04.01.2017 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

MOST School on Sustainability Science: Linking Science with Social Action and Policy Making

On 1-3 February 2017, researchers, experts, activists, and policymakers from across Indonesia will come together in Padang, West Sumatra, to be part of the MOST School on Sustainability Science, organized by UNESCO Jakarta Office and its partners. The participants will tackle a critical question for Indonesia, as well as for the wider world: how can we use scientific knowledge for more effective policy and action to advance natural and social well-being for all?

MOST School is an innovative capacity-building arm of UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, designed to bridge the science-policy gap in various areas of UNESCO’s social development mandate. The first MOST School in Indonesia will focus on sustainability science – a new transdisciplinary field that has emerged in response to the complexity of sustainability problems, from climate change and biodiversity loss to ecosystem degradation and persistent poverty and inequality.

The MOST School on Sustainability Science in Padang, Indonesia is a collaborative effort between UNESCO Jakarta Office, MOST National Committee within the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra and the University of Southampton in UK.  The event will use the experience and knowledge derived from the ongoing pilot projects in various parts of the country that use the principles of sustainability science to find effective pathways of achieving sustainable transformation for communities affected by environmental degradation.

The MOST School is organized in the framework of the Indonesian Funds-in-Trust Project “A Sustainable Future: Supporting Indonesia’s Strategies to Address the Social Implications of Climate Change.”

Addressing the Social Impact of Climate Change in Indonesia: the Role of Sustainability Science

Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impact of climate change is global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Indonesia is no exception: as an archipelagic state with extensive low-lying areas, it is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. The increasing frequency of severe flooding and of critically low yields of crops in various parts of the country are warning signs of the climate change threat to its citizens.

While climate change affects everyone, its negative impacts are more severely felt by poor people. The poorest and most marginalized populations tend to live in high-risk areas that are prone to flooding, landslides, sea level rise, and water shortages during drought. Restoring and maintaining key ecosystems on which poor people rely for their livelihoods can help communities in their adaptation efforts while also creating jobs.

Climate Change management is a top priority for the Government of Indonesia. In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution submitted in the framework of the Paris Agreement in 2015, Indonesia has set a substantial pledge of 29 percent reduction against the business-as-usual scenario by 2030. To achieve this ambitious goal, the Government is working on pollution and emission controls, reducing deforestation, peat lands management improvements and environmental rehabilitation.

However, government alone cannot achieve the urgent and complex challenges posed by climate change and its social and environmental effects. All segments of society must be mobilized around a common vision to achieve the needed sustainable transformations. This includes the knowledge producers from a wide range universities, institutes and academic disciplines, as well as the knowledge consumers – the policymakers from all levels of government, the effected communities themselves, the broader civil society and the private sector.

Breaking down the barriers between academic disciplines and using the resulting transdisciplinary knowledge to inform the community action and to promote evidence-based policy making is at the heart of sustainability science.  UNESCO Jakarta Office – the Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, has spearheaded the translation of sustainability science principles into action through various applied projects through Asia and the Pacific. One such initiative – “A Sustainable Future: Supporting Indonesia’s Strategies to Address the Social Implications of Climate Change” – is funded by the Indonesian government and engages several national partners:

  • Andalas University, to implement a community-based project on Green Livelihood and Education in Solok, West Sumatra;
  • Mataram University, to address the socio-environmental challenges caused by deforestation in Lombok, NTB province;
  • Gadjah Mada University, to explore participatory solutions to the treats of land degradation in Jogjakarta region; and
  • Institute for Strategic and Developmental Studies (ISDS), to investigate the effects of environmental degradation on the indigenous communities in the Riau Province of Sumatra.

The project is based on the understanding that to achieve sustainable development, the resilience, adaptation and mitigation strategies have to account for social dimensions of climate change. The project promotes the use of interdisciplinary research of sustainability science as a tool to obtain this knowledge and apply it when developing national and sub-national policies and plans on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

MOST School on Sustainability Science will bring the findings of these pilot projects to a wider audience of researchers and policymakers, strengthen the national capacities (MOST National Committee, participating universities and local governments, representatives of civil society) and promote continued collaboration on applying sustainability science in policymaking to mitigate the social impact of climate change.

Promoting North-South-South Cooperation on Sustainability Science

UNESCO Jakarta Office has partnered with University of Southampton’s Geodata Institute to develop an Applied Framework of Sustainability Science, in close consultation with the Indonesian partners. The framework was used to design pilot projects that are being implemented in four different communities (mentioned above). The evidence and knowledge acquired through these pilots will be integrated into the MOST School on Sustainability Science, to be delivered for Indonesian policymakers and researchers on 1-3 February 2017. It will also become part of a similar MOST School organized in South Africa by Harare Office of UNESCO on 14-17 February 2017, in a North-South-South cooperation scheme, with University of Southampton as a co-facilitator.

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