Promoting Social Inclusion in South East Asia

Promoting Social Inclusion in South East Asia

Social Inclusion denotes the process of individual’s self-realisation within a society, acceptance and recognition of one’s potential by social institutions, and unobstructed participation in civic, social, economic and political spheres of life. In present-day Southeast Asian societies, the rapid transformations occurring under forces of globalization create conditions of vulnerability that put individuals and groups at risk of social exclusion. For millions of people, Social Inclusion involves breaking increasingly complex barriers to fulfil their human rights as full members of society.

When the government policies exclude people from equitable share of the benefits of economic growth, inequalities increase, while political stability, continued sustainable development and general social harmony are undermined. For the governments in the region, this presents a real challenge: what type of policies need to be enacted to ensure an environment that is conducive to Social Inclusion?

As a central concept of the 2030 Agenda and the foundation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Social Inclusion is everybody’s business – countries affluent and poor, governments big and small, the UN system and broader development community, civil society and private sector.

And yet, much remains to be done to understand the complex nature of Social Inclusion, to develop methodologies to monitor and measure progress towards this goal, and to translate the emerging knowledge into policy and action.

UNESCO, with its multidimensional mandate in Social and Human Sciences, is working closely with the Malaysian government to push the frontiers of knowledge for better understanding and effective application of Social Inclusion in public policy.

With the support from the Malaysian Funds in Trust, UNESCO Jakarta Office is pioneering applied projects to build the capacity of the “community of practice” – governments, universities, civil society – in inclusive public policy design in Southeast Asian region.

These projects are designed to put into practice the Analytical Framework for Inclusive Policy Design developed by UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme, as well as other tools and methodologies from the academic and research institutions around the world.

Promoting Social Inclusion in South East Asia

Promoting Social Inclusion: “Strengthening ASEAN Community 2015 through South-South Cooperation, Foresight and Capacity-building”

The concept of social inclusion is at the heart of the 2030 development agenda and the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals ( While five different SDGs evoke the concept (numbers 4, 8, 9, 11 and 16) in different contexts, one of them – Goal 16 – is fully dedicated to it:

To promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

This constitutes progress compared to the MDG 2000-2015 framework, which has been criticized for failure to capture this essential driver of human development. But at the same time, social inclusion elicits criticism from economists and policy practitioners as a concept that is not easily subject to measurement and therefore operationalization. While most agree on the importance of the concept in building sustainable, peaceful and just societies, the operational utility of social inclusion is considered limited due to the lack of measurable indicators that would help policy stakeholders assess and improve the progress towards this goal.

Promoting Social Inclusion in South East Asia

Painter at UN Human Rights Day Celebrations, Pondok Indah Mall, Jakarta December 2012

In the context of its contribution towards the achievement of SDGs, UNESCO has taken on the challenge to help its Members States translate the emerging knowledge and evidence on social inclusion into effective policies and action. UNESCO Jakarta office, with funding provided by the Malaysia Funds-in-Trust, has designed and is delivering capacity-building project targeting communities of practice in Malaysia, Cambodia, and Timor-Leste. Malaysia is spearheading this regional initiative through national projects on the assessment of social inclusion in selected policy areas, and sharing these experiences with other countries.

Key Activities

The main achievements from the project can be summarized as follows:

The project is implemented in Cambodia, Malaysia and Timor-Leste. Cambodia and Timor-Leste have identified disability as an angle of social inclusion, while Malaysia chose the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (NPSTI) as a model policy for the analysis from the angle of social inclusion in research and innovation.


The project was launched with the Policy Initiation Workshop in June 2015, and culminated with the National Policy Dialogue on Social Inclusion in March 2016. The National Policy Dialogue, held in Bangi, Malaysia was an occasion to present the Report produced by the National Workshop Group, and to discuss the overall policy assessment and revision experience with the broader audience of researchers and policy-makers.

The Working Group led by IKMAS, and regularly supported by the team of experts has produced a comprehensive report that provides a more general overview of social inclusion in Malaysia as a historical concept and major government priority throughout the years, as well as specific analysis of NPSTI. The report provides a positive assessment of the policy, but does formulate a set of recommendations that could further strengthen the social inclusion achieved by the policy, to be taken into account during the subsequent revisions of the documents.


The Disability Policy Analysis Initiation Workshop was held in December 2015, bringing together national stakeholders from the Ministry of Social Solidarity, Statistics Department, other official agencies, the academia and the civil society. The National Policy Dialogue on Social Inclusion of Persons with Disability was held on 28 June 2016 to present the Report, as well as the overall experience of the national policy working group, to the broader audiences. The report was received very positively by the Minister, especially in the light of the political decision made by the Government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, and UNESCO was requested to follow up the project by assisting the Ministry in realizing the recommendations produced in this exercise on addressing the gaps that exist in the current legislative framework.

Cambodia (implemented by Bangkok Office)

The project was launched in Cambodia in October 2016 with the Policy Initiation Workshop, focusing on disability policy. The National Working Group, led by the Cambodian Disability Action Council (DAC), worked with the team of international experts to analyse the national disability policy known as the “National Disability Strategic Plan”. The National Working Group used both the UNESCO Analytical Framework for Inclusive Policy Design (December 2016) and Equi Frame/EQUIPP (October 2016), each worked through as a two day workshop supported by the international experts.  The Concluding Workshop/National Policy Dialogue was held on 9 and 10 January 2017.  The results of the analysis were presented to national and provincial leaders.

Under this project, UNESCO has produced podcast on The Inclusive Development Agenda and South East Asia which is uploaded on UNESCO’s Inclusive Policy Lab portal funded under the MFIT. The results from this project was also showcased at the First MOST Forum of Ministers of Social Development for the Asia-Pacific Region in Kuala Lumpur from 20-23 March 2017.

Links To Report

  1. Malaysia: Harnessing Talent towards an Inclusive Malaysia
  2. Timor-Leste: Capacity-building for Inclusive Policy Design – Focus on Disability
  3. Cambodia: Social Inclusion of Persons with Disability

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