RCEs in Africa Explore Approaches for a Just Transition at Annual Regional Meeting

The 13th African Regional Meeting on 'Fostering Pan-African Collaboration for Just Futures' was hosted online on Thursday 17 August 2023, by RCE Makana and Rural Eastern Cape, RCE Lesotho, RCE Eswatini and RCE KwaZulu-Natal.

Over 200 registrants attended the meeting, which had a Just Transitions focus. Themes covered included Water, Indigenous Heritage, Citizen Science and 'Handprint CARE' (learning to look after others, to best care for each other, and to explore change projects to improve the surroundings that we all share).

In the first session, Dr Jim Taylor from RCE KwaZulu-Natal welcomed all participants to the meeting, before introducing partner host RCEs represented by Prof Tsepo Mokuku (RCE Lesotho), Belusile Mhlanga (RCE Eswatini), and Preven Chetty (RCE Manaka and Rural Eastern Cape). Dr Jonghwi Park (Head of Innovation and Education Programme, UNU-IAS) delivered opening remarks, emphasising the importance of the RCE movement towards achieving the SDGs and implementing the ESD for 2030 framework. Mr. Stefan Rostock (GermanWatch) presented on 'ESD Today – Youth activism and Handprints', where he highlighted the significance of youth collaboration across the globe on equal terms and presented practical projects such as HandPrints for sustainability. Offering congratulatory remarks, Mr. Reiji Higashioka (Director, Ministry's Secretariat, Ministry of Environment, Japan) stressed RCEs' roles in local-level ESD and sustainable development via multi-stakeholder networks. Ms. Miki Konishi (Programme Coordinator, Innovation and Education Programme, UNU-IAS) provided an update from the Global RCE Service Centre on recent and upcoming Global RCE Network initiatives. 

Mr. Evance Ouya (Africa Regional Youth Coordinator) delivered an inspiring talk on youth initiatives in the African Region and worldwide, where he highlighted the vital role of youth engagement within the RCE movement, emphasising its significance. A presentation by Mr. Ayanda Lepheana (GroundTruth) showcased the work in Mphopomeni and how the concept of the Enviro-Champs is spreading to other parts of South Africa and even beyond. Prof. Tsepo Mokuku (National University of Lesotho) spoke about citizen science and his work on community-based development. Ms. Cindy-Lee Cloete (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA)) presented about the Global Environmental Education Programme (GEEP), before a presentation by Prof. Heila Lotz-Sistka (Rhodes University Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC), which stressed the important role of the New Social Contract in reorientating to ESD. 

A panel including Rob O'Donoghue, Prof. Akpezi Obuigwe, and Ms. Belusile Mhlanga shared their reflections. They underscored the inclusive essence of the diverse ESD programmes presented, with Ms Mhlanga emphasising the pivotal role of youth engagement and involvement. 

In the second session, updates were shared by RCEs both within Africa and from other regions, highlighting their key focus, creative innovations, and ideas for collaborating more widely with other RCEs.

Breakout sessions covered the following topics: Citizen Science and Community Mobilisation; HandPrints for Sustainability; Indigenous Heritage Practices; Fundraising; Freedom and Learning with a Youth Focus; and Sustainable Community Development, with potential pathways outlined as ways forward within each group.

The full report of the event prepared by the event organisers can be accessed here, and a video recording can be viewed here.

The Global RCE Service Centre would like to thank the teams at RCE KwaZulu-Natal, RCE Makana and Rural Eastern Cape, RCE Lesotho, and RCE Eswatini for their wonderful contributions and efforts organising a successful 13th African Regional Meeting, and to all participants for their active participation and contributions.

(Photo credits: RCE KwaZulu-Natal)