The main focus area of the JFIT-UNESCO Strategy will be poverty eradication, which appears as the greatest global challenge facing the region and world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. The other aspects include the recognition of sustainable consumption and production and natural resource management and protection as essential requirements for sustainable development. Paying special attention to the importance of human rights principles (ethics in science), including the rule of law, good governance and gender equality; the Strategy should be implemented in accordance with national circumstances and priorities; and/or regional and sub-regional orientations. This will require to recognize the specific challenges faced by each country in the region in achieving sustainable development, while underscoring special challenges facing Least Developed Countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as well as those facing middle-income countries and countries experiencing conflicts. JFIT-UNESCO Strategy keep in mind the need of addressing cross-cutting issues. For example, working on poverty eradication, the integration of biodiversity conservation measures into national and local development strategies, planning processes and poverty reduction strategies is fundamental. Also, programmes and projects should focus on vulnerable groups.
The role of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in addressing the above challenges is crucial, but in order to optimize the benefits we need to reposition and better plan STI investments and efforts. The aim would be to link STI closer to development concerns and to bring it closer to people. In other words, we need to position STI to support Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) achievement, and stimulate STI education and awareness raising by focusing on local SDG challenges such as water and the environment in communities.
To address the above challenges, the JFIT-UNESCO Programme aims to stimulate and to exploit new scientific developments, to contribute to capacity building and training, and to promote networking activities in these areas. The JFIT-UNESCO 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:
This activity aims at strengthening the national capacity of selected countries in the region in formulating and reviewing STI policy as well as in the reform of their science system. The programme will assist the beneficiary countries in elaboration of national strategy to use STI as a driving force to achieve sustainable development, including poverty eradication, disease prevention and environmental conservation. The focal area will comprise capacity building activities (STI policy training workshops at national and regional level) and technical assistance on STI policy formulation and review.
Asia and the Pacific is vulnerable to climate change and impacts are projected to become more intense in the future. The region also accounts for nearly half of global greenhouse gas emissions. The JFIT-UNESCO strategy should support countries confront the dual challenge of adapting to a changing climate at the same time as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by building capacity to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation into national development policies. In addition, it is important to raise awareness on the potential impact of climate change, and to provide the local communities with the knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the potential effects of climate change. As UNESCO Global Geoparks, within the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP), hold the records of past climate change, they could be used as outdoor classrooms to learn about climate change.
Water and ecosystems
According to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and SDG 6, the many threats to water resources in the Asia and the Pacific region reveal a complex picture and raise many concerns. Many countries still are facing huge challenges such as poor access to water and sanitation, limited water availability, deteriorating water quality and ecosystems, and increased exposure to climate change and water-related disasters. Special emphasis will be given to hydrology, MAB biosphere reserves, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, coastal zones and SIDS, monitoring of biodiversity loss, and climate change adaptation, as well as on the conservation of biological diversity using UNESCO’s inter-governmental programmes such as International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.
The ocean is central to the 2030 Agenda as SDG 14 addresses the challenges in order to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. In Asia and the Pacific region, as the most densely populated region and growth engine of the world economy, human livelihoods and prosperity have been inextricably linked to the ocean, with large impacts on the surrounding coastal waters and marine ecosystems, such as marine pollution, overfishing, biodiversity and habitat loss, and climate change such as sea level rise and ocean acidification. As such, it is imperative to strengthen sound scientific research, sustained observations and services, and enhance scientific capacity to underpin the sustainable governance of the ocean in the region.
Sustainability science is an emerging field of problem-driven science focusing on an interdisciplinary approach that promotes cross-disciplinary coordination, and requires global cooperative effort to advance understanding of the dynamics of human-environment systems. Sustainability science in UNESCO aims to promote collaboration between Natural Sciences (SC) and Social and Human Sciences (SHS), while benefiting also from the education, culture, and communication/information mandates of the Organization. Thus, this area will help to raise awareness about sustainability science among policy makers in the Asia and the Pacific region, with a view to position this as part of national and regional science policies.
Disaster preparedness and response
Natural disasters cannot be prevented entirely, but via targeted efforts and by using science and education enormous savings can be achieved in both human lives and property. The UNESCO Office, Jakarta houses the ‘Jakarta Tsunami Information Centre’, with three roles: information, training, and a clearing house function. Japan has excellent expertise and institutional capacity in this field, which could be exploited regionally. The International Centre for Water Hazards and Risk Management (ICHARM) is just one of such centres with a regional mandate in Asia and the Pacific. Education and awareness raising for disaster preparedness is a strategic area that could benefit from collaboration with the regional International Council for Science (ICSU) Office and with a range of other partners in the region. Cooperation with UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (IOC/WESTPAC) on regional ocean observing systems could also be developed. The region also hosts the secretariat of two major initiatives in water-related disaster themes: the International Flood Initiative with its Secretariat in ICHARM and the International Drought Initiative with its Secretariat in Regional Centre on Urban Water Management (RCUWM)-Tehran, that have strategies to minimize disastrous impacts of floods and droughts and maximize their benefits by building monitoring systems based on models and big data and identifying best practices taking in account local knowledge. Moreover, cooperation with the IGGP could be developed as well, especially with the UNESCO Global Geoparks among the region, which contributes to raise the awareness of geological hazards including volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis.
Through capacity building and innovations in biotechnology, substantial contributions can be expected to the achievement of the SDGs. This can be achieved by applying biotechnology to food security, to reduce child mortality, to combat major diseases including malaria, HIV/AIDS and others, and to provide solutions for environmental sustainability.
The issue of climate change is a threat both to societies and the ecosystems that sustain them; therefore, in addressing the challenges of climate change and similar cross-cutting issues in Asia and the Pacific, adopting an intersectoral approach will help to achieve greater results towards a sustainable region. Other inter-sectoral actions may include science education, research policy and research systems, ethics of science, post-conflict and disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and capacity building. Also, intersectoral actions will include giving greater visibility to UNESCO-designated sites, such as biosphere reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks, and to use them preferentially as learning sites for inclusive and comprehensive approaches to environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability.