United Nations University Names New Regional Centre of Expertise in Atlanta

Georgia Tech, Emory and Spelman will lead the new U.N. Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.
The 2017 Liam Legacy Symposium at Georgia Tech featured Jessica Espey, senior advisor to the United Nations, and focused on the  U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2017 Liam Legacy Symposium at Georgia Tech featured Jessica Espey, senior advisor to the United Nations, and focused on the  U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) has officially acknowledged a new regional sustainability network, RCE Greater Atlanta. RCEs are Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. The designation makes Atlanta one of only six Regional Centres of Expertise in the United States.

Atlanta was selected by the Ubuntu Committee of Peers for the RCEs, which met in Okayama, Japan, late last year to review 14 different applications from all over the world. RCE Greater Atlanta was informed this month of its selection.

The Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University and Spelman College are leading the RCE Greater Atlanta for the first two years. Other higher education institutions collaborating on the RCE include Agnes Scott College, Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College and University of Georgia.

The RCE Greater Atlanta is a network of multidisciplinary stakeholders, including higher education institutions, businesses, non-governmental organizations, community associations, and local, regional, state and federal government. Partners who submitted letters of support for the application include the Atlanta Regional Commission, Captain Planet Foundation, Center for Sustainable Communities, City of Atlanta, Corporate Volunteer Council, Greenhouse Accelerator Inc., Ray C. Anderson Foundation, Saving Our Sons & Sisters International, Southface, and the United Nations Foundation.  

All RCE partners are committed to implementing the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level, specifically the following, deemed to be priority for the Greater Atlanta region:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty
  • SDG 2: Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 4: Quality Education
  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13: Climate Action

“Georgia Tech is honored to be one of the founding leaders of this new regional sustainability network,” says Jennifer Hirsch, director of the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain and adjunct associate professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech. “We expect it to facilitate important university-community partnerships that will benefit students, faculty and the region as a whole and make Greater Atlanta a leader in Education for Sustainable Development. Being a part of a global network of RCEs will also keep us on the cutting edge of sustainability innovation.”

“RCE Greater Atlanta is a realization that the time is right to bring together the region’s knowledge and expertise on a broader scale for a comprehensive approach to education for sustainable development,” says Ciannat Howett, director of Sustainability Initiatives at Emory University. “We envision a robust and engaged network of partners working to accelerate solutions to sustainability issues."                                                                                  

"Spelman’s historical mission of promoting ethical leadership and commitment to positive social change is very much in line with the goals of achieving social justice, protecting the planet, ending poverty and ensuring prosperity for all as articulated in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” says Fatemeh Shafiei, associate professor and chair of political science and director of environmental studies at Spelman. “Establishment of the RCE Greater Atlanta helps Spelman to further advance this ambitious global roadmap and adjust our course toward the future we want for all."

The idea to form an RCE Greater Atlanta was first presented by Georgia Tech’s Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain in June 2016 at a conference they hosted on social sustainability. Since submitting its application, the network has already developed preliminary strategies and activities, a result of months of research and conversations. Planning and execution of all RCE Greater Atlanta activities will use a network structure, relying on members’ contributions of time and talents, with anchor educational institutions at the hub of the network.

Among the network’s early initiatives will be establishing a structure for rotating leadership, integrating new partners, analyzing data and launching working groups and training. Also early on, an RCE Youth Network will be established with a cohort of student leaders representing multiple universities and colleges. The RCE Youth Network will establish its own roles and responsibilities and serve as an important connection to youth leadership in sustainability around the region.

The Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business has also been instrumental in establishing RCE Greater Atlanta, providing a letter of support and co-facilitating outreach to Atlanta-based companies. “From a business perspective, the RCE offers a multi-stakeholder platform for engaging our City’s tremendous universities, tapping local talent, and enhancing the impact of corporate sustainability programming within the Atlanta region. We look to engage our Center’s students in the network moving forward, providing unique opportunities for hands-on learning and interacting with business,says Michael Oxman, Managing Director. 

Currently,164 RCEs have been acknowledged worldwide by the United Nations University. The Global RCE network brings together multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary members who might not otherwise work together to help create solutions to sustainability challenges through dialogue, education and learning. The Global RCE Service Centre, headquartered at the UNU-IAS in Tokyo, Japan, provides assistance to individual RCEs and facilitates their communication and networking. More information is available here.

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