Kew Gardens. Launch of Hard Rain/ What will you do now? Exhibition.

G.B. ENGLAND. London Kew Gardens. Launch of Hard Rain/ What will you do now? Exhibition.

UNESCO’s Director-General and the Japanese Minister of Education will award the Prize to the three laureates in a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 3 November 2017, during the 39th session of the UNESCO General Conference.

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