13th Asia-Pacific RCE Regional Meeting Emphasises Collaboration to Build Capacity for Sustainability

(Extracts from report by RCE Kyrgyzstan, edits made by Global RCE Service Centre) 

The 13th Asia-Pacific RCE Regional Meeting was hosted by RCE Kyrgyzstan, Arabaev Kyrgyz State University (AKSU), and the Faculty of Geography, Ecology and Tourism, with support from the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). The Regional Meeting was split into four sessions, which were held fortnightly during September and October 2020 at the Faculty of Geography, Ecology and Tourism at the CACTLE Center and online. The theme and date of each session were as follows: 

  • 1st Session: Role of ESD during COVID-19 pandemic (10 September, 2020)  
  • 2nd Session: Achievements and Collaborative Initiatives of RCEs of Asia-Pacific region in Response to COVID-19 (24 September, 2020)  
  • 3rd Session: ESD as Learning and Empowerment – Revisiting the AP RCEs' Regional Action Plans (8 October, 2020)  
  • 4th Session: Discussion on Emerging Asia Pacific RCEs' Collaborative Initiatives (22 October, 2020) 

The goal of the 1st online session was to discuss the role of ESD during the COVID-19 pandemic and implement sustainable development principles in the Asia-Pacific region. RCE members and stakeholders discussed the response and possibilities of education for sustainable development during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The following issues were deliberated on: (1) COVID-19 Impact on Communities: What are the major impacts of the pandemic on local communities?; (2) What are the major challenges and opportunities in educational systems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?; and (3) How ESD activities could help to mitigate COVID-19 impacts? 

Summarising the 1st online session, Prof. Mario Tabucanon, UNU-IAS noted from the discussion that, indeed, ESD, both as a knowledge domain as well as an approach to learning, could be an effective tool for community engagement in times of pandemic and beyond. However in order for the RCE network to perform with efficacy, he emphasised the importance of practicing participative governance and management, wide collaboration among diverse stakeholders, transformative education, as well as ESD research and development.  

The 2nd online session was devoted to short presentations from 15 RCEs within the Asia-Pacific region, where participants shared their activities, difficulties and achievements in accordance with the questionnaire “RCE Response to COVID-19” that was distributed. Dr. Fumiko Noguchi, UNU-IAS summarised the presentations which revealed the problems and challenges caused by the pandemic, including restrictions of movement and travel, suspension of planned activities, including outreach activities to communities and stakeholders. She highlighted the important role of RCEs in the pandemic that identified the local issues, in particular those of the socially and economically vulnerable communities. She also pointed to digitalisation as one of the emergent issues that should be further discussed, particularly on how to deal with the areas, people and knowledge that has been left behind due to the digitalisation of activities. 

In the 3rd online session, RCEs shared their Action Plans, identifying similarities and common challenges, and revisited and updated the regional-level Action Plans that have evolved during recent years. There were two sectoral discussions held in sequence, namely (1) Higher Education & Community Engagement; and (2) Schools and Youth & Community Engagement. In the projects for youth, the main target was university students as well as youth groups and clubs in the community, while the projects for schools focused on teachers, students, and the whole school system. In the activities of RCEs, the aspect of the above-mentioned elements, namely higher education, community engagement, school & youth are interlinked in RCEs’ integrated approaches through multi-stakeholder partnerships towards achieving sustainable development in local communities. During the discussion, the following points were highlighted: capacity building for citizens and teachers; strengthening impact on school systems and policy-making; re-orientation of school curriculum; and empowerment and capacity building for youth.  

The 4th and final session aimed to discuss possible RCE collaborative projects. The focus was on the following questions: (1) How RCEs members through their thematic collaborative activities could enrich the Agenda 2030?; and (2) How the RCE network should function to support and advance ESD activities within RCEs and beyond the network? Two thematic groups discussed ‘Circular Economy, New Livelihood Opportunities’ and ‘Climate Change, Disaster Risk Reduction, Biodiversity Conservation and Wellbeing’, with members identifying and suggesting themes by which collaborative projects could be developed: Governance and Policy, Sustainable agriculture, Green campus/Sustainable environment, Indigenous and local communities, Mangroves, Water, Youth, and Disaster Risk Reduction Preparedness. Convenors of each theme will develop one-pagers including plans of actions and expected outputs for further follow-up.  

Finally, Prof. Tabucanon moderated the discussion on “Role of the Asia-Pacific RCEs Coordinating Committee”, reminding participants of the purpose and functions of the Committee which have proved beneficial to strengthening the collaborative undertakings of the Asia-Pacific RCE Community. The current and outgoing members of the Committee were gratefully acknowledged for their valuable service during 2019-2020 under the Convenorship of Dr. Abdhesh Kumar Gangwar (RCE Srinagar) and Rapporteurship of Ms. Jen Dollin (RCE Greater Western Sydney). After a presentation on the selection process based on past accepted practice, a new Committee was formed for the term 2021-2022 comprising of the following members: RCE Greater Western Sydney (subject to confirmation), RCE Okayama, RCE Srinagar, RCE Tongyeong, RCE Yogyakarta, RCE Kyrgyzstan, RCE Penang, RCE Waikato, RCE Greater Phnom Penh, RCE Greater Gombak, RCE Sundarbans, and RCE Hyogo-Kobe. Ms. Jen Dollin was nominated and appointed as Convenor and Ms. Brittany Hardiman (both RCE Greater Western Sydney) as Rapporteur for the Committee’s 2021-2022 term (subject to confirmation).  

RCE Kyrgyzstan & AKSU will organise the second part of the 13th Asia-Pacific RCE Regional Meeting in-person in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 2021. 

The Global RCE Service Centre wishes to thank the team at RCE Kyrgyzstan for their outstanding efforts and coordination in making this first part of the 13th Asia-Pacific RCE Regional Meeting a success, and to all participants for their active participation and contributions. 

Details on the programme and presentations can be found on the event page here. View the full report prepared by RCE Kyrgyzstan here

(Photo credits: RCE Kyrgyzstan)