I am very pleased to report that an application led by the EU Centre at RMIT for a Jean Monnet Network on the role of the EU in the implementation of the SDGs in Asia Pacific, has been supported. This also involves colleagues from the Australian National University (ANU), the University of Canterbury, the University of Glasgow and the National University of Singapore (NUS), including PASCAL Directors, Robbie Guevera and MIke Osborne (Director of Research, Chair of Adult and Lifelong Learning and Director of CR&DALL at the University of Glasgow).
The EUASPAC SDGs Network will formalise the relationships amongst researchers, policy think tanks and Non Government Organisations (NGOs) who share a primary interest in enhancing the effective contribution of the EU to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia Pacific. By strengthening collaboration, the Network will promote a more effective evidence-base for EU institutions to engage with nations in the region to implement the SDGs.
The EUASPAC SDGs Network will address these issues through:
- Aligning key researchers with expertise in different domains and disciplines to produce a consolidated overview and analysis of the current and prospective role of the EU;
- Strengthening capability for research in the Asia Pacific region to inform policy and program development in Asia Pacific;
- Enhancing linkages amongst researchers in Asia Pacific and the EU, so as to provide a more coherent framework within which research outputs can contribute to policy formation and to practice; and
- Establishing an online portal for universities and schools to access resources which can be used for teaching about the EU’s global role
The Network is based on research clusters which address key aspects of EU engagement in development initiatives in the Asia Pacific. The Network will help to develop a new generation of EU studies scholars who could speak authoritatively about the EU’s global role and continue to develop research in this field and integrate new perspectives in their teaching.
Its principal outputs will be of three kinds: materials directed at scholarly communication; policy briefings to assist policy decision-making; and specific learning activities for young researchers. Its achievements will be monitored through assessment of deliverables against key milestones throughout the Network’s work program; through attendance at the policy dialogues and training programs; and through the number of researchers who join the Network as associates.
The EUASPAC SDGs Network will be built around four research clusters.
- The European Union: SDG Collaboration with Asian and Pacific Intergovernmental Organisations (lead researchers Bruce Wilson, RMIT; Martin Holland, Canterbury; Jacqueline Lo, ANU; Andrew McIntyre, RMIT; Yeo Lay Hwee, NUS)
- The European Union: Interventions in Specific Asian or Pacific Nations (lead researchers: Jacqueline Lo, ANU; Sharif As-Saber, RMIT; Michele Schweisfurth, Glasgow; Andrew McIntyre, RMIT; Robbie Guevara, RMIT)
- The EU and Non Government Organisations re SDGs in Asia Pacific (lead researchers: Chris Duke, RMIT; Martin Holland, Canterbury; Serena Kelly, Canterbury; Mike Osborne, Glasgow; Michael Nolan, RMIT); and
- EU Thematic Focus in Asian Pacific SDG Implementation (lead researchers: Robbie Guevara, RMIT; Jacqueline Lo, ANU; Michael Nolan, RMIT; Mathew Doidge, Canterbury; Laurence Brown, ANU; Michele Schweisfurth, Glasgow; Mary Johnson, RMIT)
The cluster structure is designed to enable researchers with specific interests and focus to share their research findings, and a forum to explore their consolidated contribution to knowledge. Each of the clusters includes lead researchers from several of the partner universities, enabling international collaboration within each cluster as well as in the Network more broadly. Each cluster will also bring to Network meetings, specific recommendations on issues and challenges to be discussed with key policy makers, in the EU and in Asian and Pacific nations. These will be addressed in an annual Policy Dialogue with relevant participants.
The four research clusters will establish their own operating processes, where possible aligning their activities with other opportunities for engagement. Each cluster will invite associate researchers from other research centres and universities to participate in their activities. Associate researchers, including early career researchers, will be identified by the cluster according to their potential contribution to the cluster’s activities.
The Network’s Work Program builds momentum over the three years:
- in the first year, developing a framework for identifying and drawing together research relevant to the Network’s principal questions. The scope and scale of the SDG challenge mean that considerable care will be required to be inclusive in this process, and to provide for appropriate access;
- in the second year, the Network will develop an overall synthesis of the research findings, and examine the policy ramifications of the emerging body of knowledge; and
- in the third year, the Network will explore the new research questions emerging from both the research synthesis and from the policy dialogues, and will consider relevant new research projects.
The Network will also engage directly with postgraduate students and early career researchers through online workshops, noting that two of the lead researchers are early career researchers. Two online workshops will be offered each year, focused on the theme of The European Union: Sustainable Development Goals in the EU Global Strategy. These workshops will be coordinated by lead researchers. One online workshop will be conducted in association with a Network meeting, while the other will be wholly online approximately 5-6 months apart.
The four research clusters provide a relevant and constructive structure for managing the volume of research to be brought together. Each has responsibility for a distinct perspective on the central questions of the project.
The implementation of the Network would build on the relationships established already amongst the EU Centres. This would facilitate the speedy establishment of the clusters and the development of online meeting facilities, using a technology such as Zoom, for them to undertake initial workplanning. Each cluster would nominate a representative who would liaise with the Network Director and the other cluster representatives; this group would form a steering committee to guide the future activities of the Network.
As the Network will bring together active researchers in various related fields, there will be an immediate access both to broader associations of researchers, agencies in the field and policy makers. Through the lead researchers’ existing relationships, the Network will quickly be able build a profile and attract interest from a broad range of sectors.
The Network will contribute to stimulating knowledge on the European integration process, as the EU’s actions are framed very much through its Global Strategy, and depend wholly on integration amongst the Member States. Therefore, the project will contribute to new understanding about how the EU institutions and Member States interact on issues related to international development and cooperation, particularly in relation to the implementation of the SDGs in Asia Pacific. Hence, they contribute to studies of EU integration both in the core institutional operations of the EU itself, and to improved understanding of the EU’s interactions with governments and agencies in Asia Pacific, not least intergovernmental for a such as ASEM.
The Network’s publications, its web-based communication, its workshops for early career researchers and postgraduate research students and its Conference in Year 3 all promote the visibility of scientific resources and academic activities in this field. In addition all of the lead researchers already participate actively in interdisciplinary, national and international conferences, so the presentation of papers in these settings will also increase the visibility of these aspects of EU studies.