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UNESCO Biosphere Sites as Educational Sites to Sustain Our Ocean in South-East Asia
2024-05-14 ICCSD

UNESCO, in collaboration with Fast Retailing Co., Ltd.—UNIQLO’s parent company—announced the launch of the project, ‘Sustaining Our Ocean: Building Healthy Relationships with Oceans in South-East Asia through Education for Sustainable Development’.

The ‘Sustaining Our Ocean’ project was launched as a side event of the 2nd UNESCO Ocean Decade Regional Conference and the 11th WESTPAC International Marine Science Conference, simultaneously taking place from 22 to 25 April 2024. The workshop was organized on 24 April, in Bangkok.

The ‘Sustaining Our Ocean’ project aims to advance ocean education and promote sustainable practices among youth expressly in four Asian countries: Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Through experiential learning and community engagement, the project seeks to empower a young generation of ocean stewards and foster a deeper appreciation of marine ecosystems in the region.

The launch event on 24 April spotlighted good practices in ocean education and featured students taking action based on the knowledge, skills and attitudes gained from classrooms, field trips and extra-curricular activities. Participants could gain insights from successful initiatives and explored innovative methods and partnerships for ocean education. The workshop also engaged discussions which would delve into effective ocean education methods and tailored learning activities for children and young people.

Thailand shared the action-oriented and experiential learning experiences for schoolchildren and university students organized by Kasetsart University. Fast Retailing shared ‘Spo-Gomi’, or ‘sport picking up trash’ events, as in making waste collection a fun and active sport activity for young people. Through such innovative activities, youth contributes to sustaining the life ‘below water’, speaking to the UN Sustainable Goal 14, which seeks to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.’

Special related plans were shared from UNESCO-designated coastal sites, such as Ranong Man and Biosphere Reserve, in Thailand; Wakatobi Biosphere Reserve, of Indonesia; and both the Can Giao Mangrove Biosphere Reserve and the CU Lao Cham–Hoi An Biosphere Reserve in Viet Nam.

Through collaborative dialogue, participants strategized how to inspire the next generation of ocean stewards. In addition, the launch event aimed to foster stronger regional and national communities of practice in ocean education. By gathering stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, the project seeks to establish networks, share knowledge, and enhance collaboration towards shared objectives. A study visit to Japan is also planned this year for project participants to share their experiences, as well as to learn from ocean education initiatives in Japan.

‘This partnership between UNESCO and Fast Retailing underscores our shared commitment to protecting our oceans and promoting sustainable development’, said Rika Yorozu, Programme Specialist, Education Section, the UNESCO Regional Office in Bangkok. ‘Through the ‘Sustaining Our Ocean’ project, we aim to empower young people with the knowledge and skills to become active agents of change in preserving our marine ecosystems.’

Dr Wenxi Zhu, an Ocean Expert and Head of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific, additionally commented, ‘South-East Asia is facing a critical challenge with ocean debris, threatening marine ecosystems and coastal communities. If we look at Goal 14: Life Below Water, of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the region lags behind in terms of progress, and thus demands immediate attention. This project is therefore very relevant, because urgent action is needed to address the attendant issues and safeguard the health of our oceans for future generations.’

‘We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative with UNESCO’, said Yuka Yokokawa, of Fast Retailing. ‘As a responsible global citizen, we recognize the urgent need to address environmental challenges, and through this project, we hope to inspire positive action and drive meaningful change.’