On Friday, 21 October, students from around the world graduated from the 2011 Intensive Core Courses (IC), during a ceremony organized by UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. The students spent the past six weeks studying international development, global change, international peace and security and the UN System. The IC is part of the UNU-ISP Master of Science (MSc.) in Sustainability, Development and Peace and aims to equip the next generation of international leaders with the skills needed to solve pressing global challenges.
In addition to core courses, students had the opportunity to participate in two thematic fieldtrips, as well as to attend international seminars and events at UNU, including lectures by the President of Colombia and the Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
During the closing ceremony, Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, UNU Vice-Rector and Director of UNU-ISP, congratulated the students on their successful completion of the courses. Over fifty students from thirty-six countries participated in the IC this year, meaning that tutorials and class discussions alike were enriched by the students’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
“Our students not only have diverse cultural backgrounds, but come from different professional backgrounds as well”, Takeuchi said. “What they share in common is their interest in issues of global concern and in finding solutions to meet the global challenges to human well-being.”
Prof. Takeuchi explained that the “increasingly rich tapestry of [contemporary] international society” has raised new questions about globalization. “Global policy making is no longer solely the role of nation-states, but has become increasingly complex, involving private sector and NGO actors as well as states.”
The IC has been specially developed in response to the “changing arena of international affairs” and the challenges this presents, he explained. The IC exposes participants to holistic and multidisciplinary perspectives, links theory with practice and places a strong emphasis on translating research into policy advice.
“See yourself as an agent of change. Whatever you are, don’t ever think you are too small. You can make a positive contribution…”
The closing ceremony and presentation of certificates was preceded earlier on 21 October by group presentations, where participants shared insights on pressing international issues affecting their local environments.
In one presentation entitled “Building Community Resilience for Climate Change Adaptation: African Perspectives,” for example, IC student Ms. Martha Kalemba, from Malawi, observed: “Africa is more prone to climate change, as it has less adaptive capacities. We should look at diversification of the economy instead, of dependency on natural resources.”
She suggested that “decentralizing the adaptation process and giving the poor their community back” could be part of the solution.
Other group presentations focused on sustainable agricultural development and traditional knowledge, clean energy solutions in Asia, aid and development, globalization, gender and poverty.
Following the IC graduation, around half of the participants prepared to return home; the remainder will continue with postgraduate (M.Sc.) study at UNU in Japan.
Dr. Obijiofor Aginam, Head of International Cooperation and Development at UNU-ISP, offered the new IC graduates a parting message: “I hope that from now on, as a result of your new knowledge, you will begin to see development not as a noun, but as a verb, driven in complex ways by multiple actors.”
“Today is not the end of IC, it is the beginning… See yourself as an agent of change. Whatever you are, don’t ever think you are too small. You can make a positive contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable development.”