Opportunities and Challenges : The First Malaysia-UNESCO Cooperation Programme (MUCP) Expert Synthesis Meeting

The First Malaysia – UNESCO Cooperation Programme (MUCP) Expert Synthesis Meeting was held recently on 14-16 May 2019 in Langkawi, Malaysia. This meeting has gathered experts affiliated with the implementation of the Malaysia Funds-In-Trust (MFIT) projects from the region of Asia Pacific and Africa. This is the first MUCP platform initiated to gather expertise from multi-disciplines to cover all the spectrum of UNESCO’s thematic competencies.

Ever since the MUCP-MFIT’s inception in 2009, the Government of Malaysia has provided financial contribution to support the implementation of 29 projects (exclusive of 5 up scaled projects with new beneficiaries). These projects were selected thematically according to the UNESCO’s major programme, to enhance South-South Cooperation (SSC) under the MUCP framework. Emphasis was made to set up join-cooperation with countries from the Asian and the Pacific, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Least Develop Countries (LDCs) and Africa, with the commitment to support the UNESCO’s agenda global priorities: Africa and Gender Equality.

Nearly a decade after MUCP’s initiation, the focus now would be to synthesize all the feedback, knowledge, evaluation conducted, lessons learned, challenges and most significantly, the best practices incorporated within the framework of MUCP-MFIT’s projects. The synthesis and findings from these meetings would be highlighted as the results from the MUCP, to stimulate the involvement of SSC champions and actors

The Secretary-General of the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO, Mohammad Sanusi bin Abdul Karim in his remarks shared with the members of the meeting, the principle of the Malaysian spirit of SSC. He emphasized the Malaysian belief in the goodness of cooperation, that prosperous and stable neighbors would ultimately contribute prosperity and stability to the region.

14 out of 29 MFIT projects have been analyzed and scrutinised during this meeting. Several dimensions and aspects of the MUCP framework have been given priorities in order to determine the relevance of MUCP as a symbiotic platform for other existing international development cooperation mechanisms, the key findings and its sustainability, geographical penetration, opportunities and the challenges in the implementation of the MUCP framework.

Members of the meeting have been critical in their discussion concerning both the elements that empowers and hinders the performance of the MUCP framework. When presented the findings of the MUCP Mid-Term External Evaluation, Professor Dr Ir Bambang Hero Saharjo from IPB University, Indonesia probed on the scale and strength of the knowledge sharing between participating countries.

Meanwhile, Ms. Salote Likusoro Rokotogalevu from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, highlighted that the impact of the Malaysian education framework and best practices are minimal in supporting and assisting the SIDS’s education system. Dr. Ang Ming Chee from the George Town World Heritage Inc. also shared that the concerns and priorities of participating member country is on the output and outcome of the project, regardless of the body that initiates the project.

Conversely, several positive outlooks concerning the MFIT projects identified would be the development of the practical application of science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Scorecard established by the Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP) Davao Network/Southern Philippines Agri-Business and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST). Introduced through the MUCP framework and networking, Professor Dr Della Grace Bacaltos from SPAMAST, Philippines, presented on the SETI SDGs Scorecard as a tool to assess, monitor and review SETI Related Project Contribution to SDGs, according to their targets and indicators.

Datin Dr Ng Soo Boon from the Ministry of Education (MOE) Malaysia has stressed that several participating countries are very enthusiastic and active in the development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Curricular for Girls in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. She further emphasized that the working model between International Bureau of Education (IBE-UNESCO), MOE Malaysia and participating South-South countries is a model worth duplicating. She reiterated that the established networking with IBE-UNESCO, via MUCP framework, has empowered the MOE Malaysia’s Curriculum Development Division in terms of capacity building.

The Director and Representative of UNESCO in Indonesia, Professor Dr Shahbaz Khan, reminded in the meeting that there is a need to identify the global target audience and formulate the structure of the key messages and theme of the MUCP synthesis, to help ensure the sustainability of the MUCP-MFIT’s findings beyond 2019. In his recapping of the MUCP modality, he highlighted that the MUCP framework has helped pooled expertise from 89 countries, with networking and collaboration from 29 Malaysian institutions, 69 international bodies and institutions and 19 UNESCO- affiliated institutions.

The First MUCP Expert Synthesis Meeting was organized by UNESCO Office in Jakarta, in collaboration with the Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and supported by the Langkawi Research Centre (PPL)-UKM and Langkawi Development Authority (LADA). Three synthesis reports will be produced from this meeting as baselines for the implementation of the next MUCP Experts Synthesis Meeting.