Science Policy and Capacity Building

© UNESCO/Jakarta

The most important resource for Science-and-Technology-based economies is no doubt the human resources. The critical element of UNESCO’s mission for Engineering Sciences and Technology is to provide the means of collaboration and to support capacity building toward human resource development in Sciences and Technology for Sustainable Development.

In practical terms, UNESCO Jakarta's Policy Capacity Building Programme includes Engineering Sciences and Technology and focuses on emphasizing:

  1. raising awareness of the importance of SETI (Science Engineering Technology and Innovation,
  2. promoting techno-preneuship and SETI by supporting human resource development and by assisting policy formulation,
  3. assisting university – industry collaboration and encouraging technology transfer, and
  4. supporting engineering institutions in the Southeast Asian region.

Areas of action

Basic Sciences

© UNESCO/Jakarta

UNESCO endeavours to be at the forefront of international efforts for the advancement, transfer, sharing and dissemination of knowledge. In doing so, it focuses on human and institutional capacity building and networking in the basic sciences. Basic science activities are carried out in the fields of Science Education, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, Biological Sciences and Biotechnology. For all activities, special attention is paid to ensure the involvement whenever possible of participants from Least Developed Countries (LDCs), women and young scientists.

Challenges in the Asia and the Pacific region

The Asia-Pacific region is a region of contrasts and diversity. It includes technological leaders like Japan and Korea, OECD member countries Australia and New Zealand, economic powerhouses China and India, and the “tiger cub economies” such as Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have some of the least developed countries in the world, such as Cambodia, Laos PDR, Myanmar and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) such as Timor Leste, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

In the area of basic sciences and S&T policy formulation, a number of challenges can be identified for most of the countries in the region, such as:

  • Low level of research capability (shallow HR bench, poor laboratory facilities, inadequate R&D funds)
  • Poor access to state-of-the-art information
  • Low teaching quality in the basic sciences and mathematics at primary and secondary levels of education
  • Low priority of S&T within national development plans

In addition, three other challenges can be said to be true for the entire region:

  • Under-representation of women in S&T careers and policy-making bodies
  • Declining interest of youth in science careers
  • Low level of public S&T literacy – in terms of awareness, understanding and ability to use S&T in their daily lives

However, this heterogeneous landscape in STI and STI policy development and implementation’s capacity is a great opportunity for fruitful regional collaboration with champions in the region as stated in the targets of SDG 17 and through UNESCO Science Programme and UNESCO family of Category 2 Centres and UNESCO Chairs in related fields of expertise.

Category 2 Centres for STI in Asia and the Pacific Region (for the full list of Science Category 2 Centres please download):

  • International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation under the Auspices of UNESCO (ISTIC), Malaysia
  • International Centre on Space Technologies for Cultural and Natural Heritage, China
  • International Research and Training Centre for Science and Technology Strategy (CISTRAT), China
  • International Knowledge Centre for Engineering Sciences and Technology, China
  • International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Pakistan
  • Regional Centre for Technology Incubator and Science Park Development, Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Regional Centre for Biotechnology Training and Education, India


  • UNESCO Chair on Environmental Management and Infrastructure Development Engineering, Japan
  • UNESCO/ EOLSS Chair in Science and Technology Policies, China
  • UNESCO Chair in Continuing Engineering Education, China
  • UNESCO Chair in South-South Cooperation on Science and Technology to Address Climate Change, China
  • UNESCO Chair in Clean and Renewable Energies, Islamic Republic of Iran
  • UNESCO-KUBOTA Chair in Agricultural Machinery Engineering, Thailand
  • UNESCO Chair in Plant Biotechnology, China
  • UNESCO Chair in Physics and Astronomy, Uzbekistan
  • UNESCO Chair on Cooperation Between Higher Engineering Education and Industries, China
  • UNESCO-NKK Chair in Metallurgical Engineering, Thailand
  • UNESCO Chair on Interdisciplinary Research in Diabetes, Islamic Republic of Iran
  • UNESCO Chair on Engineering Education, Islamic Republic of Iran

Relation to SDGs and UNESCO mandate

Science and technology must step up to the plate and offer itself as a tool for achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 17 is specifically mentioning this purpose. In response to the call of the SDGs, science and technology-based actions to combat poverty, hunger, emerging infectious diseases, man-made and natural disasters are needed. Education in basic sciences has to be strengthened so that every citizen can be productive within the emerging knowledge societies. Capacity-building in basic sciences, using them to address the needs of society in a sustainable manner, promoting equal access for women and men to scientific and technical training, and ensuring effective transfer of scientific knowledge and technology, and promoting equitable sharing of benefits from science and technology are key action areas for UNESCO.

PCB activities in the region to deliver 2030 Agenda will focus on achieving mainly the following SDGs:

  • SDG 17 : Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
  • SDG 9 : Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • SDG 12 : Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • SDG 4 : Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • SDG 5 :  Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Strategic Objectives (medium to long-term)

As the overall medium-term strategic plan of UNESCO in all sectors, as approved by the General Conference, is embodied in 37C/4 for the period 2014-2021, then the strategic plan of the Unit should follow 37C/4, but concretized in the specific conditions in the Asia-Pacific. The overarching objectives for the medium term are:

  • Peace – Contributing to lasting peace;
  • Equitable and sustainable development – Contributing to sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.

And among the nine the Strategic objectives, the ones related to STI and PCB to be achieved during the implementation of this 37 C/4 are:

  • SO 1: Supporting Member States to develop education systems to foster high quality and inclusive lifelong learning for all
  • SO 2: Empowering learners to be creative and responsible global citizens
  • SO 4: Strengthening science, technology and innovation systems and policies – nationally, regionally and globally
  • SO 5: Promoting international scientific cooperation on critical challenges to sustainable development

The strategies in 37C/4 are to be implemented through the lines of action and activities identified in 38C/5. For the biennium 2014-2016, the PCB Unit will address the biennial sectoral priority stated in 38C/5:

  • Strategic objective 4: Strengthening science, technology and innovation systems and policies – nationally, regionally and globally
  • Strategic objective 5: Promoting international scientific cooperation on critical challenges to sustainable development

Given the current challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, and aligning with the global goals, strategies and programme focus identified in 37C/4 and 38C/5, the PCB Unit will strive to meet the following objectives for the biennium:

  • Main line of action 1: Strengthening STI policies, governance and the science-policy-society interface
    • STI policies, the science-policy interface, and engagement with society, including vulnerable groups such as SIDS and indigenous peoples, strengthened;
  • Main line of action 2: Building institutional capacities in science and engineering
    • Capacity-building in research and education in the natural sciences enhanced, including through the use of ICTs;
    • Interdisciplinary engineering research and education for sustainable development advanced and applied;

More Information

For more information about Basic and Applied Sciences programme and activities in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste, please contact:

Ms. Ai Sugiura
Programme Specialist


Back to top