First RCE Global Webinar Focuses on Action through Learning

The first of two webinars in the lead-up to the 12th Global RCE Conference was held on 4 February, 2021, under the theme 'RCE Global Network 2021: Achieving the SDGs: Action through Learning'. Hosted by RCE Scotland and the Global RCE Service Centre, the online event brought together over 120 attendees, with representation from all regions of the network.

Chaired by Dr. Rehema White, Chair of RCE Scotland, the overarching focus of the webinar was on action through learning in a time of global crises, to enable the sharing of knowledge, skills, and values to build capacities to bring about the changes needed to transition to a better world.

Opening remarks were given by Dr. Akio Takemoto, Programme Head, UNU-IAS, touching on the resilience of RCEs during the COVID-19 pandemic, who have continued to communicate and collaborate to deal with issues that have emerged or been exacerbated by the pandemic. The role of RCEs to play a pivotal role in building back better was also addressed. As a new phase begins with the framework 'ESD for 2030', the development of a new roadmap for the RCE community will provide for an updated vision, goals, and strategic directions to guide the network, in alignment with the aforementioned framework and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

An overview of the new UNESCO ESD for 2030 roadmap, and its role in achieving the SDGs was highlighted via a keynote, 'Setting the Scene: The UNESCO ESD 2030 Roadmap & the SDGs', presented by Ms. Won Jung Byun, Senior Project Officer, Department of ESD, UNESCO. The key features of the framework (which is a follow-up to the GAP) were presented, emphasising education’s role within the 17 SDGs, as well as the five priority action areas, implementation plan, and timeline outlining key milestones. The framework also puts an emphasis on member states' leadership, calling on countries and governments to take greater ownership towards leading the transformation needed, as well as the implementation of country initiatives.

A panel chaired by Dr. Philip Vaughter, Research Fellow, UNU-IAS and represented by Ms. Won Jung Byun (UNESCO), Prof. Pete Higgins (RCE Scotland), Dr. Jeeranuch Sakkhamduang (RCE Greater Phnom Penh), Mr. Kenneth Ochoa (RCE Bogota), and Ms. Belusile Mhlanga (RCE Eswatini) discussed the stakeholders and groups of learners that are key when it comes to ESD projects and their reach. Central to this would be local authorities to ensure local agendas reflect sustainable development objectives. A focus on young people is also paramount, especially at the primary school level, to ensure ESD practices and skills move towards a greener future. Thoughts about how ESD could be contextualised to reflect local and national needs and worldviews, called for local action plans and multi-stakeholder participation.

An interactive breakout sharing session gave participants time to examine the five themes within the roadmap: Advancing policy; Transforming learning environments; Building capacities of educators; Empowering & mobilising youth; and Accelerating local level actions. In terms of the goal for ESD to be integrated in every level of government, both in education and sustainable development, participants saw this as not fully realised to date – at least not to its full potential – which results in opportunities for advancing policy. RCEs can play a role here due to their capabilities in bringing together multiple stakeholders, collaborative engagement, and developing relationships with governments at different levels. Also discussed was the need to take a holistic view of ESD, and to enhance not only the cognitive, but also social, emotional, and behavioural dimensions of learning. Finally, participants emphasised the importance of local knowledge and involvement of communities in the decision-making process, whereby co-design and co-creation is vital.

The second half of the webinar provided another opportunity for dialogue in a Q&A session chaired by Dr. Fumiko Noguchi, Research Fellow, UNU-IAS, on the concept of 'action through learning in a time of global crises', looking at how RCEs could scale up their efforts and progress towards 2030. Dr. Jonghwi Park, Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS outlined the development of the 'Roadmap for the RCE Community 2021-2030', which will align with the UNESCO ESD for 2030 roadmap. The roadmap will provide a joint mission, strategy, and shared ambition for the Global RCE Network as it heads towards 2030, with concrete actions and measurable goals. RCEs will be given the opportunity to provide input next month.

Representatives from the host RCEs of Regional Meetings conducted during 2020 provided a brief overview of key outcomes from the respective meetings they hosted. The audience heard from Dr. Abdul Husaini (RCE Minna), Dr. Chinara Sadykova (RCE Kyrgyzstan), and Dr. Andrew Reeves (RCE East Midlands) (a video update was shared from Dr. Brittany Foutz & Dr. Brian Polkinghorn, RCE Salisbury). Representatives also discussed the challenges faced by RCEs, as well as how RCEs could share best practices and ideas – the latter of which has led to a pilot of an 'RCE Network Sharing Tool' initiated by RCE Scotland. The tool provides a space for the network to collaborate, maintain connections, and continue to share and inspire, sustaining the momentum from the webinar and continue conversations ahead of the next opportunities to meet and connect once again.

On the road to the 12th Global RCE Conference (to be held in November 2021), the next global RCE webinar will be held on 8 June, 2021, and will look at both RCEs' role in relation to the UNESCO ESD for 2030 Roadmap, and delve further into the new RCE Roadmap. It will also provide an opportunity to further share good practices, and continue the collaborative conversations and strengthening of cooperative actions across the Global RCE Network.

The Global RCE Service Centre wishes to thank the team at RCE Scotland for their outstanding efforts, superb coordination, and dedication towards making this first webinar of the 12th Global RCE Conference a great success, and to all participants for their active participation and contributions.