Reducing Inequalities and Empowering Youth through the Multi-Stakeholder SDG Network, RCE Greater Atlanta

July 19, 2021

Atlanta has one of the largest wealth gaps in the United States, and it is a racialized one: as of 2017, almost 75 percent of residents living below the poverty line were Black. Sustainable development efforts like the Atlanta BeltLine have been exacerbating inequalities since well before COVID-19. Known as a Black mecca, the region is the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement and also boasts a high concentration of higher education institutions (HEIs) as well as the most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the country. In 2017, HEIs and other stakeholders banded together to launch a regional network—Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) Greater Atlanta—that builds on the region's strengths to place equity and justice at the center of sustainable development. This RCE is part of a global network of over 170 United Nations-affiliated RCEs on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) that advance the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through education and training. The importance of the network's focus on establishing deep collaborations among stakeholders, with an emphasis on youth and marginalized communities, has become especially clear as members grapple with the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recently published article in Sustainability and Climate Change, Jennifer Hirsch, Na'Taki Osborne Jelks, and Lolade Owokoniran reflect on how the network is helping advance sustainable development and preparing the region's youth to be sustainability change agents who take equity and justice seriously. The article features a case study of a recent network project, the UNITAR Youth and the Sustainable Development Goals e-learning course, developed by students from eight Atlanta HEIs to provide SDG training for youth from around the world.