SWITCH-Asia, supported by the European Union (EU), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) have joined forces to launch an online series of Policy Dialogues on Sustainable Lifestyles in Asia and offline courses on the Circular Economy.
The partners opened the series on September 2 with a webinar that provided a glimpse of the topics for the series of webinars planned over the next 6 months. The event was carried live online via hybrid mode from the United Nations Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand.
Keynote speaker Mr. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Thailand, mentioned that the European Union has an aim to keep resources in the economy for as long as possible. “If we look at the EU’s assistance in the world, sustainability, circular economy, and the environment continue to be at the heart of the EU’s international actions,” he said. “The circular economy action plan presents new initiatives along the entire lifecycle of products, and it is driven by the ambition to make sustainable products that last to enable us to take full part in the circular economy and benefit from the positive change that it will bring about.”
Ambassador Tapiola added that “UNEP and AIT working together is precisely what is needed,” as he highlighted the importance of multilateral partnership models for sustainable development. “We need innovation, and we need educational partners like AIT for innovation.”
Providing the welcome remarks, AIT President Dr. Eden Woon thanked SWITCH-Asia, the EU, and the UNEP for the initiative and cooperating with AIT as a strategic partner. “Sustainability is embedded in AIT’s DNA,” President Woon remarked, noting the importance of the series that emphasizes the application of technology for sustainability with aspects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The president mentioned that AIT itself has been working very hard to make sure its campus community is safe during the coronavirus crisis, and is applying technology to deliver its education to its overseas students without “missing a beat” using hybrid mode of instruction.
Dr. Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, noted the significance of the long-term partners coming together in a new and innovative way of engaging stakeholders. She extended her thanks to the EU for its financial and technical support, and to AIT for its technical expertise as well as its efforts on advocacy and capacity building.
Dr. Mushtaq Memon, Regional Coordinator for Resource Efficiency, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and SWITCH-Asia RPAC Project Manager, outlined details for the upcoming webinars. He said the project would evaluate participants’ questions, feedback, and expertise to gather recommendations and suggestions on priorities for the Asia Pacific on sustainable lifestyles and the circular economy. “In the New Normal, this is great way for capacity building and providing support for the policy makers and businesses from the EU, UNEP and AIT and other partners,” he explained.
During the event, four AIT faculty members delivered preview presentations on the upcoming policy dialogue topics. AIT’s Prof. Anil Kumar Anal, who addressed the meeting in person, will lead the dialogue on sustainable lifestyles focusing on food, and Associate Prof. Vilas Nitivattananon will lead on tourism. Associate Prof. Erik L.J. Bohez will lead the dialogue on sustainable lifestyles focusing on consumer packaging and Prof. Chettiyappan Visvanathan, who addressed the hybrid event, will be leading the circular economy component.