RCEs help to meet UN commitments to education for sustainable development (ESD)
Policy Support: Integrate ESD into policies at all levels of government
Whole-Institutions Approach: Reorientating teaching content and methodology, as well as campus and facility management, to support ESD
Educators: Strengthen the capacity of educators, trainers, and other change agents to become learning facilitators for ESD
Youth: Support youth in their role as change agents for sustainable development
Local Communities: Accelerate innovation and the advancement of sustainable development solutions at the local level through ESD
An RCE has four key goals:
#1. Re-orient education towards SD,
covering existing programmes/subjects from the point of ESD and designing and integrate SD in curricula. ESD programmes are tailored to address issues and local context of the community in which they operate.
#2. Increase access
to quality education that is most needed in the regional context
#3. Deliver training
programmes and develop methodologies and learning materials for them
#4. Lead advocacy and awareness-raising efforts
in the public about the importance of educators and the essential role of ESD in achieving a sustainable future. RCEs promote the long-term goals of ESD, such as environmental stewardship, social justice, and improvement of the quality of life
Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
In 2002, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution announcing the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD 2005-2014), based on the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the lead agency for the UNDESD, stressed the need to reorient existing education towards sustainability.
In 2003, in response to the UN resolution on the UNDESD, the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) launched the ESD project, with funding support from the Ministry of the Environment, Japan. The ESD project designs and implements research and development activities through two flagship initiatives: a global multi-stakeholder global network of Regional Centres of Expertise on ESD (RCEs) and a network of higher education institutions called the Promotion of Sustainability in Postgraduate Education and Research Network.
Moving forward, UNESCO has now presented the Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD with its five priority areas of action: advancing policy by mainstreaming ESD, transforming learning and training environments using the whole-institution approach, building capacities of educators and trainers, empowering and mobilizing youth, and finally accelerating sustainable solutions at the local level. At all levels of society, RCEs play a crucial role in implementing these goals using their local knowledge and global network.
As of November 2016, 157 RCEs have officially been acknowledged by the United Nations University worldwide. The Global RCE Service Centre is headquartered at UNU-IAS, where it provides assistance to individual RCEs and facilitates their communication and networking.
RCEs aspire to translate global objectives into the context of the local communities in which they operate. Upon the completion of the DESD in 2014, RCEs are committed to further generating, accelerating and mainstreaming ESD by implementing the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD, and contributing to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The planet faces a number of sustainability challenges, from climate change and the rapid extinction of species to the necessary modification of our consumption patterns. International platforms exist to tackle each of these issues: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally, keeping in mind action need to happen at the local level; the 10 Year Framework Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP on SCP) which is examining ways how consumer behaviour and industrial production patterns can shift towards a more sustainable use of the planet’s resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), both platforms bring scientists and policy makers together in a mission to protect the world’s biota.
Each of these global platforms needs to be implemented at a local level. With their official links to UN agencies, formal education institutions, and informal educators worldwide, RCEs are in an ideal position to do just that. The RCE network brings together multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary members who might not usually work together. As such, they are uniquely placed to help create solutions to sustainability challenges through dialogue, education and learning. They are highly influential policy advocates, able to test policies individually and work collectively to bring policy to scale and advice on future actions.
Through these efforts, RCEs help prepare local leaders of tomorrow with the tools and information they need to make smart and sustainable choices for the future. RCE efforts encourage innovation and new approaches to sustainable development. They translate existing knowledge into concrete actions and empower individuals to make sustainable choices for themselves and their communities.
The success each RCE achieves on the local level is brought to scale through the global RCE Network worldwide. Local knowledge, expertise, and best practices are shared globally through the network and can be adapted and applied successfully in other regions. RCEs also play a central role in the transfer of global technologies, knowledge, and experiences at the local level through their programmes and activities.