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 was paid to ensure the involvement whenever possible of participants from Least Developed Countries (LDCs), women and young scientists.
Challenges in the countries/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, emerging economic powerhouses China and India, and the “tiger cub economies” such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have some of the least developed countries in the world, such as Timor Leste, Laos, Cambodia and some Pacific Island nations. Needless to say, there is a corresponding wide diversity in science, technology and innovation capability. This situation poses a difficult challenge to the Science programmes of UNESCO.
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, two 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
Relation to MDGs and UNESCO mandate
Science and technology must step up to the plate and offer itself as a tool for achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals. In response to the call of the MDGs, science and technology-based actions to combat poverty, 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.
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 34C/4, then the strategic plan of the Unit should follow 34C/4, but concretized in the specific conditions in the Asia-Pacific. The overarching strategic objective for the medium term is “Mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development.” For the basic sciences, the programme focus is on “Fostering policies and capacity-building in science, technology and innovation, with special emphasis on the basic sciences and energy.”
The strategies in 34C/4 are to be implemented through the lines of action and activities identified in 34C/5. For the biennium 2008-2009, the Basic Science Unit will address the biennial sectoral priority stated in 34C/5, Strengthening national and regional research and innovation systems, capacity-building, the use of technologies, and scientific networking, and encouraging the development and implementation of science, technology and innovation policies for sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Given the current challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, and aligning with the global goals, strategies and programme focus identified in 34C/4 and 34C/5, the BSC Unit will strive to meet the following objectives for the biennium:
- Promote capacity-building in the basic sciences for sustainable development through international cooperation, networking and training, emphasizing inter-disciplinary interactions across the basic and applied sciences;
- Promote capacity-building in the development of science, technology and innovation policy (including gender dimension) to provide an enabling environment to the capacity-building initiatives; and
- Enhance public S&T literacy through the promotion of science education for all.
Engineering Science and Technology
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 Engineering Sciences and Technology Programme focuses on emphasizing 1) raising awareness of the importance of S&T, 2) promoting implementation of renewable energy technologies 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
- Sustainability Science
- S&T Engineering Human Resource Development
- Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development
- University-Industry Partnership
- ICT Utilization for Science & Engineering Education
- Distance Education Programme
- Timor Leste CONNECT-Asia
For more information about Basic and Applied Sciences programme and activities in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste, please contact:
Mr. Shahbaz Khan