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Creating Partnerships and New Acronyms - ESD, RCE, MESA and WESSA

15 August 2007

One of the unwritten emphases of the 2007 WEEC was the vital importance of partnership and working together to address an issues as large as the need for sustainable development.  The conference was filled with members from networks and partner programmes all over the world.  The acronyms took a little getting used to, but they represent a series of innovative and exciting initiatives to support Education for Sustainable Development. Some of these have been summarised below:

RCE – Regional Centres of Expertise

All information taken from the website -

One of the main activities of the Education for Sustainable Development (EfSD) Programme is the promotion of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE). An RCE is a network of existing formal, non-formal and informal education organizations aiming to deliver education for sustainable development (ESD) to a regional/local community. RCEs aspire to achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014), by translating its global objectives into the context of the local/regional community in which it operates.

Botanic gardens have and can play an important role in RCEs – contact your nearest RCE to get involved.

An RCE should have four elements:

  • Governance - addressing issues of RCE management and leadership
  • Collaboration - addressing the engagement of actors from all levels of formal, non-formal and informal education in RCE activities
  • Research and development - addressing the role of R&D and its inclusion in RCE activities, as well as contributing to the design of strategies for collaborative activities, including those with other RCEs
  • Transformative education - contributing to the transformation of the current education and training systems to meet local/regional goals of sustainable living and livelihood.

An RCE is composed of a network of:

  • actors in the formal, non-formal and informal education sectors (school teachers, professors at higher education institutions, researchers, NGOs, media),
  • providers of content for ESD (scientists, researchers, museums, zoos, botanical gardens),
  • supporters of the delivery of ESD (local government officials, representatives of local enterprises, volunteers, media people, and any other civic associations or individuals who work in spheres of sustainable development such as economic growth, social development, and environmental protection), and,
  • students and learners at all levels.

Functions of an RCE

RCEs bring together organizations at the regional/local level to jointly promote ESD. They build innovative platforms to share information and experiences and to promote dialogue among regional/local stakeholders through partnerships for sustainable development. This leads to the creation of a local/regional knowledge base to support ESD actors, thereby contributing to the four major goals of ESD in a resource-effective manner. These four goals are to:

  • re-orient education towards sustainable development (SD), covering existing programmes/subjects from the point of ESD and designing an integrated SD curricula. ESD programmes are tailored to address issues and local context of the community in which they operate;
  • increase access to quality basic education that is most needed in the regional context;
  • deliver training programmes for all levels of society and to develop methodologies and learning materials for them;
  • lead advocacy and awareness raising efforts on the importance of educators and the essential role of ESD in achieving a sustainable future. RCEs promote the long-term goals of ESD, such as environmental stewardship, social justice, and improvement of the quality of life.

Seven pioneer RCEs were launched at the UNU-UNESCO Conference on Globalization and ESD in June 2005:

  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Greater Sendai, Japan
  • Okayama, Japan
  • Pacific Island Countries (including Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia
  • Penang, Malaysia,
  • Rhine-Meuse+ region (covering the cities of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Leuven in Belgium and Cologne in Germany),
  • Toronto, Canada

MESA: Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability into African Universities

All information taken from the website

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners is supporting a partnership programme to mainstream environment and sustainability concerns into the teaching, research, community engagement and management of universities in Africa .

The MESA (Mainstreaming Environment & Sustainability into African Universities) Partnership includes the following:

  • An Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Innovations short course developed and implemented by partners (to strengthen capacity to establish ESD innovations in universities)
  • Seminars for university leaders
  • A biennial conference providing an opportunity for universities to report on ESD innovations associated with the university's triple mission of research, teaching and community engagement, and to engage in North-South dialogue; and
  • Pilot programmes linking universities, communities and business and industry in sustainable development partnerships.

The MESA Universities Partnership strengthens UNEP's special focus on Africa and is constituted as a major contribution to the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). The MESA Universities Partnership also supports the New Partnership for Africa 's Development (NEPAD) environmental action plan and the objectives of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment.

The NEPAD Environmental Action Plan (UNEP, 2003) indicates that the state of the environment is a major determinant of the growth and development objectives of any nation and has a pervasive effect on the safety and standard of living of the populace. One of the strategic actions in the NEPAD Environmental Action Plan is the ‘ development of capacity in all aspects of environmental issues in Africa ' (UNEP 2003). Universities will have a key role to play in strengthening capacity for sustainable development through ESD initiatives.

