I am honoured to take up the position of Director of the newly created UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). Leading this new institute, which is being formed by the consolidation of UNU-ISP and the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies, is an exciting challenge and a unique opportunity.
UNU-IAS is very fortunate to be building on the strong foundations of these two previous institutes, and of more than 35 years of UNU academic activities here in Tokyo. Both UNU-ISP and the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies made important contributions with their research, which was highly valued by our partners and stakeholders worldwide. This included topics as varied as climate and ecosystem change, biodiversity, natural disasters, human development, education for sustainable development, sustainable consumption and production, traditional knowledge and governance.
Similarly, their teaching and capacity development programmes benefited thousands of participants. In recent years the institutes launched their own master’s and doctoral degree programmes, whose graduates are already applying the scientific knowledge and practical skills they developed here at UNU.
It is both a privilege and a responsibility to inherit such a broad portfolio of activities and expertise. By consolidating and combining the resources of UNU-ISP and the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies, our goal is to strengthen and bring renewed focus to these activities, increasing their impact. The governing Council of UNU has welcomed the creation of UNU-IAS as an opportunity to leverage the strengths of the two previous institutes, and better serve UNU’s stakeholders in Japan and worldwide.
Under my leadership the mission of UNU-IAS will be to serve the international community through policy relevant research and capacity development focused on sustainability, including its social, economic and environmental dimensions. The activities of the institute will be in three thematic areas: human development, natural capital and biodiversity, and global change and resilience. The institute will remain fully committed to postgraduate teaching on these topics, in close collaboration with leading universities.
I will be placing a strong emphasis on enhancing our international engagement, particularly by developing stronger links with the UN policy community and raising the visibility of our research. As one example, 2014 will be a critical year for the international community to build consensus on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, and UNU-IAS will actively contribute to this process.
At the same time, we must strive to develop further collaboration with our partners here in Japan, including the national government and local governments. We are very fortunate to receive generous support from them, and we have an important responsibility to engage with our local audiences.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the partners and funders of both UNU-ISP and the Institute of Advanced Studies for their generous support. I am looking forward to building upon these relationships and further strengthening our collaboration in the months and years ahead. Sincere thanks are also due to the members of the advisory boards and the UNU Council for providing invaluable support and guidance over the years. I would also like to express my appreciation to the previous directors of the two institutes for building the hard-working and dedicated team which UNU-IAS inherits from them.
With its unique focus, expertise and approach, UNU-IAS has great potential to make important contributions towards addressing the difficult and pressing challenges of global sustainability. I am looking forward to the challenge of realising this potential, and leading the institute to further growth and success. In doing so, I strongly welcome your support and cooperation. I am confident that, by working together, we can help build a sustainable future.
20 January, 2014