Projects – Social and Human Sciences

Promoting Social Inclusion in South East Asia

Social Promoting Social InclusionInclusion 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: “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.

20Painter at UN Human Rights Day Celebrations, Podok 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 ActivitiesLinks To Report

  • Malaysia :
    1. Organized Policy Initiation Workshop (June 2015)
    2. Organized National Policy Dialogue on Social Inclusion (March 2016)
    3. Produced report on Assessment of Social Inclusion in Malaysia: National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation
  • Timor-Leste :
    1. Organized the Disability Policy Analysis Initiation Workshop (December 2015)
    2. Organized the National Policy Dialogue on Social Inclusion (June 2016)
    3. Produced report on the National Policy on Disability and the Action Plan
  • Cambodia :
    1. Organized Policy Initiation Workshop (October 2016)
    2. Organized Concluding Workshop / National Policy Dialogue (January 2017)
    3. Produced report on the National Policy on Disability and the Action Plan.

Promoting Social Inclusion: “Valorizing Evidence on Inclusive Social Development to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”

Philippines2014-06-19 10.27.24


UNESCO, with the support of Malaysia Funds-in-Trust, is delivering a capacity-building project to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and, in particular, its inclusive social development goals in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The project is designed to improve the availability, accessibility and usage (referred to as valorization) of research and evidence in inclusive policy and planning processes in each of the target countries.

The project will be carried out in four stages:

  1. Analysing challenges and opportunities for improved valorization of evidence in inclusive policy and planning;
  2. Developing and supporting the application of concrete scenarios and operational protocols for valorization of evidence;
  3. Running national interdisciplinary brokerage and capacity building platforms that connect knowledge producers, policy makers, social and economic working in the area of inclusive social development; and
  4. Developing and deploying an online facility that enables sustained (within and beyond the lifetime of this project) co-innovation, crowd-sourcing and systematic exchange between all stakeholder groups.


Linking Bioethics and Sustainability Science

Addressing environmental, social and ethical challenges of the annual haze in South East Asia: Bioethics and Sustainability Science in action

IMG_1504Haze is a reoccurring problem in Southeast Asia. Every year, peatland is dried out and burned in order to support the pulp, paper, and palm oil industry in the island of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The haze resulted from this activity had affected people in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, as well as the Philippines. Haze disrupts lives, costs the governments billions of dollars for dealing with its impacts, and leaves millions of people at risk of respiratory and other diseases. The unpredictable weather patterns caused by El Niño in 2015 also compounded the social, environmental and economic costs of haze.

This human-caused environmental disaster and its detrimental effect on human health has a clear ethical dimension. It directly relates to a fundamental ethical principle of social responsibility and health, elaborated under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. This principle was recently elaborated and explained by the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) in its special report on Article 14. The haze as an environmental disaster also evokes other principles from the Declaration, namely Article 13 – Solidarity and cooperation and Article 17 – Protection of the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity.

Research in Riau  Peatland in palangkaraya

Research in Palangkaraya

The problems of haze can also be seen a classic case of collective responsibility shared by multiple actors beyond national borders. However, by linking bioethics and sustainability science, the region may be able take the lead in showcasing how universal ethical principles can be translated into concrete actions on the ground, based on scientific knowledge, to address environmental issues, including the annual haze problems. In pursuit of this aim, UNESCO has partnered with Malaysian Funds in Trust to implement a project on “Addressing environmental, social and ethical challenges of the annual haze in South East Asia: Bioethics and Sustainability Science in action”.

The project is based on two interconnected pillars:

  • Regional bioethical reflections, bringing together national bioethics committees and regional expert and advisory bodies to focus on haze as a bioethical imperative and to formulate recommendations on how to address the issue as such for policymakers.
  • Application of Sustainability Science principles, including the participatory and awareness-raising elements, to support socio-ecological transformations in critically effected communities in Indonesia.

The project mobilizes ethical and sustainability science dimensions to create win-win solutions between ecology, knowledge and innovation, creating synergies between economy, society and the participatory democracy. The overall project has three components:

  1. Producing analytical framework that explores environmental, social and ethical aspects of haze;
  2. Conducting the Forum of National Bioethics Committees (NBCs) of ASEAN countries to deliberate haze from the universal ethical perspective; and
  3. Piloting a community-based project to realize the recommendations generated through the ethical deliberations

Key ActivitiesLinks To ReportNews

  • Organized the Regional Forum of National Bioethics Committees (NBCs) on Haze Pollution on the 6th and 7th of December 2017, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The two-day forum gathered up to 100 (55 male and 45 female) participants consisting of policymakers, experts and activists from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to discuss a major issue – the transboundary haze pollution, that affects the region. The output of the forum is the set of recommendations derived based on the available evidence obtained from the research conducted by 5 different institutions from Indonesia (3), Malaysia (1) and Singapore (1).
  • As a preparation for the Forum, two expert group consultations were held at the national level:
  • Malaysia :
    Expert Group Consultation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 18th of September 2017.
  • Indonesia :
    Expert Group Consultation in Jakarta, Indonesia, 12th of October 2017.