JAPAN: UNU's new research and education institute

The United Nations University has established a new research and education institute in Tokyo - the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace. A university release said the idea for an institute had been conceived by Rector Konrad Osterwalder and formally approved by the university's governing council in December. The institute became operational on 1 January under the directorship of Vice-Rector Kazuhiko Takeuchi.

"The intent is to give an institutional identity and profile to the integrated academic activities of environment and sustainable development and peace and governance programmes at the UNU in Tokyo, as well as to clarify the structure and administrative-coordination role of the headquarters unit of UNU Centre," the release stated.

The institute would be the 14th in its global network of research and training centres and programmes. It had become evident that escalating environmental issues, such as global climate change, the double energy threat and the looming food crisis, were impacting on human security, especially in the poorest countries.

"The new institute will provide a unique opportunity to exploit the strengths in natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities of the two former thematic programmes, and to create transdisciplinary synergies that can more effectively address pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare," the university said.

The institute would bridge three of the most-pressing issues on the UN agenda - global change and sustainability, international cooperation and development, and peace-building and security. This would be achieved through a series of research, educational and social-collaborative initiatives aimed at solving current problems and anticipating future challenges.

"While there are hundreds of peace institutes and environmental institutes around the world, UNU-ISP is unique in its innovative approach to sustainability as the concept embraces not only environment and development, but also peace and security. [The institute's] work will provide entry points for joint collaboration with other UNU institutes, and for new cooperative relationships between UNU and the global academic and policy-making communities."

Under a new 'twin institutes' framework, each UNU institute in a developed country will build up a twin partner in a developing country. According to the university, the rationale is that by having a research institute with campuses in both a developed and developing country, UNU will be able to enhance its efforts in the developing world where its assistance and capacity development support are most needed.

The university said the new institute would implement this concept by "dynamically developing and engaging in activities in Africa" in partnership with the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa, located in Accra in Ghana. As a first step, it would act as an intermediary to link relevant educational institutes in Japan and Africa, and would implement personnel development and educational programmes to support education for sustainable development in Africa.