Bangkok Forum 2018

Integrating Knowledge for Social Sustainability

The inaugural Bangkok Forum will be convened under the theme “Integrating Knowledge for Social Sustainability”. Harnessing the academic strengths and extensive networks of Chulalongkorn University and its community members in the region, the Forum will serve as a rich, inclusive gathering of scholars, public intellectuals, policy makers, practitioners and other like-minded persons, both from within the country and overseas, including participation of such centers as the KFAS-supported Asia Research Centres (ARC) in 18 countries from around Asia.  While sustainability has often been discussed from the economic and scientific (especially that of environment) perspectives, attention to the concept of social sustainability as a whole has not been systematic or adequate.  The Forum 2018 will take this up as a challenge to systematically produce relevant knowledge, structured practices, public activities and policies.  The Bangkok Forum 2018 will promote critical deliberation, debate, and collaboration on a wide range of topics. Among others, it will address social equality and human dignity, social justice and wellbeing, ecological and climate justice, culture and coexistence, religion and engaged spirituality, habitats and sustainable urbanization, communication and media, digital knowledge divide, transformative learning and education, human trafficking and labor, work environments and sustainable livelihoods, enterprises and technology, civic engagement and citizen rights.  It will consciously discuss the role of higher education, as the university is a key institution in sharing responsibility and providing leadership for meaningful and integrated knowledge co-production that contributes to social transformation attaining a just and sustainable Asia.

Roles of the University
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 will require unprecedented cooperation and collaboration among governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, academia, development partners, the private sector and communities. Such dynamic collaboration requires transformative approaches which clearly includes a repositioning and rethinking of the role of universities related to the implementation of the SDG4 (Quality Education), its sub-goals  and beyond.

Knowledge Co-production towards a Sustainable Future
To attain interlinked targets of SDGs, both within and across goals that signal a recognition of the need for a more integrated “nexus” holistic approach, and to avoid the spillover effects that focus on a single goal often imposed on others, knowledge production and praxis needs to move beyond silos. Furthermore, there is a need for engaged action from the global to the regional and to the local levels. This should include the role of the university in providing space for deliberation and in helping curb the increasingly shrinking civic space for inclusive engagement, through tapping the transformative potentials of the SDGs.

Challenges and Opportunities
Boundaries still exist between disciplines when we look at knowledge production while sustainable social future needs to be addressed via approaches that clearly transcend disciplinary boundaries. Linking natural sciences, social sciences, humanities as well as knowledge from practitioners and traditional wisdom would be crucial. In this context, the evolution of recent thinking about the links between ecological crises, scientific vs social knowledge imbalances, and innovation strategies thus needs to be shared from different points-of-view by policy makers, the public, and academics. The challenge of transformative change in knowledge production is a clear opportunity.  It opens a door to innovation, new ideas, and new paradigms. As one of the institutions for the co-production and transfer of knowledge, universities are increasingly taking the role of platform provider to mobilize sources of knowledge for society to cope with problems and challenges.  At this critical time, universities need to be more conscious of their own transformation as well, reflected in their policies, institutional structure, staffing and human resources, programs, curricula, research, and their extended contribution.

Way Forward
The above-mentioned recognitions have led to the inaugural Bangkok Forum’s theme of “Integrating Knowledge for Social Sustainability” focusing on how to address the relevant issues towards building and strengthening social sustainability through transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral interactive processes, cooperation and collaboration.

All of these aspects require thoughtful reflection on the various university roles (as listed below), on which the Bangkok Forum 2018 will deliberate:

  1. The role of the university that contributes to the production of holistic knowledge.
  2. The role of the university that nurtures future leaders to ensure social sustainability.
  3. The role of the university as a provider of integrative platforms for dialogue, exchange and action, which bridges various sectors and stakeholders.
  4. Self-criticism of the university as an institution and its need for transformation to meet the above aspects (in the area of institutional structure, research, curriculum, programs, collaborative framework, etc.)

Particularly, SDG 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.