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UNU launches new academic institute in Tokyo

Jan 18th, 2009 | By admin | Category: Featured Articles, In Focus

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On 1 January 2009, the United Nations University formally established a new research and educational institute located in Tokyo: the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP). UNU-ISP was created by combining the research and training activities of the UNU Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD) Programme and UNU Peace and Governance (P&G) Programme, which since 1997 have functioned as part of UNU Centre – Tokyo, and the UNU Capacity Development Programme that was overseen by the Office of the Rector.

Conceived by UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder, the establishment of UNU-ISP was formally approved by the governing UNU Council at its 55th Session in December 2008. The intent is to give an institutional identity and profile to the integrated academic activities of the ESD and P&G Programmes, as well as to clarify the structure and administrative/coordination role of the headquarters unit of UNU Centre. UNU-ISP, under the directorship of UNU Vice-Rector Kazuhiko Takeuchi, becomes the 14th in the UNU’s global network of Research and Training Centres and Programmes (RTC/Ps).

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. With escalating environmental issues (such as global climate change, the double energy threat and the looming food crisis) profoundly impacting human security, especially in the poorest countries, there is a need for an institute that can bridge the cross-cutting issues of sustainability and peace through a comprehensive and integrated approach.

While there are hundreds of peace institutes and environmental institutes around the world, UNU-ISP is unique in that its innovative approach to sustainability combines both of these topics. UNU-ISP aspires to achieve a greater understanding of the broad, intersecting themes that extend across three of the most-pressing issues on the UN agenda — (i) global change and sustainability, (ii) international cooperation and development, and (iii) peacebuilding and security — and will actively roll out a series of research, educational and social-collaborative initiatives aimed at solving current problems and anticipating future challenges.

Under the “twin institutes” framework envisaged by the UNU Rector, by which each UNU institute in a developed country will work with a twin partner in a developing country, UNU-ISP will dynamically develop and engage in activities in Africa in partnership with the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), located in Accra, Ghana. A first step towards this envisaged twinning will be a jointly implemented project on Education for Sustainable Development, which will receive financial support from the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Through this project, the UNU will serve as an intermediary to link relevant educational institutes in Japan and Africa, and will implement personnel development and educational programmes to support education for sustainable development in Africa.

In another initiative based on a decision by the 55th Session of the UNU Council in December, the UNU also is working to formalize the process for awarding accredited UNU degrees. UNU-ISP is already in discussions with top universities in Japan and other Asian countries for the initiation of joint graduate school programmes, and it is anticipated that master’s and doctorate degree programmes will be established at UNU-ISP in the near future. Such UNU-awarded degrees would be “transdisciplinary” in nature, with students taking courses on themes relevant to the UNU-ISP’s focus on sustainability and peace.

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