The United Nations Regional Center for Expertise on Educational Sustainable Development (RCE-ESD) is a network of government and non-government organizations (non-profit, for-profit), educators, and students—essentially all that have a stake in the creation of a sustainable future—brought together to focus on progressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These goals (17 of them to be exact), illustrate the important issues the UN collectively decided to address in the world today. Formed in 2003 with support from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the RCEs span the globe, encompassing 166 regions (September 2018), each bringing their unique perspectives and issues to the international table in an effort to not only benefit others, but also to receive help on current pressing matters. There are conferences that occur year-round, which help to facilitate the global intersection of work between the RCEs and help ideas migrate between networks, strengthening community initiatives and goals.
After a little more than a year of networking, collaborating, and hard work, the RCE Greater Atlanta officially launched on October 10, 2018. Officially recognized by the United Nations in February of this year, Greater Atlanta became the sixth region in the nation to join. With a strong history in social and environmental justice, it was only right that Atlanta began this journey to use its experiences to educate others, while also learning best practices to improve itself. In coming together, RCE Greater Atlanta will focus on several specific SDG’s rather than trying to approach them all. With its unique elements, the main SDG’s considered were: 1- No Poverty, 2- Zero Hunger, 3- Good Health and Well-being, 4- Quality Education, 9- Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, 11- Sustainable Cities and Communities, and 13- Climate Action. Each of these were chosen in context to some of Atlanta’s strengths and weaknesses as a city around social and environmental justice, presenting Atlanta as less than perfect, but willing to embrace its issues in order to push forward with significant change.
RCE Greater Atlanta is the first in the Southeastern region, furthering Atlanta’s drive to be a leader in sustainability in the nation (the city also has the first Living Building in the Southeast). As well, with its historically high amount of HBCU’s, the RCE is in a position to leverage equitable practices that have developed from Atlanta’s past as well those arising from present situations. All of these factors combined present Atlanta a unique opportunity to address issues that are not easily defined by traditional practices (what does equity look like in an educational space? Office? On a playground?) yet have found themselves becoming more mainstream. Moreover, with heavy involvement from universities, Atlanta has the opportunity to empower youth in the community. These are the students and young professionals that will come to lead these roles in the future, so the RCE wants to focus on providing the proper developmental skills to pipeline youth to these roles or provide them the tools to create roles of their own.
Now that Atlanta has officially launched as an RCE, the real work begins. With the working groups focused around the SDG’s, our partners and anybody interested have the ability to participate in progressing Atlanta to fully completing our chosen goals. The youth network is always looking for students—those who want to lead, have ideas, or represent their university in the RCE, and the RCE in the coming years will need hands on for projects and events. If you or anyone you know is interested follow the link to learn more about this new initiative: https://serve-learn-sustain.gatech.edu/rce-greater-atlanta-ii