SEI Asia has recently launched the second phase of an ambitious programme to increase regional development cooperation for Asia and the Pacific. The Strategic Collaborative Fund, initiated by SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) of the Government of Sweden in 2013, is implemented by SEI Asia. It seeks to enhance cooperation on critical regional environment, climate change, and human development issues in relation to Agenda 2030, the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Asia and the Pacific’s rapid growth has resulted in accelerating environmental degradation and climate change impacts that are spreading throughout the region’s communities.  Sweden’s support will help communities, along with governments and development agencies, to address these challenges by applying rights-based and gender equal approaches. This is aligned with Sweden’s Regional Development Cooperation Strategy (2016-2020), which provides support toward achieving sustainable development in Asia-Pacific through “linking human rights, democracy, gender equality, environment, and climate change”.

To realize these goals SEI Asia’s implementation of the Fund includes policy and technical capacity support to regional institutions. SEI bridges research and policy in regional development forums, works with regional partners focusing on SDG achievement, fosters dialogue between the private sector, governments, and the public, and develops free online courses and follow-up coaching. This assists partners in learning and developing their abilities to incorporate gender and rights-based approaches in their environment and development policies and work.

“To achieve the SDGs and ensure development is just and sustainable for all during the rapid economic growth of the region, we need openness, engagement, dialogue, and learning,” said Niall O’Connor, SEI Asia Director. “SEI Asia is leading in these areas, and the Strategic Collaborative Fund provides us with the momentum we need to ensure that environment takes centre stage, while also ensuring gender and rights are fully integrated into future development policies and practices.”

The current programme builds on previous successes in increasing the inclusiveness and diversity of participants in regional policy forums such as China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Forum (CAECF) and the Asia Europe Environment Forum (ENVforum). SEI has provided technical assistance to key policy processes, supporting regional environmental policy, gender inclusivity, and poverty reduction efforts throughout the region.

At the CAECF, SEI’s support led to ASEAN countries increasing their representation in meetings by 64 percent alongside a 59 percent increase in themes related to gender equality. The support was critical to highlight the gender equality and poverty reduction themes, both of which had not been previously discussed in relation to environment and climate change.

The new phase builds on this progress in ensuring that partners integrate gender equality and rights-based approaches into environmental policy planning and practices. Participants go beyond learning these approaches and apply them in concrete activities related to policy development and implementation.  SEI provides support to expand partners’ knowledge so they can continue implementing new approaches in current and future programmes, eventually institutionalizing them.

In addition to ENVforum and CAECF, SEI Asia will support additional policy processes and forums. SEI Asia also ensures strong communications and engagement to publicise the work and share progress, as well as to identify opportunities for policy influence throughout the programme, which will help foster further inclusiveness, collaboration and impact in the policy sphere.

Realising that progress requires sustained commitment, the Strategic Collaborative Fund Phase 2 takes a long-term view, running from March 2018 to December 2022.  As Asia-Pacific looks set to continue its breakneck development during this time, the Fund will continue to address the changing environment with an approach that integrates inclusiveness and diversity into its institutions and policies, boosting the Sustainable Development Goals momentum in the region.

“This is a unique opportunity for SEI to partner with many critical organisations across the region, from civil society, government and the private sector, and use evidence-based science to support informed policy decision-making, support gender equality and a rights-based approach,” concluded O’Connor. “We look forward to the second phase’s full launch in 2019, and to supporting our partners over the coming years. We also appreciate SIDA’s confidence in SEI to lead this programme.”