Walter Leal-Filho (Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 March 2015



Leal-Filho, W. (2015), "Editorial", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 16 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-12-2014-0166



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Volume 16, Issue 2

Welcome to another issue of IJSHE, where readers will find again a rich set of papers concerned with sustainability at higher education institutions from different parts of the world.

In this editorial I would like to comment on the work of the Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which were established shortly after the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+10) held in South Africa in 2002. The idea at that time was to set up centres, whose work at the local level would complement the initiatives taking place globally. There are currently around 130 acknowledged RCEs worldwide, supported by a Secretariat at the United Nations University[1].

RCEs should entail four basic elements:

(1) Governance: Addressing issues of RCE management and leadership.

(2) Collaboration: Addressing the engagement of actors from all levels of formal, non-formal and informal education.

(3) Research and development: Addressing the role of research and its inclusion in RCE activities, as well as contributing to the design of strategies for collaborative activities, including those with other RCEs.

(4)Transformative education: Contributing to the transformation of the current education and training systems to satisfy ambitions of the region regarding sustainable living and livelihood.

The range of RCE stakeholders is also wide: it may engage school teachers; professors at higher education institutions; environmental non-governmental organisations; scientists; researchers; museums; zoos; botanical gardens; local government officials; representatives of local enterprises; volunteers; media; civic associations or individuals who work in the spheres of sustainable development (SD) such as economic growth, social development and environmental protection; students; and learners at all levels.

RCEs bring together institutions at the regional/local level to jointly promote ESD. They build innovative platforms to share information and experiences and to promote dialogue among regional/local stakeholders through partnerships for SD. They create a local/regional knowledge base to support ESD actors, and promote four major goals of ESD in a resource-effective manner. These four goals are to:

(1) Re-orient education towards SD, covering existing programmes/subjects from the point of ESD and designing an integrated SD 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 trainers’ training programmes and to develop methodologies and learning materials for them.

(4) Lead advocacy and awareness-raising efforts to raise public awareness 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.

A typical RCE is a network engaging formal, non-formal and informal education organisations, mobilised to deliver ESD to local and regional communities. A network of RCEs worldwide has been established and constitutes the Global Learning Space for Sustainable Development. RCEs have aspired to achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014), by translating its global objectives into the context of the local communities in which they operate. With the end of the DESD, they now find themselves in a new phase.

A continuation and indeed an enlargement of the scope of the work of the RCEs is needed.

Indeed, if RCEs did not exist they would have to be invented, as the goals set by the Global Action Programme – a follow-up to DESD – calls for concerted action, which the RCEs are uniquely placed to contribute to. It is important that the RCEs are able to work on a solid basis, and in a position to plan and execute their activities in a solid manner. After all, RCEs are the “guardians” of environmental education at the level it matters most: the local one.

Enjoy your reading!

Walter Leal Filho

Department of Life Sciences, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany


1. For more information on RCEs and how to set-up one, please contact: The Global RCE Service Centre, Education for Sustainable Development Programme, UNU-IAS, mailto:rceservicecentre@ias.unu.edu

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