ICERD Session Highlights Circular Economy Education Projects

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  • 2023•03•12     Online

    On 4 March 2023, UNU-IAS organised a session at the 14th International Conference on Environmental and Rural Development (ICERD) under the theme Circular Economy Education for Sustainable Development in Local Communities. The event discussed the role of education, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and community engagement in addressing environmental problems at the local level, focusing on the promotion and practice of the circular economy model.

    Miki Konishi (Programme Coordinator, UNU-IAS) provided an overview of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs), and introduced projects conducted by RCEs in Africa to promote circular economy while addressing multiple SDGs, particularly Goal 12 (sustainable consumption and production).

    A keynote presentation by Usha Iyer-Raniga (Professor, RMIT University) focused on a ProSPER.Net joint research project on circular economy education in the built environment in the Asia-Pacific region. She highlighted the significant impact of the building and construction sector, the importance of closing the loop of the value chain, and the need to implement “multiple R-principles” to create more incentives and benefits for the industry. Prof. Iyer-Raniga noted that there was no one-size-fits-all approach; contextualisation is needed to find optimal ways to apply best practices.

    RCEs representatives discussed projects promoting circular economy in their respective localities. Sherrymina Anak Kichin (RCE Kuching, Malaysia) spoke about a project engaging students in river conservation efforts through the 5Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and re-purpose) to promote waste management in their schools and local communities. Hoang Nhat Truong (RCE Southern Viet Nam, Viet Nam) introduced a capacity building initiative to promote organic farming in south-eastern Viet Nam. The project compiled a comprehensive database, evaluated current practices, developed training materials, and provided workshops for over 300 farmers on organic farming practices. Charlie Batin (RCE Ilocos, the Philippines) presented a project involving bamboo farmers and manufacturers, local government, and university experts to encourage sustainable bamboo production, management, rehabilitation, and processing. The initiative contributed to increased income and reduced unemployment in the community, while promoting the bio-circular-green (BCG) economy model.

    Reflecting on the challenges in advancing circular economy through education, Sherrymina Anak Kichin noted the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on project implementation and budgets. RCE Southern Viet Nam faced obstacles in promoting organic agriculture due to the lack of awareness amongst farmers, as well as limited access to resources such as organic fertilisers. Sharing success stories motivated the farmers to apply sustainable agricultural models. In the case of RCE Ilocos, capacity-building activities were key for the community to recognise the value of bamboo as an important resource for generating income and creating sustainable communities.

    Concluding the session, Mario Tabucanon (Visiting Professor, UNU-IAS) reiterated the importance of the RCEs as local and regional vehicles for sustainable transformation through partnerships and collaboration. He highlighted that capacity development and problem-based education can play a crucial role in promoting the circular economy model. The RCE case studies demonstrate how innovative ESD leadership contributes to the achievement of the SDGs, and expands knowledge sharing and multi-stakeholder outreach.