Two trends are becoming clear in the early part of this century; a majority of the challenges facing society have a transboundary, international, or global context; and science, technology and their applications underpin the cause or the cure to these challenges. As a result, science and technology are becoming ever more embedded into the foreign policies and international relations of nations.
Given the growing role of science and technology in international relations, The Academy of Sciences Malaysia, The American Association for the Advancement of Science and The World Academy of Sciences have organised the Regional Course on Science Diplomacy in Asia and the Pacific Region.
The virtual course was attended by 56 participants from all over the world. The course featured over 30 speakers, who presented on how science diplomacy is a key component to the development of their field.
Prefacing the course was a series of opening remarks by representatives from the organisers. Chairperson of the Organising Committee, Professor Datin Paduka Dr Khatijah Yusoff FASc went first, followed by Professor Romain Murenzi from UNESCO-TWAS. Up next were Mdm Hazami Habib (CEO of ASM) and Dr Kimberly Montgomery (Director of International Affairs and Science Diplomacy, AAAS).
Academician Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid FASc, who is an ASM Senior Fellow and Former Science Adviser the Prime Minister of Malaysia reflects upon his personal journey in science diplomacy. This session was moderated by Professor Datin Paduka Dr Khatijah Yusoff FASc, who is also the Chairperson of the ASM Organising Committee.
After a session of ice-breaking and photography, the Workshop kicked off with a scene-setting by Dr Marga Gual Soler, founder of SciDIpGlobal and Advisor to the EU Science Diplomacy Cluster. The scene-setting provided an overview of the frameworks, mechanisms, strategies, and actors involved in science diplomacy. This was followed by the first panel discussion moderated by Dr Zakri. Three panellists were in attendance to elaborate on their perspective of science diplomacy based on the region from which they originated: Dr Romain Murenzi elaborated on science diplomacy in the global south, while Prof Emerita Dato’ Seri Dr Mazlan Othman FASc from ISC ROAP talked about science diplomacy in Asia and the Pacific. Meanwhile, Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman FASc presented on how smart partnerships can be forged through science diplomacy.
The second day of the Course started with diving into a case study involving scientific cooperation in the Global South, moderated by Emeritus Prof Dr Phang Siew Moi FASc. She was joined by three experts to discuss on the topic. Academician Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Salleh bin Mohd Nor FASc talked about research on Antarctica; Dr Greg Stone (Chief Scientist for Oceans, Science Advisor to the Government of Kiribati, Conservation International) presented on oceanography research, while Prof Dr Lindsay Falvey (Commissioner at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)) touched upon agricultural research.
The following session engaged with prominent members of ministries and national academies to provide their perspectives on how science diplomacy plays into the decision-making process. The moderator Mdm Hazami Habib was joined by Dr Antonio Copete Villa (Director of STI Capabilities and Outreach, Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation Colombia), Daan Du Toit (Deputy Director General: International Cooperation and Resources, Department for Science and Technology South Africa), Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail FASc (ASM President) and Dr Moneef R. Zou’bi (Science Advisor of the InterAction Council and the Co-Founding Director of the World Sustainability Forum).
Day three of the Regional Course on Science Diplomacy featured two more panel sessions, linking science diplomacy with the global health, climate change, and disaster risk standpoints. Academician Distinguished Professor Datuk Dr Looi Lai Meng was joined by three experts each presenting their unique point of view. Professor Martin McKee (Professor of European Public Health, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) covered Global Health Diplomacy. The role of science diplomacy in containing an outbreak was presented by Dr George F. Gao (Director-General, Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). Meanwhile, Dr Michaela Told (Science Advisor of the InterAction Council and the Co-Founding Director of the World Sustainability Forum) talked about the negotiating
After global health, science diplomacy’s role in climate change and disaster risk was discussed, a session moderated by Dr Dionysius Sharma, SCRP Advisory Council & Green Growth Asia Foundation Strategic Advisor. Dr Yekaterina Kontar (AAAS STPF in the Directorate for Geosciences, NSF) talked about maintaining resilience in the face of disasters using science diplomacy. the link between climate change and science diplomacy was explained by Professor Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira (Vice-Chair of Working Group II of the IPCC). Dr Tan Cheng Ann (Managing Director, Danish Hydraulic Institute, Singapore) presented on the responsibility of water science for sustainability.
Aside from the panel sessions, day three also featured a breakout session where participants were assigned to one of ten groups, where they are required to work on the cases studies assigned to them. the breakout session continued the next day, following which their work on the case studies was presented.
On the last day, the Course wrapped up with an introduction to foresight and futures thinking, moderated by YM Tengku Datuk Dr Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen. the session featured Mr Rushdi Abdul Rahim, Senior Vice President, Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). This session was followed by an insight into careers in science diplomacy and science communication, with Professor Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim FASc moderating the session. The session featured Dr Rana Dajani from Hashemite University, Jordan; Azrul Mohd Khalib, CEO of Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy; and Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Executive Director of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC).
Before the Course wrapped up, representatives from ASM (Dr Firdaus Abdul Wahab), UNESCO TWAS (Sena Galazzi) and AAAS (Estefania Ortiz Calva) debriefed participants as well as presented opportunities for engagement with the three organisations.