The symposium Thriving with Nature on Islands: Leveraging Their Multifaceted and Interconnected Characteristics was held on 22 May 2014 at UNU headquarters in Tokyo, marking the UN International Day for Biological Diversity. The event was one of many commemorative ceremonies held all over the world on this day, to increase awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. Co-organized by UNU-IAS, the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ), and the Global Environmental Outreach Centre, the symposium focused on this year’s international theme, island biodiversity.
Over 100 participants from governments, academic institutions, non-governmental and private sector organizations participated in the symposium, which included a keynote lecture, case reports, and a panel discussion. Junichi Shiraishi, Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, MOEJ, delivered the opening remarks. This was followed by a video message from Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, UNU Senior Vice-Rector, then presented a keynote speech entitled “Learning from Kerama National Park; How to Leverage the Resilience of the Island.” He explained how the Kerama Islands National Park should serve as a model of sustainability, maintaining a balance between human activities and the environment. Three case reports were then presented.
A panel discussion moderated by Shiro Wakui, Professor of Environmental and Information Studies, Tokyo City University, explored three issues:
The panelists agreed that preserving natural areas commonly used by islanders was as important as preserving the uninhabited wilderness of islands, and that a system to support the local community and its economic growth was essential. They noted the need for capacity development in the field of tourism, particularly for designation of World Heritage sites. Above all, the panelists emphasized that islanders should take pride in, and aspire to the continuation of island life.
In conclusion, Prof. Wakui emphasized that humans can play an important role in preserving island biodiversity, and people have enriched islands through interaction with those living in other regions. He reminded participants that we could protect island biodiversity as long as we remembered that islands had their own characteristics while remaining interconnected with one another.