JFIT Programme Strategy

The strategy of the new UNESCO-JFIT Programme is based on two main elements.Firstly, the programme identifies a limited number of well selected strategic programme focus areas, which are in line with the UNESCO Medium Term Strategy, relate to Global Challenges and which are of main relevance to the Asia Pacific Region. The choice of programme focus areas will also be such that it directly contributes to the attainment of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Secondly, the strategy identifies a set of optimal programme delivery mechanisms, which contribute to maximize programme delivery in terms of effectiveness, impact, and visibility.

Strategic Programme Focus

The key Global Challenge for the 21st century is “Sustainable Development”. Important sub-components of this, relevant for Asia and Pacific,include amongst others:

  • Alleviation of poverty, hunger and associated socio-economic divides
  • Achievement of the MDGs and the subsequent challenge to address the large number of people not yet covered in the 2015 target.
  • Balance or close cycles of substances (e.g. N, waste management), and cleaner production mechanisms to abate pollution
  • Stop and reverse the accumulation of green house gas emissions and adjust to the effects of ongoing climate change effects
  • Develop new energies that are less impacting on the environment
  • Balance human activities with preservation of water and associated ecosystems
  • Cope with the increasing number and impacts of natural and human induced disasters, including floods, droughts, tsunami, earthquakes, landslides, storms, volcanic eruptions and desertification.
  • Reduce the spread and impact of disease
  • Address the increasing urbanization trends and develop livable cities with a substantially reduced city’s footprint on the nearby catchments and ecosystems.
  • Ensure the full application of etchical norms and standards in Science and Technology development and implementation
  • Enhance human security, especially for vulnerable groups
  • Develop institutional and human resource capacity to fully support and sustain a science and technology for sustainable development agenda

The role of science and technology in addressing above challenges is crucial, but in order to optimize the benefits we need to reposition and better plan S&T investments and efforts. The aim would be to link S&T closer to development problems and to bring it closer to people. In other words we need to position S&T to support MDG achievement, and stimulate S&T education and awareness raising by focusing on local MDG challenges such as water, environment, hygiene education and food production in communities.

To address above challenges the UNESCO-JFIT Programme wishes to stimulate and to exploit new scientific developments (incl. ICT, Biotechnology), and contribute to capacity building and training in these areas. The UNESCO-JFIT Programme will not be able to cover all of the issues listed above, as this would result in a dilution of programme efforts. The programme therefore will address selected aspects of the following focal areas:

Climate Change
Climate change can no longer be considered as simply an environmental problem, but one that directly affects sustainable development, economic growth, human rights and security in many regions of the world. Under the leadership of the UN, climate change is being put at the top of the international community’s agenda. The recent release of the assessment report by the UNEP-WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines the strongest case yet for a warming planet influenced largely by human activities. Impacts of climate change are already being felt, often with significant economic consequences, and impacts on water resources, ecosystems, food, coastal zones, small islands, urban areas, human migration and health will grow in time, affecting economic growth and security, particularly in developing countries. Reducing emissions alone will not avoid climate impacts, and climate change will persist for many centuries even after atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilized. However, a carefully crafted portfolio of mitigation (including emissions reduction), adaptation, and learning activities can reduce impacts on society. This calls for a science agenda that on the one hand contributes to the understanding of the ocean’s role in climate variability and climate change, development of new (renewable) energies, clean technologies, sustainable ecosystem management, and sustainable cities (mitigation), while on the other hand searching for answers to how to live with extreme events and a changing world due to climate change (adaptation).

Water, oceans and ecosystems
This focal area covers two sub-areas as outlined below

1. Water and associated ecosystems
Studies and monitoring on water and associated ecosystems with a view to understand the processes and mechanisms involved in balancing human activities and preservation of these natural resources under increasing pressures of global change. Special emphasis will be given to hydrology (IHP), biosphere reserves (MAB), and on coastal zones and small islands (CSI), as well as on the conservation of marine biological diversity. The context of climate change will receive special attention. In that respect the programme might contribute also to the development of a regional multi-partner and multi-disciplinary programme to address issues of sustainable water management in the city of the future (referred to as “SWITCH-in-Asia:). Besides the programme could contribute to capacity building and networking between biosphere reserves in the Region; this could include studies on best practices for conservation, park management, monitoring of biodiversity loss, and climate change adaptation.

