March 28, 2019
On Feb. 14, 2019, the JICA Research Institute (JICA-RI) and the Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management co-hosted the "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Joint Conference" in Seoul, Korea to discuss and incorporate Asian perspectives into the Think 20 (T20) policy recommendations for the G20 Osaka Summit. Around 20 experts from Asia exchanged opinions on various topics related to the SDGs, particularly education, the private sector, technology and gender. The T20 Summit will be held in Tokyo from May 26 to 27, 2019. JICA-RI serves as the lead co-chair of Task Force 1, "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs)," which is one of the 10 Task Forces established for T20.
For the opening remarks, Wonhyuk Lim, associate dean of Office of Development Research and International Cooperation, KDI School of Public Policy and Management, welcomed the participants. He then presented the key points for creating a new development paradigm alternative to the Washington Consensus and provided an overview of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its limitations. He then introduced the trajectory of development dialogue from the G20 Seoul Summit 2010 into the post-2015 phase, and Korea's intellectual contributions made in response.
Izumi Ohno, director of JICA-RI, followed with a presentation on the eight priority areas of Japan's SDG-related initiatives, as well as JICA's efforts towards achieving the SDGs. She also provided an overview of this year's T20 structure and major topics and then introduced the six fields covered by the Task Force 1 on the SDGs: Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Education in Development, Sustainable Finance for Development, the Private Sector's Role for Achieving the SDGs, Technology Cooperation and Gender.
Nobuko Kayashima, vice president of JICA and principal research fellow at JICA-RI, made a keynote speech for Session 1, "Education as an Enabler to Achieve the SDGs." Kayashima emphasized that education is indispensable in achieving the SDGs and presented the progress made in SDG 4 (education) thus far. She explained that non-cognitive skills education, early childhood development (ECD) and girls' education are planned to be included into the G20 policy recommendations, then introduced specific examples such as JICA's "School for All” Project, teacher training, strengthening education in the sciences and mathematics fields, and promotion of sports days. One point made during the panel discussion was, as a lesson learned from past projects, the need to focus not only on enrollment rate but also on completion and retention rates in order to expand education quantitatively. Another point was that promoting digital skills and ECD education requires not only an educational approach but also collaboration with the sectors in charge of SDG 2 (improved nutrition), a crucial part of children's development, and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), particularly within the context of girls' education.
For Session 2, "Role of the Private Sector for SDGs Implementation," Kenichi Konya, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), introduced four challenges: 1) filling the gap between good intentions and real actions by business in SDG implementation, 2) conflicts between the current economic system (focusing on short-term profit maximization) and SDG thinking (prioritizing long-term societal benefits), 3) limited understanding among stakeholders how their interactions impact sustainable development, and 4) capacity constraints of developing countries to maximize benefits of their Global Value Chain (GVC) participation and avoid potential risks. For solutions, he suggested the need for: 1) embedding the SDGs into core business strategy and operations, 2) reshaping the economic system around the common purpose of sustainable development, 3) creating an ecosystem for shaping beneficial environment for all stakeholders, and 4) upgrading the enterprise and policy/regulatory capabilities of developing countries to maximize potential benefits of their participation in GVCs. The panel discussion revolved around Daewoo Group's contribution to the development of the Bangladesh textile industry through training of local human resources, and the efforts of Mars (U.S.) to include environmental and social responsibility indices as corporate performance indicators in addition to economic profits.
For Session 3, "Technology Cooperation for SDGs Implementation," Sachin Chaturvedi, director-general of the Research Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), introduced climate change, vaccine development and renewable energy as important issues in the areas of technology transfer through cooperation and intellectual property. The panel discussion addressed changing patterns of consumer needs accompanied by urbanization as seen in the rise of major E-Commerce in China. On the topic of intellectual property, panelists debated the need to treat some technologies as public goods. Panelists also argued the potential benefits of incorporating science and technology into education (e.g., creating detailed educational programs according to children's developmental stages) and agricultural development.
Margo Thomas, president of Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI) and associate fellow of Global Economy and Finance Department, Chatham House, was keynote speaker for Session 4, "Gender Development for SDGs Implementation." She gave an overview of women's economic empowerment and stressed the importance of women's participation in the labor, finance and digital fields as well as the need to develop indicators to monitor progress in both the public and private sectors. The panel discussion addressed the problem of unpaid work like housework and issues previously seen in Japan. It was also noted that in China, U.S. and the Nordic countries, the women's labor force participation rate by age has flattened out from M-shaped curve in the 1960s, yet is still an M shape in Korea, Japan and other East Asian countries, and that greater efforts are needed in the societies of these East Asian countries.
Overall, the conference was significant in that it shared interrelated issues from diverse perspectives and suggested solutions based on perspectives unique to Asian societies and cultures. The Task Forces will finalize respective policy briefs by the end of March 2019 to be incorporated into the policy recommendations (Communiqué) for G20.