UN calls on Grand Rapids for Conference of the Americas


Downtown Grand Rapids and the Grand River. Photo via fb.com

Grand Rapids will host a global conference on sustainable development that will bring leaders from six countries to the city.

Mayor George Heartwell announced that Grand Rapids was invited by the United Nations to host the Regional Center of Expertise 2015 Conference of the Americas, which is being held Aug. 9 through 11 at several locations across the city.

The Regional Center of Expertise, or RCE, consists of a network of organizations acknowledged by United Nations University “to educate on sustainable development in its community.”

RCEs think globally but act locally, having official links to U.N. agencies, while also acting as stewards of knowledge about sustainability challenges in their home regions, according to the RCE website.

Conference goals

The conference will provide a global platform that elevates the conversation around education on sustainable development, with a focus on the impact of water resources.

Outcomes of the conference will impact and guide the implementation of work by the RCE.

Keynote address

John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas Foundation, a center for ideas and network building to advance Michigan’s economic transformation, will give the keynote address on Aug. 10 at the CityFlatsHotel Ballroom.

Austin was elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2008 to the state Board of Education and unanimously elected president by his peers.

He also serves as a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

Host city

Grand Rapids was selected to host the conference due to the city’s many recognitions in the area of sustainability, including being voted the most sustainable mid-size city by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2010 and being rated fifth in the nation in LEED-certified buildings.

Grand Rapids is also one of five active RCEs in the U.S.

United Nations University acknowledges 136 RCEs worldwide.

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