Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development

Authored by: Meghna Tare, University of Texas at Arlington
Date: December 9, 2019

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, including a global multi-stakeholder network of the Regional Centers of Expertise on ESD (RCEs). An RCE is an existing formal, non-formal and informal organization that facilitates learning towards sustainable development in local and regional communities. As of December 2019, the United Nations University worldwide has officially acknowledged 168 RCEs.

After the UNDESD ended in 2014, member states have agreed to advance commitments toward ESD through the Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Program (GAP) on ESD with 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. Many RCE members are assigned as the Partner Network agencies by UNESCO to lead the world’s efforts toward GAP.

ESD is also recognized as a key element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goal on education (SDG 4) under Target 4.7 and is considered a very important driver for the achievements of all other SDGs.

ESD aims to bring behavior changes to promote sustainability and it is critical to protect natural resources of the planet for future generations. There are cities and regions promoting sustainability throughout the United States, and there are various sustainability initiatives and projects implemented by the city government, NGOs, private sectors and individuals. An RCE can connect all these actors and accelerate collective impacts over the region, and also provides opportunities to impact the global policies such as GAP on ESD and SDGs through the UN platforms provided by the headquarter of RCEs, UNU. It can also connect the region with other 168 RCEs worldwide to work together and share experiences and challenges of projects on biodiversity, sustainable consumption and production, climate change, engaging youth, promoting higher education, etc. It is valuable to analyze the needs and benefits of establishing an RCE by scaling up local efforts to promote sustainability, increase awareness of ESD, and accelerate collaboration and collective impact.

RCE North Texas is a network of 75 multidisciplinary stakeholders, including higher education institutions, businesses, non-governmental organizations, community associations, and local, regional, state and federal government agencies. The North Texas RCE comprises the sixteen counties of North Texas. Of the ten ecoregions within the state of Texas, the sixteen-county North Texas RCE is located predominantly in three of them, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin County. But as we make progress and gather momentum, the North Texas RCE will include stakeholders from other counties.

The sixteen counties of North Texas encompass a diverse and vibrant demographic and economic region. Our region has grown dramatically over the past forty years, with growth projections indicating a more than doubling in population size from the current 7.2 million residents by the year 2050. In this rapid growth scenario, how will North Texas fare and grow in a sustainable manner as it confronts exploding population projections and associated environmental, economic and social challenges? At this pivotal moment for North Texas, RCE will be an influencer in the community as cities expand, providing the resources to maximize the potential economic opportunity that well-managed communities can offer and be a conduit for transformative education in North Texas.

We are focused on the following SDGs, deemed priority for our region: Good Health and Well-Being (3); Quality Education (4); Sustainable Cities and Communities (11).

Sustainability Education has been recognized as a critical tool for the transition to sustainable development. The genesis of the RCE is a realization by the Institutions of Higher Education that, after implementing sustainability programs on their own campuses, the time is right to bring their knowledge and expertise outside their campus gates and partner at a broader regional scale for a multi-sector approach to education for sustainable development. It also engenders a culture of learning and continuous improvement, providing opportunities for students of all ages to contribute to these efforts and shape new ones. 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, training, conferences and symposiums, 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, North Texas RCE helps 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. North Texas RCE can play a central role in the transfer of global technologies, knowledge, and experiences at the local level through our programs and activities.

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