【2020 Sophia University UN Weeks】Special Symposium for UN 75th Anniversary

~ Global Actions for Global Challenges: Pandemic, Global Warming, and Armed Conflicts ~ Hosted by Sophia University 12 October 2020

On October 12th, 2020, Sophia University invited Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, Under-Secretary-General for the Commemoration of the United Nations’ 75th Anniversary, and hosted an online English symposium: “Global Actions for Global Challenges: Pandemic, Global Warming, and Armed Conflicts.”

Professor Daisaku Higashi from Center for Global Education and Discovery of Sophia University, who has known Mr. Hochschild for a long time, invited Mr. Hochschild to the event, and he kindly accepted it. (The recording of the seminar is posted on the UN75 website. You can watch the whole session here.)

This symposium was organized by Sophia Institute for Human Security and co-hosted by Center for Global Education and Discovery, Sophia Institute of International Relations, and Sophia Human Resource Center for International Cooperation, with a cooperation from the UN Information Center in Tokyo. More than 750 people registered the event from all over the world. This event was also held as a part of 2020 Sophia University UN Weeks.

Chancellor Tsutomu Sakuma and Ms. Nemoto, UN Information Center

In the initial remark, Professor Tsutomu Sakuma, Chancellor of Sophia University, touched upon the close relationship between Sophia University and the UN, stating that he was looking forward to seeing this symposium as it would be a great opportunity for students and the youth to have an interest in contemporary global issues.

Introducing the Pope Francis’ visit to our university in November 2019, Professor Sakuma also emphasized that Sophia University has been dedicated to reconciliation between humans and nature and to overcome social and economic inequality as this symposium entails.

Ms. Kaoru Nemoto, Director of UNIC Tokyo, who also made an initial remark, showed her gratitude to Sophia University for carrying out the first UN 75th anniversary event in Japan for Mr. Hochschild to attend. She then mentioned: “We must look beyond what is happening in the world now and keep striving for a more sustainable world.”

Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, Under-Secretary-General

Mr. Hochschild delivered a keynote speech. Pointing out the profound impacts that the COVID-19 has brought on people’s health, economics, and climate change, he stressed to the participants that “the pandemic has had the biggest damage on the most vulnerable populations.”

Touching upon the weakening cross-national cooperation due to a resurgence of superpower friction and rivalry and a rise in isolationism, he argued that “There was never a time before when multilateral and global cooperation were as important as it is now – 75 years after the establishment of the UN and during the time of a global pandemic.”

Moreover, based on the UN75 survey of more than one million people across the world, Mr. Hochschild indicated that the overwhelming majority of the respondents said international cooperation would be necessary to resolve global challenges such as the pandemic and climate change; the results further emphasize that the United Nations needs to play a larger role in achieving the global cooperation.

Ms. Cecilia Cannons

Ms. Cecilia Cannons, the Academic Advisor to the UN commemoration of 75th Anniversary, reported the results of the UN75 survey which was conducted in all over the world.

She expressed her appreciation to Sophia University students for submitting 1727 answers, marking the largest number in all universities in the world that partook in the survey. Then, she provided a thorough explanation on the responses from our university compared to the responses in the global context, the Eastern & Southeast Asian context, and Japanese context.

As the first priority to be pursued by the international community after the pandemic, respondents from our university indicated “access to healthcare,” which was the same as in the global context. Additionally, although Sophia students indicated “less conflict” as what is most expected to be achieved in the next 25 years, responses in both the global and the Eastern & Southeast Asian contexts indicated “environmental protection.”

Prof. Sali Augustine and Prof. Taro Komatsu

Subsequently, Professor Sali Augustine, Executive Managing Trustee for General Affairs, and Professor Taro Komatsu, Director of Center for Global Education and Discovery, made their comments.

Professor Augustine first emphasized the UN’s accomplishments, who has been taking a leading role in advocating basic human rights, including the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for the past 75 years since its establishment.

Touching upon the rise in protectionism, isolationism, and exclusive nationalism which have been brought to the surface due to the COVID-19, he asked Mr. Hochschild: “How can the UN become an effective instrument in further promoting and providing human security, international cooperation, and human values?”

Professor Komatsu introduced that Sophia University has been providing global learning opportunities for a greater number of students through new online sessions in cooperation with other universities abroad, despite a considerable impact on our overseas programs due to the pandemic. He then posed a question to Mr. Hochschild: “What are some strategies that the UN and some developing nations have to help develop the digital infrastructures in less privileged countries, where there is a lack of internet access?”

Q&A session with students

Moreover, Ms. Sabrina Carlos from Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, Ms. Alexandra Prudente from the National University of Malaysia, Mr. Kohistani Ahmad from Afghanistan (an exchange students at Kyusyu University at the time of the symposium), and Ms. Naho Kimura from the Faculty of Liberal Arts in Sophia University posed questions to Mr. Hochschild.

Ms. Carlos addressed the difficulty of accomplishing SDGs during the time of the global pandemic. Ms. Prudente discussed the environmental degradation, including deforestation, flooding, and habitat destruction in Malaysian Borneo, asking “How can the world stop destroying the forest?” to Mr. Hochschild.

Ms. Kimura asked a question regarding the UN’s response to psychological damage to its staff working during the COVID-19 outbreak. Mr. Ahmad touched on the on-going peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban, asking “How is the UN going to be involved in the Afghan peace talks from now on?” Furthermore, Ms. Maki Kato from an international NGO called Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) asked “What are the meanings and values of the projects run by NGOs and civil society aimed at reconciliation and coexistence at grassroots level to the peacebuilding process as a whole?”

Mr. Hochschild thoroughly answered each of the questions. He first emphasized that while the international norms that underpin the SDGs have been well established, the key is about “how” to implement those norms in practice. Also, he indicated that the alleviation of inequality in our digitalized society should be one of the most important challenges for the UN. He also emphasized that The UN has been forced to take prompt measures on psychological issues as well as economic sufferings as the pandemic has deteriorated human conditions.

Mr. Hochschild continues, “in order to achieve peace, as seen in the case of the Afghan peace negotiations, both the peace agreement on a large scale and the peacebuilding at grassroots level are indispensable, and the UN has been taking continuing efforts to fulfill both of the roles.” He also emphasized that the UN is strengthening cooperation not only with its member states but also with many NGOs, civil society, and private companies; the UN is further striving to become a catalyst for those different actors to respond to global challenges.

Prof. Daisaku Higashi

Finally, Professor Daisaku Higashi, who organized and moderated this symposium, spoke to the audience: “The global challenges we are currently facing are not something one country can tackle by itself – they require global actions. Though what I can contribute as an individual might be very modest, I am doing my best to call for Japan to take a leading role in financial contributions to the COVAX facilities, global framework for COVID-19 vaccines, and hosting some world-wide conference to empower COVAX in my continuous presentations to parliament members. I hope that this symposium will serve as an opportunity for you to think about what you can do as an individual to contribute to resolving the global issues in your own way.”

Mr. Hochschild concluded the symposium stating: “Getting to know through this symposium today that so many young people across the world are actively engaged with global issues and demanding and contributing to changes, makes me optimistic about the future. Despite all the difficulties that we have, I hope that we will all come together to address the global challenges now.”

Tweeted by UN

Following the symposium, on October 18th, 2020, NHK TV news program “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima (Now I Understand! The World Now)” featured the UN 75th anniversary and broadcasted this symposium, introducing some of the comments by Mr. Hochschild and Ms. Naho Kimura from our university. Several million Japanese watched the program.

The recording of the symposium was also posted on Join UN75 YouTube channel and shared by its Twitter.

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