On Thursday, 18 April, new United Nations University Rector David Malone met with Japanese journalists at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
With the aid of an interpreter, Rector Malone addressed an audience of more than 20 persons, including journalists from several major Japanese newspapers, to “explain a little bit about the UN University and why our presence in Tokyo, beyond being good for the UN University, may also be helpful for Japan”.
The Rector acknowledged that, although the UNU Headquarters has been based in Tokyo for almost four decades, UNU remains “not very well known” among the Japanese public. He attributed this, in part, to a past tendency by UNU here to prioritize English-language rather than Japanese-language media — a focus that he intends to change.
After summarizing the history of UNU — why it was created and why Japan was selected as the site of UNU Headquarters — Rector Malone explained briefly about the global UNU system, the focus of UNU’s work, and the University’s governance structure. He then spoke about UNU’s postgraduate teaching programmes, which were launched in 2010.
To watch Rector Malone’s presentation, click on the video link below.
Rector Malone said “Japan has been a very generous host of the UN University. It helped with a very generous contribution to launch our endowment fund, which has grown significantly since 1975” through further contributions by other countries, and “has supported a lot of our research work and various research projects, particularly in fields relating to sustainable development”. UNU projects supported by Japan have allowed it to reach into top-rank research communities and institutions in Africa and throughout Asia.
The Rector made the point that a number of other international players (including the EU and Sweden) contribute as much or more than Japan to UNU’s research programme, underscoring significant fund-raising successes internationally for UNU in recent years. In sum, by generously supporting UNU, Japan is in excellent international company.
In closing his remarks, Rector Malone revealed that he when he was appointed, he “was given a strong message by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and also by the Director-General of UNESCO” that UNU must make an effort to connect its work “more closely with the needs, in terms of research and policy development, of the United Nations…. We will be working very hard on that in the next five years”.
Unlike “an academic university, which can pursue knowledge for its own sake, a think tank is generally focused on how its research can be useful to society and, in our case, international society”. Going forward, Rector Malone said, UNU will “only work on research that can be useful to policy. If it cannot be useful to the development of policy, nationally and internationally, for Member States of the UN, we shouldn’t be doing it“.
After a question-and-answer session, which covered topics such as UNU’s plans for new institutes in the Middle East and developing countries, the concept of “human development” versus mere “economic development” and the growing importance of knowledge-centred development, and UNU’s education programmes in the area of environment, the briefing adjourned, allowing Rector Malone to speak informally with individual journalists.