13th Global RCE Conference Highlights Whole Community Approach to ESD

The annual meeting of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The 13th Global Conference of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was held on 31 October – 2 November 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The event highlighted the importance of adopting a whole community approach for ESD, bringing together over 200 participants from across the globe. It was co-hosted by RCE Greater Gombak and RCE Greater Kuala Lumpur.

In opening remarks, Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) highlighted the efforts of the Global RCE Network to mobilize local communities and emphasize the importance of localizing the SDGs to solve global issues. A keynote lecture by Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (Rector of IIUM and co-chair of RCE Greater Gombak) outlined practical steps for a whole-community approach to embedding the SDGs. He stressed that co-learning, collaborating, co-creating and co-existing underlie the concept of “communiversity” whereby the community and university come together to initiate transformation.

A panel discussion on transformative learning explored localization of the SDGs, equipping learners with competencies to make responsible individual decisions and action-oriented pedagogies. It also discussed communiversity as a new model for facilitating the sustainability transition.

The second panel discussion focused on partnerships and global movements. Speakers called for a whole-institution approach to ESD, discussed how partnerships could advance community transformation and considered ways to overcome financing challenges for the SDGs.

Focusing on capacity development, a third panel discussion shared efforts by RCE Pune and RCE Scotland, as well as the ESD for 2030 initiative and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The fourth panel discussion addressed youth empowerment, presenting RCE efforts in Kenya and the Americas and the UNEP Children and Youth Stakeholder Mechanism.

A keynote speech by Tan Sri Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid (Founding Director and Distinguished Professor, International Institute of Science Diplomacy and Sustainability, UCSI) reflected on the establishment of RCEs and highlighted their core elements —governance, collaboration, research and development, and transformative education.

Parallel sessions focused on good practices on mainstreaming the whole community approach for ESD, and how to enhance collaboration. Participants visited Real World Labs to experience the whole community approach in action.

In conjunction with the conference, RCE Greater Gombak organized the RCE Youth Empowerment Workshop on 3 November 2023, convening RCE youth leaders to collaborate and establish international networks.