RCEs at 9th African Regional Meeting Share Local Community-Based Approaches Towards Implementation of the SDGs

The 9th African RCE Meeting was held in Luyengo, Eswatini from 5th-7th August, 2019 under the theme, 'Accelerating Progress towards the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in Africa'. Hosted by RCE Eswatini, with the support of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), 92 participants from 16 RCEs across 10 countries in the region attended this year’s meeting. Key stakeholders in and outside of Eswatini were also in attendance, with participation from the national government, policymakers, researchers, and media. The meeting was attended by distinguished guests including Hon. Mr Moses Vilakati, Minister of Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Mr Mfanaleni Mkhatshwa, Eswatini Environmental Authority Board Chair, members of the Eswatini parliament, delegates of the Eswatini National Commission for UNESCO, and Prof. Jim Taylor and Emeritus Prof. Rob O'Donoghue of Rhodes University.

Given the important turning point the ESD community is now facing leading up to the post-GAP period, the meeting aimed to further raise awareness and motivate local and regional stakeholders and entities to upscale their commitment towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda. It teased out the steps that RCEs in Africa should undertake to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs, along with an understanding of the global frameworks and relevant policy initiatives that can enhance local ESD efforts. Connected to this were discussions on how to bridge global-local and policy-practice gaps.

Silent wall discussions and strategic discussions took place on a range of topics, including how to enhance ESD for SDGs in the African context, the role RCEs can play, and the meaning of the African RCE regional network. Participants undertook self-reflections on their achievements, current challenges, and possible solutions, with discussion turning to how gaps could be filled, which led to collaboration opportunities for further actions among RCEs in the region. The gathering provided opportunities for participants to share the experiences of their respective RCE’s ESD efforts in their local communities, which gave other RCEs valuable insights on how similar challenges in their local contexts could be overcome.

Current challenges voiced by many RCEs included the lack of funding opportunities, self-determination, losing core members, and dealing with bureaucracy and political will while trying to reach everyone in the local community. Areas that the African RCEs wished to focus on in relation to the SDGs and post-GAP involved early childhood education, TVET and youth and student inclusion. Discussions also took place on the format of future regional meetings, to bring in more capacity-building opportunities.

Keynote sessions showcased the practice of citizen science which can be employed as a useful method for community-based ESD. In his keynote presentation, Professor Jim Taylor highlighted the importance of ICT in citizenship science, which facilitates the co-learning and co-research between researchers and the local community.

The last day included excursions led by RCE Eswatini in collaboration with local NGOs, whereby participants visited field sites focused on environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods, including Swazi Candles, Sihlangwini and Sitobelweni (community-based land rehabilitation and water harvesting) and Nceka (climate change resilient agriculture). These provided opportunities to see the development challenges in local communities in Eswatini and for participants to listen to the experiences of the farmers and environmental conservationists who dedicate their time towards solutions for challenges that the local community faces.

The strength of the RCE network was re-confirmed, due to the opportunities it provides for networking, policy advocacy, collaborations, showcasing projects and connecting formal, non-formal and informal education and learning that can create dynamic knowledge and learning processes in local communities.

The meeting reiterated the important role that RCEs in Africa are playing in addressing local and regional sustainable development challenges, by providing platforms for mobilisation of local communities on sustainable development challenges. Through their flagship ESD projects, RCEs in Africa are opening new opportunities for collaboration, linking action across multiple scales (local, regional and global) and facilitating rapid learning and efficient knowledge transfer. Such efforts will continue to support the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme moving forward.

The Global RCE Service Centre wishes to thank the team at RCE Eswatini for their wonderful contribution and coordination in making the 9th African RCE Meeting a success.

Outcomes from the meeting can be found here.

Photo credits: UNU-IAS, RCE Eswatini (bottom right)