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The Sustainable Development Workshop of South-East Asia (SDWSEA) | 13-17 May 2017 | Taipei & Matsu Islands, Taiwan

The Sustainable Development Workshop of South-East Asia (SDWSEA) | 13-17 May 2017 | Taipei & Matsu Islands, Taiwan

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The Sustainable Development Workshop of South-East Asia | 13-17 May 2017 | Taipei & Matsu Islands, Taiwan | by Shona Paterson

Questioning the future – don’t cry (yet)

A curious mind is a wonderful thing. A group of curious minds remains a power to be reckoned with. Questions deserve answers. Questions like: When do individuals working on climate issues and sustainable development in countries around the world become a cohesive network for transformation? When do the connections between cities, towns, communities, and people reach a tipping point of action that begins to create social change? When is development sustainable? We need, as a society, to figure these things out and quickly!!

Group photo at the statue of Mazu, Goddess of the Sea, posing as her two bodyguards who can see and hear everything (situated above the Matsu temple of heaven)

There are instances when it is a true privilege to be a part of Future Earth Coasts, when we are lucky enough to be involved in a work trip that transcends a regular meeting and becomes an experience. The Sustainable Development Workshop of South-East Asia (SDWSEA) held in Taipei, Taiwan from May 13-17, was such an experience. Hosted by The Global Change Research Center (GCRC) of National Taiwan University (NTU), this workshop connected practioneers, academics, a finance and budgets officer, students, managers, researchers, and public citizens. With participants from Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Germany, and Ireland, the workshop focused on knowledge exchange around the Sustainable Development Goals in an immersive setting.

The traditional village of Chin-bi (Beigan)

Different stakeholder hold different views and its important to involve them all

So, what do I mean by an immersive setting? We were lucky enough to spend 2 days on the Matsu Islands of Nangan and Beigan, Islands that very few people ever get to see. This allowed us to really get a feel for the range of issues that small islands in this region are confronting, the opportunities that tourism and sustainable development offer, as well as the potential pitfalls surrounding social cohesion, equity, justice, and unchecked development at this scale. Visiting culturally important sites such as the Queen of Heaven Temple (Nangan) and the War and Peace Museum (Beigan) as well as the traditional village of Chin-bi (Beigan) provided important contextual lessons for us all. Boating through the Beihai Tunnel (BLUE TEARS!!) and walking through the Dahan Iron Fort on Nangan allowed us to gain a greater sense of the military force brought to bear on these small islands during their struggle with mainland China. We were also treated to presentations from Professor Shew-Jiun Su and Professor Wen-Cheng Wang of the National Taiwan Normal University who discussed, among other things, the importance of community participation and stakeholder engagement in the development of the Matsu Islands.

Poster announcing the public lectures of Prof. Ilan Chabay & Dr. Shona Paterson

In the midst of all this learning it was a real privilege to be invited to speak as part of the Matsu Geopark International Lecture Series. The daunting task of following Professor Ilan Chabay of IASS speaking about Environments, Societies, and Human Behaviours: Changing behaviours of communities to meet Global Sustainability Goals was made easier through the power of multimedia which allowed me to show the Welcome to the Anthropocene short film as well Home while providing a perspective on vulnerability, sustainability, and solutions at the coast. Introducing the concepts of pathways to sustainability and resilience trajectories, topics that are at the centre of the FEC approach, as well as concrete actions towards SDG delivery resonated strongly with the public audience as did the importance of local actions and values in solution definition.

Back in Taipei for the last day of the workshop

On our last morning, back in Taipei at the GCRC, we got to listen to presentations from our colleagues from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia focussing on their local and national efforts to deliver on country commitments to the SDGs. It was a real treat to listen to Leticia Clemente, the City Budget Officer in Baguio, discuss the importance of involving finance staff at all stages of sustainability planning, Dr Taufik Widjaja from Jakarta talking about the challenges of controlling development in the face of economic necessities, and Huyen Nhung from Hanoi speak about the role of biodiversity in the SDGs.

So what does this all mean? Working to find commonalities across countries and scales allows us to find innovative solutions to existing issues together, and hopefully prevent the repeat of unsustainable practices through knowledge exchange as economies and regions grow. Future Earth Coasts aims to support these efforts in SE Asia by continuing to nourish important partnerships like the SDWSEA. We can’t wait to help facilitate increasing cooperation between the participants of SDWSEA as well as build on the important foundation laid through this year’s workshop. Watch this space for more stories and successes from the region.

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