UNESCO strengthens collaboration for science with key Chinese institutions

UNESCO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences formalized their long-standing collaboration by signing a partnership agreement this week, on the occasion of an official visit by Ms. Flavia Schlegel, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, from October 31st to November 6th. The partnership aims to improve cooperation among centres under the auspices of UNESCO, two of which were renewed this week, support policy advice for engineering education and capacity building, and facilitate joint actions for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Their shared interest in promoting science for development has fostered long-standing ties between UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector and the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS). Mr. Bai Chunli, President of CAS, is also the President of UNESCO’s The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS). The Academy manages the Chinese National Committee for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), and UNESCO will be a member of CAS’ Advisory Board on STI for the Belt and Road Initiative, an effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale between more than 60 countries.
© CAS - Launch of ANSOThe Alliance of International Science Organizations in the Belt and Road Region, or ANSO, was launched on 5 November by CAS with UNESCO’s participation.

The Partnership Agreement, signed by Ms. Schlegel and Mr. Bai Chunli on 4 November, focuses on:

  • strengthening the cooperation among UNESCO Category II Centres, CAS, and UNESCO’s science programmes;
  • developing joint STI activities for the Belt and Road Initiative and enhancing capacity building in Belt and Road Initiative countries;
  • enhancing networking and promoting the development of communication platforms using existing UNESCO networks and tools for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; and
  • exploring green economy opportunities and catalyzing policy development on green economies.  

Renewing the designation of two category 2 centres under the auspices of UNESCO
Institutes and centres under the auspices of UNESCO, also known as category 2 centres, are established and funded by Member States to contribute to the achievement of UNESCO’s objectives. On behalf of UNESCO, Ms. Schlegel renewed the agreements category 2 centres, the International Research and Training Centre for Science and Technology Strategy (CISTRAT) and the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST).

Since its inauguration in 2012, CISTRAT has made a strong contribution to UNESCO’s objectives by organizing capacity-building activities; promoting STI policy research; and facilitating the sharing of ideas towards formulating better policies and strategies.
First launched in 2011, HIST is the first UNESCO centre applying space technologies to the monitoring and conservation of World Natural and/or Cultural Heritage sites. It is a vital partner helping the World Heritage Centre to address site-specific challenges through its skills and competencies linked to the applications of satellite, air and ground based remote sensing technologies.

There are currently 15 category 2 centres in China, eight of which are science centres aiming to contribute to UNESCO objectives and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through the natural sciences.

Support of the UNESCO Engineering Report II
Engineering innovation is an important driving force of the socio-economic development. UNESCO’s first Engineering Report Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development was the first comprehensive study on engineering, highlighting the importance of engineers to the socio-economic development. It had a profound impact, and a second Engineering Report will be produced to further support policy advice for engineering education and capacity building. The preparations for this new report have now officially begun, with support from China. The report’s Steering Committee met at the International Centre for Engineering Education (ICEE), a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO. The Steering Committee, co-chaired by Ms. Schlegel, made important progress on the editorial content, production, resource mobilization, communications, and approaches to monitoring and evaluation.

Third Huangshan Dialogue on UNESCO Sites and Sustainable Development
Huangshan is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site, Biosphere Reserve, and UNESCO Global Geopark. It became a member of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves this year, and Ms Schlegel gave the original certificate of Biosphere Reserve to Huangshan to welcome the new member during the opening ceremony of the Third Huangshan Dialogue on UNESCO Sites and Sustainable Development.

The Dialogue focused on the theme: "UNESCO Sites Facilitating Sustainable Development". It brought together scientists and site managers as well as experts from relevant international organizations to share their knowledge and experience on:

  • Monitoring Methodologies and Technologies for UNESCO Sites
  • Disaster Risk Assessment and Mitigation for UNESCO Sites
  • Multi-stakeholder Engagement for the Sustainable Development of UNESCO Sites
  • Sustainable Tourism of UNESCO Sites,  and
  • Cooperation and Common Development among UNESCO Sites along the One Belt and One Road.

UNESCO Designated sites are important archives of the development of human civilizations and various geological, biological and ecological Earth system processes. They provide opportunities to develop sustainable paths to harmonious development.