On 28 August 2020, UNU-IAS organised an online symposium to launch the UNU SDG–University Platform (SDG-UP), with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan. Panelists included leading experts from the private sector, local government and academia that led discussions on strengthening collaboration between Universities in Japan and international organisations. Over 500 people joined the event, which was organised in cooperation with Toyo Keizai Inc. and Wave LTD group.
In opening remarks, David Malone (Rector, UNU), and Naoki Himiya (Director, International Affairs Division, Minister’s Secretariat, MEXT) commended the collaborative initiative and expressed their expectation that it would offer opportunities for active discussions on the SDGs with its partners.
In the keynote speech, Prof. Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS), stressed that universities must take the lead in changing individual behaviour to realise a more resilient society, and that individuals and members are required to take actions to ensure a more sustainable future for all. She highlighted that SDG–UP was designed to respect the diversity of participating Universities and would create a platform for dialogue regarding challenges when promoting the SDGs as well as activities and achievements of its partners.
Takatsugu Kitajima (Secretariat Head, SDG–UP) introduced the “Times Higher Education Impact Rankings”, a ranking index that has been evaluating SDGs related activities conducted by Universities on a global level since 2019. He stated that SDG-UP planned to analyse this index and present their own opinions regarding evaluation criteria in the future.
A panel discussion introduced the significance of Japanese Universities striving to achieve targets under the SDGs, outlined what the private sector and local government should expect from Universities’ activities to achieve the SDGs, and the contributions and actions by Universities for positive change within their societies. Panelists included Makoto Gonokami (President, The University of Tokyo), Miki Sugimura (Vice-President, Sophia University), Takashi Matsuo (President, The University of Kitakyushu), Naoki Himiya (MEXT), Aya Ito (Partner, Sustainability Promotion Group. Recruit Holdings Co.,Ltd.), Daisaku Kadokawa (Mayor, Kyoto City), and Taikan Oki (Senior Vice-Rector, UNU and Project Manager, SDG Corporate Strategy Forum).
During the closing remarks, Professor Yamaguchi summarised the session highlights, paying particular attention to the opportunities offered for partners to exchange ideas and best practices in terms of working to achieve the SDGs. She further stated that the platform was expected to contribute to strengthening strategic partnerships and boost engagement between stakeholders and Universities in order to become more solution focused.
Established by United Nations University to enhance cooperation between Japanese Universities for the SDGs, the platform will increase members’ presence in international academic communities and contribute towards achieving the SDGs both locally and internationally.