CityU establishes the first UNESCO Regional Training and Research Centre on coastal contaminant monitoring in Hong Kong for the Western Pacific region
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The State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution (SKLMP) of City University of Hong Kong (CityU) received approval from the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) to establish the first UNESCO regional training and research Centre (the Coastal-COMMIT Centre, also known as the “Centre”) on coastal contaminant monitoring and marine innovative technologies in Hong Kong for the Western Pacific region.
The Centre aims to strengthen the monitoring capacity for marine pollution in the Western Pacific region, promote the development of marine innovation technologies, and facilitate international research collaboration to promote marine environmental protection and sustainable development. The establishment of the CENTRE will also promote Hong Kong's integration into national development and support Hong Kong's goal of becoming an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub.
The IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific held its 14th session in Jakarta, Indonesia in early April 2023. Professor Kenneth Leung Mei-yee, Director of the SKLMP at CityU, represented China at the session, with the support of the Chinese Central Government and the Hong Kong SAR government.
Professor Leung presented the proposal for establishing the Centre at CityU and introduced the research talent, equipment, scientific and technological achievements, and social contributions of the SKLMP, as well as the plan for the proposed Centre.
Then Professor Gil Jacinto, a member of the IOC-WESTPAC Advisory Group, provided a detailed analysis report on the evaluation of CityU's application, based on an interview in 2022 and a site visit to CityU in March 2023, stating that the host of the proposed Centre (i.e. the SKLMP) performed excellently in various areas, such as achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, meeting regional needs, and having relevant work capabilities and experience, and was qualified to establish a Regional Training and Research Centre for WESTPAC. Member states, such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, highly praised and supported the CityU proposal. Eventually, the members of the session unanimously passed a resolution to entrust CityU with the establishment of the Coastal-COMMIT Centre. Professor Leung will serve as the director of the Centre.
The Centre will focus on the following areas: (1) through training and technology transfer, it will enhance the monitoring and risk assessment of chemical pollutants in the region, and the capacity building of marine innovation technologies; (2) it will catalyse members to co-design and implement regional research cooperation projects to better understand the current situation regarding chemical pollutants, and promote marine environmental protection and sustainable development; and (3) it will recommend effective regulatory measures to protect the marine environment of the Western Pacific region.
With the support of the UNESCO-IOC, the SKLMP will become the first UNESCO Regional Training and Research Centre in Hong Kong, the third in China, and the sixth in the Western Pacific region. To leverage the role of the Centre in monitoring marine contaminants and innovative technologies and to respond to the call of the “United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, the Centre plans to provide a series of training courses in several areas, such as monitoring contaminants of emerging concern (e.g. per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), environmental risk assessment, coral reef survey techniques, and research on toxic benthic algae.
The Centre also aims to involve more countries in the "Global Estuaries Monitoring (GEM) Program", which is an Ocean Decade Program approved by the United Nations to research the global status of estuarine pollution and promote best practices and solutions to combat pollution problems, thus achieving the ambitious goal of cleaner and safer estuaries. The Centre will be devoted to building capacity for marine innovation technology and ecological security in the region, while strengthening mutual cooperation between Hong Kong, the mainland and Western Pacific countries, further highlighting China's contribution to the region.
Professor Leung said he was delighted that CityU had been entrusted with this important task by UNESCO and sincerely thanked the national and Hong Kong SAR governments for their strong support in making the application a success. “The establishment of the Centre will also promote Hong Kong's integration into the national development strategy, support Hong Kong in becoming an international I&T hub, and help share good stories about China and Hong Kong,” Professor Leung added.
The UNESCO-IOC established the WESTPAC in 1989 to promote international cooperation, to coordinate ocean research, observation and service programs, to develop the capacity in the Western Pacific and adjacent regions to better understand the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas, and to promote sustainable development and marine environmental protection. Currently, WESTPAC has 22 member-countries. The 14th Intergovernmental Meeting was a statutory meeting of WESTPAC, bringing together government agencies, the marine science community, and other stakeholders in ocean interests to promote the integration of marine science and policy, advance ocean science development and cooperation, and enhance the relevant technology and institutional capacity to address the challenges facing sustainable development in the Western Pacific and neighbouring regions. Attending the meeting were experts, scholars, government officials, and international organization officials from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States, Russia, France and Indonesia.
About the SKLMP
The SKLMP at CityU has been committed to becoming an important international research Centre for marine environmental research since its establishment in 2010, contributing to the protection and management of the marine environment. The laboratory brings together outstanding researchers from eight local universities in Hong Kong engaged in marine research to address the significant threats posed by marine pollution to the environment and public health.