UNESCO Sustainability Initiative

UNESCO Office Jakarta has initiated, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan, a new initiative entitled “Sustainability Science”. This project aims to raise awareness about sustainability science among policymakers in the Asia and Pacific region, with a view to position this as part of the national and regional science and technology policy. This is being achieved by:

  • Facilitating a regional workshop that will bridge the knowledge gap on sustainability science, and link the research with policy development,
  • Elaborating a review paper on sustainability science, and contributing to promotion and integration of sustainability science in UNESCO’s programme strategy.

Sustainability science is emerging as a new academic discipline. As outlined by the Sustainability Science Program at HarvardUniversity’s Kennedy School of Government.

gunung-kinabalu-2“Sustainability science is an emerging field of problem-driven, interdisciplinary scholarshipthat seeks to facilitate interventions that foster shared prosperity and reduced poverty while protecting the environment. The field is defined by the problems it addresses rather than the disciplines it employs. It draws from multiple disciplines of the natural, social, medical and engineering sciences, from the professions, and from practical field experience in business, government, and civil society.” [1]


The social impacts of environmental changes
are expected to grow in the coming decades – possibly to the point of calling into question not just growth and prosperity but social inclusion and the realization of human rights. Shortage of water, energy and food are strongly interconnected and both have impacts on social issues such as poverty, gender equity, health, and education. To achieve sustainable development, policies and resilience, adaptation and mitigation strategies have to hold into account this interconnectedness and apply the knowledge on the interlinked social dimensions of environmental changes. Interdisciplinary research such as Sustainability Science can be used 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, and increase the resilience of potential vulnerable communities.

AA-1226-24Sustainability science promotes as such cross-disciplinary coordination, and requires global cooperative effort to advance understanding of the dynamics of human-environment systems. By integrating the concept of Sustainability Science in its programmes UNESCO aims to promote collaboration between Natural Science (SC) and Social and Human Sciences (SHS), while benefitting also from the education, culture, and communication/information mandates where this may generate value added.

As part of ongoing consultations about the UNESCO Sciences Programme, UNESCO Jakarta with the support of Japanese Fund-in-Trust, and in collaboration with the University Science of Malaysia and other institutions is organizing a Regional Workshop on Sustainability Science in Asia and the Pacific. This workshop brings together a group of regional experts and stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region to discuss and develop a common understanding of sustainability science and its role in addressing and solving key global challenges. As such this will help to position the role of science, technology and innovation in  the post-2015 agenda.

UNESCO Jakarta Office is also currently collaborating with academics from Asia and Europe, to review the state-of-the-art of sustainability science literature internationally, to analyse the current status of sustainability science in higher education, research and policy as it applies in the Asia and Pacific region and to identify potential pilot projects. This review will be available in January 2013, and subsequently presented to policy makers in the Asia-Pacific region at a regional workshop.


[1] Harvard University’s Sustainability Science Programhttp://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/mrcbg/programs/sustsci/about-us (last visited on 18 April 2012)

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