WESSA – Wildlife Education Society of South Africa

More information about WESSA on the website

Founded in 1926, the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA is South Africa's oldest and largest non-government membership-based environmental organisation. WESSA maintains a watchful eye on the South African environment through its extensive network of Regional Offices, Branches (volunteer groups acting for their communities), Friends Groups (groups of people who have banded together to conserve natural areas) and Environmental Clubs.

Professional environmental staff are employed to work directly with the public, with local, provincial and national government and with other environmental organisations to press for effective environmental planning and legislation, to offer better protection of the environment. WESSA has representation on many National and Regional conservation bodies and investigatory commissions, and is a founder member of the World Conservation Union (formerly the International Union for the Conservation of Nature - IUCN).

WESSA offers services to schools, teacher's groups and other environmental educators, it  engages in community development work and run a number of EE Centres. WESSA is also involved in adult education and training through many of its projects.

Major successes in this field are the establishment of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Regional Environmental Education Centre which supports education activities in fourteen SADC countries, the initiation of a national Environmental Clubs scheme and the establishment of a resource development network known as Share-Net. The latter is an open, collaborative structure which is set up through a partnership of WESSA, KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF - SA) with the endorsement of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA).

SADC Reep: Southern African Development Community – Regional Environmental Education Programme

All information from the SADC Reep website

In 1993, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Environment and Land Management Sector (ELMS) initiated a programme to support environmental education processes in the southern African region. A series of workshops involving environmental education practitioners in the region were developed, complemented by other research processes designed to assess the state of environmental education in the region. Based on information gathered during this initial phase a formal programme document was developed and submitted to the SADC Council of Ministers for approval.

The Council of Ministers ratified the proposal and agreed that the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) should act as implementing agency of the programme. Following approval in August 1996 the document was submitted to the Swedish International Development Developing Agency (Sida) for funding. Sida found the Programme’s recommendations appropriate for responding to the urgent need for environmental education processes in the SADC region and agreed to fund the first three years of operation from July 1997 to June 2000. Sida has recently agreed to fund the second phase of the programme from 2002 to 2005. The Royal Danish Ministry of Foriegn Affairs (Danida), USAID and IUCN – The World Conservation Union, also provide financial support for different components of the Programme

The purpose of the Regional Environmental Education (EE) Programme is to enable environmental education practitioners in the SADC region to strengthen environmental education processes for equitable and sustainable environmental management choices.

The SADC Regional EE Programme consists of four major components with different sub-projects:

  • Networking - Strengthen and broaden the Regional Environmental Education Network
  • Policy - Support environmental education policy processes
  • Training - Development and strengthening of training capacity in environmental education
  • Materials - Development of relevant resource materials for the region

Member countries of SADC Reep:

D.R. Congo
South Africa

EEASA- Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa

Taken from the EEASA website -

The Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) was established at an international conference held at Treverton College, South Africa in 1982. Since then the Association has grown steadily and now has almost 400 paid-up members including teachers, conservation officials, community and development workers, resource developers and researchers.

The role of EEASA is to support environmental education in southern Africa. It endeavours to achieve this by providing opportunities for the exchange of ideas and opinions on environmental education through its publications, the annual national conference and workshops as well as the activities of working groups in the regions. In addition, EEASA acts as a responsible body for consultation on and co-ordination of, matters of public and professional interest concerning environmental education.
There has always been a dual role between EEASA as a loose network of members, and EEASA as a more formal organisation developing projects, raising and managing money and lobbying for environmental education. Where there has been a need for the latter (such as with regard to promoting the need for environmental education in the new South African school curriculum), EEASA council and membership have worked with others to initiate members who support one another, debate amongst themselves and are accountable to one another.

EEASA administers the publication of the Southern African Journal of Environmental Education (SAJEE) and the Environmental Education Bulletin (EE Bulletin)

With its partners, EEASA is in involved in offering a number of academic and professional development courses within the field of environmental and sustainability education. Some of the courses include:

  • Rhodes University/SADC International Certificate Course in Environmental Education
  • Rhodes University/Gold Fields Participatory Course and Certificate in Environmental.
  • Environmental Educators Course

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