LDCs and SIDS in Asia and the Pacific, and in Africa, share a number of structural challenges and geophysical constraints that result in disproportionately large economic, social and environmental challenges that hinder their development. These countries face significant challenges in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA), 2030 Agenda and other internationally agreed goals. There is an urgent need to improve quality, effectiveness, and efficiency in education, sustainable water management, STI policy formulation and implementation and promotion of human rights-based approaches addressing gender equality and poverty reduction, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
Towards a Solution
From inclusive policy design, skills training and sustainable tourism to education for sustainable development and tsunami preparedness, projects run under the Malaysia- UNESCO Cooperation Programme (MUCP) are a model for South-South cooperation. Operational since 2013, MUCP places special emphasis on Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries in Asia and the Pacific, and in Africa. It draws on the expertise of Malaysian institutions, including the International Centre for South- South Cooperation for Science, Technology and Innovation (ISTIC) and on the Regional Humid Tropics Hydrology and Water Resources Centre for South-East Asia and the Pacific (HTC) created under the auspices of UNESCO. To date, 29 projects have been implemented in more than 70 countries, including Gambia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The projects under MUCP contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. MUCP projects include education for sustainable development in Pacific Island countries, building the capacity of Indian Ocean Member States in tsunami preparedness and response; reforms of education systems to meet the demands of the 21st century, climate change education for small islands, upscaling water security across Asia and Africa; community based management at World Heritage sites, and strengthening STEM curricula for girls in Africa and the Asia Pacific. In total, 13 SDGs are being addressed through the Programme.
The scope and outreach of the cooperation of the MUCP includes projects on education policy and reform, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), skills development, disaster risk reduction, sustainability science, enhancing Science, Engineering and Technology Standards, social inclusion, safeguarding documentary heritage, and fostering media capacity, amongst others, while building on Malaysian institutions and expertise.
MUCP focuses on promoting South-South cooperation to enhance science, engineering and technology standards in Asia and the Pacific with the aim of strengthening engineering institutions, improving the quality of education and enabling mobility of engineers between the Asia and Pacific region and Africa. It has led to the development of a modular curricula and encouraged countries to join the
Federation of Engineering Institutions of Asia and the Pacific’s (FEIAP) accreditation system. In the framework of this project, UNESCO co-hosted several regional and interregional workshops on South-South Cooperation for Strengthening Engineering Standards and Mobility of Professionals to support the engineering qualification standardization guidelines of FEIAP and to promote South-South Cooperation for sustainable development. Over 60 participants from Azerbaijan, China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and the United Kingdom attended the December 2017 workshop in Jakarta.
Moreover, MUCP support the enhancement of capacity of policymakers in ASEAN countries, particularly in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Timor-Leste to promote social inclusion through public policies. Using funding from the project, UNESCO designed and launched the Inclusive Policy Lab to support the implementation of the SDGs’ pillar on inclusive development through informed and cohesive policy frameworks.
Another successful practice is to support sustainable development at World Heritage sites (and sites of the tentative list) in Southeast Asia through support to site managers and key stakeholders in community- based management incorporating sustainable tourism management. This led to the publication of the Sustainable Tourism Strategy Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as the Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy; its guidebook- Guide Map: Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras; as well as the Sustainable Tourism Strategy for George Town and Malacca.
Through building capacity, and facilitating South-South regional collaborative research, cooperation and knowledge-sharing, MUCP has proved to be an effective mechanism for strengthening South-South Cooperation amongst UNESCO Member States in a sustainable way. For example, to strengthen long-term knowledge-sharing, cooperation and dialogue, MUCP established 3 knowledge platforms on sustainability science (http://mucp-mfit.org/knowledge-platform- on-sustainability-science/), South-South Cooperation for Engineering Qualifications, and South-South Cooperation for Water Security. It also contributed to enhancing the capacity of policymakers in ASEAN countries, particularly in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Timor- Leste to promote social inclusion through public policies, which also included the development of an Inclusive Policy Lab (http://en.unesco.org/inclusivepolicylab/). The work it has done to develop modular curricula on science, engineering and technology standards which can then be adapted for professional bodies and universities for certified training of professionals is another good example of how UNESCO is strengthening institutional capacity through MUCP. The same approach can be shared with other developing partners who are willing to use their development experiences, as well as their knowledge and technical expertise to support LDCs and SIDS in achieving the SDGS through the creation of shared knowledge platforms, curricula, and accreditation systems, such as the Federation of Engineering Institutions of Asia and Pacific’s (FEIAP) accreditation system.