02.08.2018 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

Partnerships Strengthened among UNESCO and Stakeholders in Asia and the Pacific to Benefit from Science for the SDGs

Figure 1. All participants of the SEE-AP

The strategic coordination meeting “Science to Enable and Empower Asia Pacific for Sustainable Development Goals” (SEEAP) organised by UNESCO Office Jakarta on 30 July – 1 August 2018 in Jakarta resulted in a commitment to strengthen partnerships among UNESCO and its science partners and stakeholders across Asia and the Pacific. The commitment was made in recognition of the need for a strong and coordinated effort to optimize the contributions of science to ensure the sustainable development of the region. Issues of key concern include urban water issues, balanced conservation of natural resources and local development, the threat of plastics pollution, collaboration for ocean observations, Integrated Disaster Risk Management, the importance of mobilizing young scientists, science literacy and communication, as well as the strengthening of UNESCO designated sites for enhanced delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

100 participants from 18 countries in Asia and the Pacific - including 42 women - attended the event, representing government officials, researchers, science practitioners, members of UNESCO’s scientific networks, as well as UNESCO Science staff from Headquarters and field offices from across Asia and the Pacific. The meeting also included the presence of high-level representatives from the Government of Indonesia including the Chairman of LAPAN (Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space), the Deputy for BMKG (Meterological, Climatological, and Geophysical Agency), the Executive Chairman of Indonesian National Committee for UNESCO, as well as the Deputy Secretary General (DSG) of ASEAN for Social-Cultural Community.

Directors of three UNESCO field offices (Beijing, Dhaka and Islamabad) as well as the Director of the Division of Ecological and Earth Science and Secretary of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) from UNESCO Headquarters, also took part in the event. Overall, countries represented include ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam) as well as Australia, Bangladesh, France, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Uzbekistan.

In the opening high-level session, the important role of science in achieving SDGs was underlined. Noting that scientific data provided by organizations such as LAPAN and BMKG serve as an important basis in order to enhance the delivery of the SDGs, Shahbaz Khan stressed the importance of cooperation with the Indonesian government partners and ASEAN, strengthening South-South cooperation and also establishing cooperation with other partners.

During the meeting, presentations and discussions were organised in sessions focusing on the six thematic UNESCO Science programmes: 1) Implementing the Lima Action Plan for the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific; 2) Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): Ensuring a Resilient Future through Science; 3) Science, Technology and Innovation (STI): building an enabling environment for the SDGs; 4) International Hydrological Programme (IHP): Science for water security and sustainability in Asia and the Pacific; 5) International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP): Geoparks and geosciences in Asia and the Pacific: mobilizing science for geological heritage and sustainable development; 6) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC): mobilizing ocean science we need for the ocean we want. The  IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (IOC-WESTPAC) hosted a dedicated ocean science session, delivering added value to the discussion by enabling further synergies among diverse and often interrelated disciplines. Throughout the six themes, participants identified key pressing issues in their respective countries and institutions, and discussed practical next steps that could be taken to enhance cooperation.

In the Lima Action Plan group, participants identified the following challenges: 1) a disconnect between the global discourse on the SDGs and on UNESCO sites, which limits the ability of local authorities to engage and champion the Biosphere Reserves as sustainable development models. 2) Some UNESCO sites are lacking in resources and in urgent need of support, and 3) the lack of exchange and joint strategy between UNESCO designations and other site networks. Practical ways forward formulated by the participants include localizing the SDGs through the Biosphere Reserve concept and articulating and delivering incentives for local authorities by undertaking new research; a regional support exchange mechanism; and strengthening subregional partnerships that focus on joint capacity development, mobilization and establishment of centres of expertise.

In the DRR group, the participants identified the following issues: challenges in science communication, working in silos, lack of incentive to promote leadership and soft skills of young scientists particularly women, limited awareness on the impact of plastic pollution, and the use of different technology approach in disaster risk reduction. Practical ways forward formulated by the participants are developing cadre of young scientists in integrated DRR research, addressing plastic pollution through a youth conference and capacity building, and strengthening monitoring and early warning systems as well as education and capacity building for climate influenced disaster risks reduction.

In the STI group, three areas to be strengthened were identified: 1) Science literacy, 2) Science communication, and 3) standardisation of qualification in science. Ways forward formulated by the participants include a national network of capacity building organisation and virtual networks to strengthen science literacy; a range of programmes to strengthen science communication including reaching out to media, a “science-meets-the public/industry/parliament” forum, or an award system incentives in science; and a benchmarking as well as mutual recognition programme to promote standardization of qualification.

In the IHP group, based on the range of water-related issues experienced in the region, the following practical ways forward were identified: development of a transferable practical guideline on integrated vulnerability assessment of urban water systems; organization of a “UNESCO Economic Water Forum” serving to link the water, planning and economic agendas and ensure stronger visibility and understanding of water management impacts on sustainability; as well as the development of practical guidelines for urban solutions to water management challenges.

In the IOC group, the following needs were identified: sustaining ocean observations data, and developing a baseline for research capacity with reference to GOSR (Global Ocean Science Report).

In the IGGP group, in promoting IGGP-AP covering integratively IGCP and UGGp, the following practical ways forward were identified: a regional geo SCHOOL/training summer schools for young scientists or students (field work) in UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp) and UNESCO designated sites in general on subjects under the International Geoscience Programme’s themes (IGCP), as well as a range of awareness-raising activities about IGGP-AP including establishing a network of young earth/geoparkian scientists, compilation of best practices and experience on champion/model UGGp, strengthening Asia Pacific Geoparks Network (APGN), as well as creating layman simple leaflets about the programme in local language.

In the closing session, the Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences (ADG/SC) UNESCO, Ms. Flavia Schlegel highlighted her commitment to collaborating with UNESCO Category 2 Centres and Chairs, and highlighted the benefits such partnerships to strengthen program impact. She further highlighted two essential concepts needed to enhance the delivery of the SDGs: a coherent system solution – towards which UNESCO has the strength to integrate solutions across all fields, including the natural sciences, social sciences, education, communication – and collaboration towards a transformed region through a holistic approach allowing for problems to be addressed systematically. Ms. Schlegel congratulated on the success of the meeting, and called for similar strategic coordination meetings in the future, which she sees as essential in order to derive regional directions on UNESCO’s mandate towards the 2030 Agenda.

The meeting was concluded with a field trip to the Kebun Raya Botanical Gardens in Bogor and associated research facilities managed by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

Booklet - Science to Empower and Enable Asia Pacific for the Sustainable Development Goals

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