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SDG delivery in Asia: SEI’s role in advancing science and policy to support decision-making

 The 2030 Agenda calls for a step-change in how we address development challenges. In particular, it demands cooperative, integrated approaches that reflect the many ways that different development priorities interact. Backed up by a body of innovative SEI research and policy engagement work throughout the Agenda 2030 process, the SEI Asia office is well placed to support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) around the region.
Caspar Trimmer / Published on 28 March 2017

Goal 5: Gender in context

A forthcoming study on SDG interactions by SEI’s Måns Nilsson found that progress on SDG 5 –“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” – would have universally positive impacts on progress towards other targets. Work within SEI’s Gender, Environment and Development Cluster addresses some crucial issues at the interface of Goal 5 with other SDGs. For example, our work on gender and climate finance looks at how planning and implementation of climate finance mechanisms can target marginalized groups – including poor women – who are often disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change (addressing in particular SDG Targets 13.A and 13.B).

Food and nutrition (Goal 2) is another area where empowerment of women can have a significant impact on a major problem for some Asian countries. For example, SEI’s work on gender and nutrition in Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Battambang provinces is investigating how to boost women’s role and decision-making power in relation to home vegetable gardens in order to combat malnutrition.

Large-scale investments in agriculture, water and energy across the Mekong region are reshaping ecological systems and causing displacement as well as changes in land, water and labour rights. In collaboration with the Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE), Clean Power Asia (CPA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), SEI is investigating whether and how women are engaged in decisions and assessments regarding large-scale investments, as well as how they can occupy key positions in energy-related enterprises and firms. This includes questioning the overall role of power in shaping decision-making processes in large-scale land, energy and water investments (SDG Target 5.5 with Goals 7 and 9).

SEI is also investigating the reconfiguration of gendered agricultural labour regimes and mobility and the negotiation of women’s water and land rights.

SEI Asia’s Bernadette Resurrección, leading the gender research cluster, adds that: “SEI’s gender-sensitive work informs approaches that can help governments to deliver on their commitments in gender-responsive and socially-inclusive ways.”

Linking development and disaster risk

SDG 11 is to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Many cities and smaller settlements in Asia are at increased risk of natural and man-made hazards due to processes such as climate change, deforestation and pollution, especially as cities and industrial centres rapidly expand as part of wider development.

SEI’s research and policy work in the SEI Initiative on Transforming Development and Disaster Risk (TDDR), which is led from the Asia office, explores these links and seeks ways to ensure progress on other development goals also helps to build disaster resilience. A particular focus is on how to ensure that progress on disaster resilience also promotes reductions in inequality (SDG 10), and investigating how well disaster risk reduction (DRR) governance processes address these vulnerabilities.

In particular, we are working on disability-inclusive DRR, targeting policymakers, local governments, people with disabilities and civil society organizations in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. Furthermore, our resilience research is enhancing knowledge on urban resilience, especially in low-lying coastal cities across Asia. In line with SEI’s mission of bridging science and policy, we are particularly focused on the potential role of science and technology in DRR. SEI engages with national stakeholders through participation in the 2017 Global Platform for DRR and the Asian Ministerial Conference on DRR.

Frank Thomalla, lead of the DRR Cluster said: “Our work shows that development and disaster risk are closely linked. Interventions that seek to reduce disaster risk in a particular context also need to work through the appropriate social processes in order to make sure that resilience-building efforts lead to equitable development outcomes. Decisions that support sustainable, equitable and resilient development hence need to be informed both by the SDGs and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.’

Adaptation to a changing Mekong

Climate change is resulting in intense rainfall and floods side by side with longer periods of drought and water scarcity in the Mekong region. These changes in water availability have implications across the SDGs, but in particular for food production (Goal 2), poverty (Goal 1), human settlements (Goal 11) and water supply (Goal 6).

Part of SEI Asia’s work on water resources management is an ongoing “Mekong regional assessment” to address the uncertainties in water resource management and planning in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Given the rising uncertainties over water and water-use, it is clear that conventional planning approaches are no longer adequate within these different development areas.

The Mekong region’s planners need new tools and methods. SEI brings a robust decision support (RDS) approach, based on the robust decision-making framework, to water management adaptation. It investigates what development strategies and investments offer the best chance of success given future uncertainties and the interactions between factors such as climate change, economic development, water and land use.

SEI’s RDS work is being undertaken by SUMERNET, a regional network with more than 60 academic and research organizations across the Mekong Region that aims to provide scientific knowledge and build partnerships on key environmental issues in the Mekong Region. Other collaborations in the region includeSERVIR-Mekong, in which SEI has been collaborating with USAID and NASA to help the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and other stakeholders in the region to better predict and cope with natural disasters for better climate services and environmental management.

In Chindwin Futures SEI is working with a range of state and non-state actors to deal with a number of linked but urgent problems in the Chindwin River, the largest tributary of the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar. The issues range from river pollution, land use change and deforestation and floods to river navigation, degradation of water quality and local livelihoods.

“It is clear to me that without dynamic partnerships, between research institutions, government bodies, the private sector and indeed civil society itself, delivering the SDGs on time will not be possible. Here at SEI, we enjoy and actively work towards such partnerships, to advance our innovative and evidence based science products, to support policy-makers in the fields of environment and development. Their commitment and enthusiasm in this field in warmly welcomed,” said Niall O’Connor, SEI Asia’s Centre Director.


Related people

Profile picture of Frank Thomalla
Frank Thomalla

SEI Affiliated Researcher

SEI Asia

Rajesh Daniel

Head of Communications, SEI Asia


SEI Asia

Niall O’Connor

Centre Director

SEI Asia

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