2. Sustainability of oceans, coastal zones and its resources
With the explosive population growth, rapid economic development and significant impact of climate change, the coasts and oceans in Asia and the Pacific are experiencing an unprecedented pressure on its environment and ecosystems. For the human security and sustainable development of the coasts and oceans, the scientific uncertainties, monitoring and forecasting capabilities on ocean processes (including coastal and oceanic natural hazards), and the health of marine ecosystems need to be updated and further developed, aiming to provide more accurate and reliable information for decisions making. Regional cooperation through capacity building in marine scientific knowledge, information management and technology transfer also needs to be further enhanced. In line with the mission of UNESCO and IOC, activities will be focused on observations, data management and research, to produce useful outcomes for stakeholders. This could include the development of regional ocean observing systems, and studies on marine hazards (and its effect on climate change), harmful algal blooms, coastal marine biodiversity and conservation, coral reefs under climate and anthropogenic perturbations, and enhancing capacities to deal with oil spill response and restoration of marine ecosystems.

Disaster Preparedness
Natural disasters can not be stopped, but via targeted efforts and by using science and education one can envisage that enormous savings could be achieved in both human lives and material loss. The UNESCO Jakarta Office houses the “Jakarta Tsunami Information Centre”, which assumes three roles: Information, training, and a clearing house function. Japan has excellent expertise and institutional capacity in this field, which could be exploited in a regional setting. The International Centre for water Hazards and Risk Management (ICHARM) is just one of such centres with a Regional mandate in Asia Pacific. Education and Awareness raising for Disaster Preparedness is a strategic area that could benefit from collaboration with the Regional ICSU and with a range of other partners in the region. Cooperation with UNESCO-IOC/WESTPAC on Regional Ocean observing systems could also be developed.

Biotechnology
Through capacity building and innovations in biotechnology, substantial contributions can be expected to the achievement of important development challenges as expressed in the MDGs. This can be achieved by applying biotechnology in addressing issues of food security (MDG 1), to reduce child mortality (MDG 4), to combat major diseases including malaria, HIV/AIDS and others (MDG 6), and to provide solutions for environmental sustainability (MDG 7) including the production of biofuels.

Intersectoral actions
All of the above areas would require multi-disciplinary approaches, and therefore we believe that the programme would benefit from well defined inter-sectoral actions, such as in science education, research policy and research systems (incl. attention for ethics),A post-conflict and disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and capacity building. The full list of intersectoral platforms that will be addressed via this Programme is presented above (par. 2).

Climate change is listed as one of the inter-sectoral platforms, and is probably the best example of a complex challenge requiring multi-disciplinary, multi-partner, and multi- country approaches.
Many countries in the region are witnessing a declining trend in the university enrollment figures for science and technology related subjects. With the regional and national challenges ahead in terms of sustainable development and in coping with the ever increasing pressures from the syndromes of global change, countries must consider how to build a strong science and technology base, including the human resource capacity to address these challenges. A targeted Science Education programme should aim at children and capture their interest in science and technology, while simultaneously addressing important development related subjects such as the MDGs, climate change, hygiene education, environmental education, and education for disaster preparedness and risk reduction. In this way, useful knowledge on life skills and behavioral change will be disseminated into the communities, while at the same time young people will develop more interest in science and technology. On the medium term this would result in higher enrollment figures for science and technology related studies at universities in the region. At the same time, this approach provides an immediate and effective contribution to the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), coordinated by UNESCO.
UNESCO, through its programmes in the Social and Human Sciences, seeks to contribute to the international debate on issues relating to the ethics of science and technology, and promote the launching of national policies, laws, regulatory mechanisms and actions to address such issues. Addressing issues of ethics in science and engineering and in teacher education programs will be an invaluable contribution to the development of socially conscious and responsible scientific communities in the Asia and Pacific Region.The use of ICT in research and in education at all levels needs to be promoted as a way to increase access to quality (educational, training and research) information. E-learning interventions will be considered in the implementation of the programme.