Langkawi, Malaysia, 02 – 04 November 2016

UNESCO Office Jakarta in collaboration with Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) organized the Synthesis Workshop on UNESCO Sustainability Science Demonstration Sites in Asia and the Pacific in the context of two projects “Sustainable Transformation Across the Region” (STAR) supported by the Japan Funds-in-Trust (JFIT) and “Science Harnessed for ASEAN Regional Policy” (SHARP) supported by Malaysian Funds-In-Trust (MFIT).

The two and a half day synthesis workshop brought together partners including stakeholders involved in the implementation of the projects to share results of their activities and studies to representative from Ministry of Environment of ASEAN countries as well as ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB). The participants also shared the challenges and difficulties encountered during the implementation phase of Sustainability Science approach to solve water-related issues with local stakeholders, authorities as well as the solutions identified or proposed and finally the discussion was brought on how then to apply the identified Sustainability Science approach to sustainable approach for environmental management in the broader ASEAN region.

The first day began with welcoming remarks from Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mazlin Mokhtar, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. This was followed by an introduction on sustainability science and what was expected from this workshop by Dr. Ai Sugiura of UNESCO Jakarta. She also introduced Dr. Tahmina Rashid from the University of Canberra who conducted an integrative socio-environmental approach study and Prof. Jeff Camkin from the University of Western Australia who was commissioned to synthesis the lessons learnt and best practices from the implementation of UNESCO Sustainability Science demonstration sites presented and shared in the workshop. Dr. Tahmina shared her findings based on her visits and interviews from the five demonstration sites. She then moderated discussions among each pilot groups on to which extent in each pilots local communities were consulted and socio-environmental considerations included in the implementation of their project and in which extent the integrative socio-environmental approach has been taken into account. During the first day and half, 25 participants focused on how sustainability science approach can be brought to the people especially through the implementation of the demonstration sites as the last day, the findings were brought to policy makers and to representatives from Ministry of environment from six ASEAN countries.

On the second day of the workshop, participants were introduced to the UNESCO Sustainability Science implementation Framework for UNESCO site and Photo Story concept. Partners shared and discussed the applicability of the Sustainability Science framework developed by UNESCO Office Jakarta and why and how their project implementation plan differed. It was noted the five steps of the Sustainability Science Implementation Framework were agreeable by all sites. As sites achievements differed due to available institutions and it was found that all sites implementation had in common the following points:

  • A step including social envisioning of a common future which shall try to be as socially inclusive, ethical and equitable as possible
  • A step including the formulation of action plan
  • A step on identifying indicators and criteria for implementation and monitoring

Also it was noted that because Sustainability science is both a bottom-up and top-down approach, there is a need for an institutional framework to implement and give shape to the envisioned futures emerging from the local level.

Workshop participants were also introduced the new concept of storytelling through photo story. Each demo site participated in this exercise to present their findings, visions and recommendations for respective demo sites. Towards the end of the day, Prof Jeff Camkin of the University of Western Australia, provided synthesis and summary of the one and a half day working sessions. Common themes highlighted by Prof Camkin include the need to understand local practices and the different visions among stakeholders groups, the need to understand the benefits and cost of developments pathway among different community groups, and the need to integrate policy both horizontally and vertically to support effective implementation.

The third and final day of the workshop was attended by 45 participants from 5 demonstration sites countries (Philippines, Malaysia, and Cambodia), representatives from ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam) and the Asia Pacific (Japan, China, Australia). Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mazlin Mokhtar, Deputy Vice Chancellor of UKM, Tan Sri Khalid Ramli, CEO of LADA and Prof. Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Director and Representative of UNESCO Office Jakarta delivered the opening remarks. Addresses were received from Mr. Mohd Khairul Adib Abd Rahman, Secretary General of the Malaysian National Commission and video message from Mr Morimoto, Secretary General of the Japanese National Commission. After sharing of results from 5 demonstration sites, discussions were generated on, among others, the indicators presented and policy recommendations for Langat river basin, to what extent the farmers understood sustainability in Ifugao rice terraces and solutions that would benefit the community, and the visions for Langkawi Geopark. Afterwards, ASEAN representatives presented current environmental Sustainability programmes in their respective countries, and achievements as well as shortcomings in that context. Other institutions which have been working on the issues covered in the demonstration sites through their own work, have also shared their results to complement the findings of the UNESCO STAR and SHARP demonstration sites.

In summary, 45 participants from ten countries exchanged and discussed about what could be a way to implement sustainability science approach at regional level and in UNESCO sites through:

  1. At pilot level including the development of a photo story reflecting experiences and lessons leant at each site
  2. An example of a sustainability science implementation framework and toolkit for UNESCO sites in the region
  3. Exchanges on what were the current environmental sustainability programmes in the different ASEAN countries and how the lessons learnt at the pilots could be taken into considerations at each country level