Speech Transcripts

September 9, 2013

Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the United Nations University

Rector David Malone, Senior Vice Rector Kazuhiko Takeuchi, His Excellency Dr. Mollinari, Members of the Faculty, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and above all, in-coming students.

I am honored to have this opportunity to speak at the opening ceremony of these UNU programs. I feel particularly honored to attend this opening ceremony not only because I have had several occasions to work on UNU projects personally, but also because, as a former vice-president of the University of Tokyo, I have worked closely with Senior Vice-Rector Takeuchi in his efforts to help develop these postgraduate programs of the Institute for Sustainability and Peace. More substantively, I feel extremely honored to share my views with the students here determined to study "sustainability, development, and peace," as these are the core interests of JICA, too.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, is one of the largest bilateral providers of international cooperation activities. Our soft/concessional loan program is worth about 7 billion USD, grant aid program, 1.4 billion USD, and technical cooperation, 1.8 billion USD. With about 100 overseas offices throughout the world, JICA sends roughly 10,000 Japanese experts and volunteers abroad annually and receives about 30,000 JICA trainees in Japan. Under our vision of "inclusive and dynamic development," JICA has four missions: (1) addressing the global agenda, (2) reducing poverty through equitable growth, (3) improving governance, and (4) achieving human security. I think that the themes of the UNU-ISP postgraduate program are perfectly consistent with JICA's missions.

And indeed, these three concepts, sustainability, development, and peace, are the goals the United Nations has been striving for. And these are the goals that the global community has to articulate as we discuss concrete targets beyond 2015. When UNU-ISP launched its Master of Science program in sustainability, development and peace in 2010, it made the right and extremely relevant decision for the entire UN system. The students trained in this program will certainly contribute to the betterment of the global community as it strives for the post-2015 goals.

What are the characteristics of the present world?
We are witnessing a historic shift of economic power distribution that occurs only once in a few centuries. According to Professor Angus Madison's famous estimates, the share of Asia in global production was more than 50 percent in the 18th century; it went down to 18.6 percent in 1950. But it went up to 43.8 percent in 2008, and it is estimated to go up to more than 50 percent by 2030. Everyone knows about the remarkable rise of China. But in addition to China, we are now observing the rise of India, the rise of Southeast Asia, the rise of South Asia, the rise of Latin America, and the rise of Africa.

The growth of many economies has contributed to a historic reduction of extreme poverty. One of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals was to halve the population of people living on less than 1.25 US dollars a day between 1990 and 2015. This goal was achieved three years ahead of schedule. China alone lifted 510 million out of extreme poverty.

The growth that has been achieved is expanding global markets. The emerging and re-emerging economies are not just the workshops of the world; they are becoming the consumers of the world. Much of the foreign direct investment in developing countries is in the manufacturing sector, which is targeted at local markets as well as exporting to neighboring countries.

There are positive trends in international politics, too. The number of inter-state wars has declined markedly in the 21st century; even the number of civil wars has declined significantly since the beginning of the 21st century. We need to redouble our efforts to bring peace to such countries as Syria. But the world as a whole appears more peaceful now than the 20th century.

Obviously, however, we cannot be too complacent. There are many, many challenges. First, the rapid change of power distribution may challenge global governance. As emerging powers increase their stakes in global transactions, they are likely to assert viewpoints that are not necessarily similar to those of the status quo powers. How to create an effective mechanism for global decision-making that reflects the new and emerging distribution of economic power is one of the greatest challenges in this age of rapid power transition.

Second, expansion of economic size in many countries may bring about serious social problems if the expansion is not inclusive enough, that is, if the growth does not provide benefits to all segments of society. Unemployment and underemployment, especially of the youth, can pose serious social problems. Many successful countries have to take measures not to fall into "middle income traps." Without steady development in social safety nets, R&D capability, efficient tax systems, and other growth-generating conditions, these economies may not be able to go beyond "middle income" status. Other countries are overly dependent on minerals and natural resources. Despite an average annual growth rate of 5 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade, the ratio of the manufacturing sector in African GDP has actually fallen during the same period.

Third, despite the remarkable success of many countries, there are some countries that have not been able to get on an accelerated growth path. Fragile states have made limited progress on many MDG-related targets, and their challenges remain serious for the foreseeable future. Severe threats to "human security" still exist in many parts of the world. Particularly worrisome is the spread of extremist forces in many fragile states. The recent episode in Mali clearly demonstrates a case where terrorist or extremist groups took advantage of its fragile conditions in the north. Now the entire Sahel region is becoming vulnerable to activities of terrorists, extremists, or criminals.

We need to increase cooperation to counter the activities of terrorists, extremists, and criminals. In order to counter forces of instability, we need to create a society resilient to such uncivil activities. Peace-building in post-conflict or conflict-affected countries is especially important because about half of all civil wars are post-conflict situations gone wrong.

Fourth, the impact of climate change is real. Volatility of extraordinary climate phenomena appears to be on the rise. Disasters originating from the eco-system have devastating impacts throughout the world. Disasters know no borders, but fragile, poor and less peaceful countries tend to suffer more. Climate change may worsen already existing conflicts; the sudden change of climate patterns may destroy fragile equilibriums among conflicting parties and can precipitate open violence.

Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, the challenges of sustainability, development and peace are all inter-related. Despite this close inter-relationship, the three areas have often been approached separately. The High Level Panel Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda laments: "the MDGs fell short by not integrating the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development… and by not addressing the need to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production. The result was that environment and development were never properly brought together. People were working hard – but often separately – on interlinked problems."

In other words, the High Level Panel pointed out the existence of two groups of people, two groups of experts and professionals, or I would call them two tribes: a tribe of developmental studies and a tribe of environment studies. I would argue that there is another tribe: a tribe of peace studies. All of them have been contributing to our understanding of their respective fields. But they tend to work separately without thinking much about how to integrate their respective findings and insights into a coherent approach to tackle the global issues of sustainability, development and peace. We need to unify these three tribes. And, ladies and gentlemen, one of the ideal places to unite these tribes is the ISP and its post-graduate programs.

The General Assembly is fully engaged in setting-up the post-2015 goals of the global community. These goals should be agreed upon with consideration for sustainability, development and peace. My fellow students, you are in the right academic program to study and think about these global challenges.

I wish all of you well and good luck, and I am very much looking forward to working together with you to create the future we want.
Thank you.


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