by Ryoko Suzuki, UNU-IAS
The ProSPER.Net Leadership Programme (LP), held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia during the last week of August, was organised by ProSPER.Net and Akademi Kepimpinan Pengajian Tinggi (AKEPT) in collaboration with University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS). Thirteen members from the Asia-Pacific region including Australia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia (based in China), Fiji, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, who were selected from 56 applicants by the ProSPER.Net Secretariat, attended the Programme together with eight local participants.
This year’s LP focused on five themes: 1) sustainability in marginalised urban areas through education development; 2) promotion of sustainable agriculture; 3) sustainable island development; 4) sustainable highland development; and 5) the role of higher education institutions in promoting sustainability. For each theme participants listened to presentations by those involved in the projects, organized a field visit, and held discussions with stakeholders such as a teachers, hotel managers, village chiefs and NGO staff. Based on these themes, participants were divided into five groups. Together as a team they prepared a final presentation at the end of the programme to reflect on the insights of the project they had been assigned to.
Day one allowed everyone to get to know the different organizations involved in this year’s LP. Participants shared their ideas on how to define “sustainability” and their expectations of the programme. During the second day, participants learned the basic concepts of the MDGs and SDGs, the definition and importance of leadership, and finally sustainability in the different contexts such as environment and culture. This day also marked a visit to an organic fertilizer company that together with the hotel, where all participants stayed, contributes to local environmental sustainability. Day three was a day of outings, with two field trips exploring the issues of education for illegal immigrants in Kampung Numbak and visiting the Sabah Art Gallery, and the first officially recognized “green building” in Sabah incorporating solar panels, a passive design, and a rainwater recycling system. The visit to Kampung Numbak highlighted the role of education for a sustainable society regardless of people’s status.
Day four focused on sustainable island development with a field visit to Gaya Island. While participants observed how sustainability issues on the island have directly affected the life of its inhabitants, a discussion with local authorities and school teachers highlighted particularly difficult issues such as water shortages and waste management. On the fifth day, the group visited organic farms in Bundu Tuhan. Everyone learned about the challenges associated with implementing a project for the use of organic fertilizer and the effectiveness of sustainable agriculture in the long term.
All participants, in particular those who had engaged in other ProSPER.Net activities, such as YSA and YRS for example, were highly motivated and they actively participated in all sessions. Individual participants often compared issues and challenges they saw to issues they face in their own countries. This in turn led to fruitful exchanges of ideas and opinions with stakeholders and other participants.