On 15 January 2016, UNU-IAS and Keio University held a symposium on The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Transforming Japan and the World at the UNU Headquarters in Tokyo.
Norichika Kanie (Senior Research Fellow, UNU-IAS; Professor, Keio University) provided a detailed report on the activities of the “Project on Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015”. He noted the key facets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including their three-tiered function of connecting the Goals to sets of targets and related indicators of progress. He explained that while the goals may not be legally binding, implementation can be monitored and progress measured. The fact that metrics of progress can be measured over time is a strong incentive for performance when this becomes a topic of interest by the global public-at-large.
Atsuyuki Oike (Ambassador, Assistant Vice-Minister/Director-General for Global Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan) reviewed some of the key international negotiations related to environment and development in 2015. He noted that new types of ideas had been born out of the SDG formulation process. He called the scope of the changes revolutionary in their implications, and outlined some of the questions that need to be posed about the organizational system that should be created, how goals will be prioritized and linked, and stakeholders engaged.
Oike argued that 2015 was a transformative year. In particular, thinking on sustainability has come to embed scientific research via the role of the Open Working Group process and the institutionalization of a new kind of discourse rarely before deployed in diplomatic documents. The process of policy formulation has come to be linked to scientific evidence via review and feedback mechanisms in new ways. Working groups and the potential for information and communication technologies to involve the general public are notable in this respect.
Keizo Takemi (Member of the House of Councillors) delivered his keynote speech on the topic of human security approaches to global health. He outlined the dual strategy entailing empowerment and protection involved in the promotion of human security and links to the Abe Government’s initiatives on global health being developed for the May 2016 Ise-Shima G7 Summit. Takemi quoted Prime Minister Abe’s Lancet article “Japan’s vision for a peaceful and healthier world”, which draws attention to key aspects of the SDGs and their link to the concept of human security. He saw this as evidence of convergence in the understanding among the global community, indicating the long-term impact of Japan’s global diplomacy.
The symposium concluded with a message that although SDGs present big challenges, they offer Japan a valuable opportunity to take on a greater leadership role in the global arena. This will be determined by the speed with which the Japanese government, business and society as a whole can internalize the goals and integrate them into their daily conduct. At the same time, Japan’s long-term support for research in areas relevant to SDGs is and will continue to be recognized by the international community. As gleaned from the experience of pioneering the concept of human security, Japan’s soft power has a great potential to make a difference globally, while raising Japan’s international profile.
Presentation slides are available for download here.
To view videos of the speeches, presentations and discussions of the event, please visit the POST2015 project website.