On 1 November 2019, UNU-IAS held the symposium The Future of Policy-Oriented Research for Achieving the SDGs, to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for policy-oriented research, including how to co-design research. It brought together leading experts on the SDGs including Dr. Nebosja Nakicenovic, Project Leader of The World In 2050 project (TWI2050) and former Deputy Director of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).
The symposium was organised with the University of Tokyo, Future Earth Japan, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (NIES), and supported by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (1-1801&S-16) of the Ministry of the Environment Japan, SDSN-Japan, and the Global Environment Outreach Centre (GEOC). The symposium highlighted the contributions of UNU-IAS research to international policy processes, and marked the retirement of Prof. Kazuhiko Takemoto as Director of UNU-IAS, a post that he had held since January 2014.
In opening remarks, Taikan Oki (Senior Vice-Rector, UNU) congratulated Prof. Takemoto on his achievements in leading UNU-IAS towards policy-oriented research and broader regional and global exposure during his tenure. David M. Malone (Rector, UNU) commended Prof. Takemoto’s leadership in research on sustainable development, biodiversity and climate change, and in establishing postgraduate degree programmes in cooperation with the University of Tokyo and other partner universities.
A special lecture by Prof. Takemoto highlighted opportunities to further strengthen the contributions of UNU-IAS to the UN system and Member States through policy-oriented research and capacity building activities, and bridging science and policymaking in areas such as global and regional assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services. He also encouraged UNU-IAS to mobilize further the knowledge accumulated by its scientific networks on education for sustainable development (ESD) and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Dr. Nakicenovic delivered a lecture on the topic “Transformation towards achieving the SDGs and TWI2050”, stressing the importance of collective responsibility in the Anthropocene and developing synergies between the human security and planetary boundaries agendas. He outlined the potential and risks of digitalization and the need to build responsible knowledge societies capable of taking action towards sustainability in the “digital Anthropocene”.
A panel discussion was moderatd by Prof. Takemoto, who drew attention to the policy and governance aspects of implementing the 2030 Agenda. Tsuyoshi Fujita (National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan; NIES) introduced pilot studies for the localisation of the SDGs in Japanese cities, including policy scenario design process, smart communities, low carbon future scenarios and SDGs policy key indicators evaluation. Mahesti Okitasari (Research Associate, UNU-IAS) outlined global and regional progress on the SDGs, based on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted during 2016–2019. Hiromi Masuda (Programme Coordinator, UNU-IAS) highlighted challenges and innovative approaches for implementing the 2030 Agenda at the local level, including the Japanese SDGs Future Cities initiative, focusing on governance structures, the mainstreaming process and multi-stakeholder partnerships. Norichika Kanie (Senior Research Fellow, UNU-IAS and Professor, Keio University), underscored the role of integration and action coherency in achieving sustainable development. He further introduced the “governing through goals” approach for achieving the SDGs and innovative private governance processes in Japan. Kanako Morita (Visiting Research Fellow, UNU-IAS and FFPRI) addressed bridging science and policy to address complex issues, measuring actions, and sustainable financing.
Further discussion focused on how to achieve the SDGs, including digitalisation and climate change, the role of education, the importance of rule-making, and health perspectives. Concluding the symposium, participants emphasised the need to expand research from technology toward humanity and identify high-impact actions for achieving sustainable development.