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IDJ-ENGLISH-Key to the Sustainable Development of the Indo-Pacific


Editorial Report Point of View

Commencement of “The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science”
Key to the Sustainable Development of the Indo-Pacific


Dr. Atsushi Sunami,President, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation

“The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development ”, which was declared at the UN General Assembly in 2017, started this year. Until 2030, the development of observation networks and the promotion of scientific research necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be promoted under the leadership of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). How will Japan’s science and technology diplomacy develop? Dr. Atsushi Sunami, Editorial Board Member of the International Development Journal, shares his views.

Expectations toward Japan’s Leadership

The UN Decade of Ocean Science was proposed by the UNESCO-IOC to the UN General Assembly based on the recognition that it is essential to focus on research in oceans that still have many unknowns left behind in the realization of SDG14 (oceans) and SDG13 (response to climate change). In order to advance observation and research, the viewpoint of ocean policy, which includes knowledge about social science, is also indispensable in terms of social implementation that connects results to the SDGs.
In addition, issues related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as discussions on marine genetic resources and marine reserve areas at the UN Intergovernmental Conference on the preservation and sustainable use of the Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), and even the issue of marine plastic litter, require the enhancement of solid scientific knowledge based on natural scientific research. At the same time, in the development of concrete measures, on top of research on maritime policy, solutions from the perspective of science, technology and innovation (STI) are also necessary.
In Japan, a maritime based and science- and technology-oriented country, the promotion of such ocean science is an important issue that is the foundation of maritime policy, and is directly linked to the development of Japan’s science and technology diplomacy. In particular, in February, 2021, a National Committee was established to promote our contribution to the UN Decade of Ocean Science, as Japan is expected to demonstrate its leadership in science and technology diplomacy. This committee, co-chaired by Shigeki Sakamoto, a Chairman of the Japan Society of Ocean Policy, and I, are expected to substantially take on the role of science and technology diplomacy centered around ocean science in cooperation with similar committees in other countries.
U.S. also plays a more active role in science and technology diplomacy
As mentioned above, Japan is currently required to maintain its presence in the international community by using science and technology diplomacy as an important tool for diplomacy, to help solve global issues, work with allies, and in responding to the security environment. By the same token, active development of such science and technology diplomacy is also being seen in other advanced countries.
In particular, the US Biden Administration has been actively engaged in diplomacy, with former Secretary of State, John Kerry, as its special envoy, making global warming countermeasures one of its top issues, and the US has also actively cooperated with China, which is competing for hegemony. Jane Lubchenco, a former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was appointed head of climate change action at the Office of Science, Technology and Policy (OSTP), the Biden administration’s science and technology control tower, is a prominent ocean scientist. This also shows how important ocean science is to the Biden Administration.
Furthermore, in the future, competition will emerge between each country as they compete for leadership toward the target of “zero emissions”. Under such circumstances, the STI for SDGs, which Japan has led at the UN, with the aim of contributing to global issues, will be more necessary than ever, especially the promotion and utilization of ocean science.
The use of technology in marine waste and Arctic policy
The promotion and utilization of ocean science is particularly expected for solutions to the problem of marine plastic waste. “The Marine Plastic Litter Countermeasures Action Plan” formulated by the Japanese government ahead of the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” at the G20 Osaka Summit in June, 2019, also provided a description of science and technology.
In order to realize a “world that does not create new pollution,” the contribution from science and technology has been shown, including recognition of the actual situation, enhancing scientific knowledge, developing materials that have less impact even if they flow into theoceans, and promoting innovation. In addition, the Action Plan mentions the contribution to the effective prevention of the outflow of marine plastic waste in developing countries and other countries. It also aims to link science and technology initiatives to the development of science and technology diplomacy.
Expectations are also high for Arctic policy. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has been promoting “The Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project (ArCS)“ since 2015, and “ArCSⅡ” since 2020, with plans to hold the third Arctic Science Ministers’ Meeting in Tokyo in 2021. Through this meeting, Japan’s leadership in solving policy issues in the Arctic Ocean from the scientific and technological side is anticipated. In addition, contributions to the “Zero Greenhouse Gas Emission nets by 2050”, which Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, expressed in October, 2020, is also expected to propose mitigation measures from the perspective of ocean science such as blue carbon.
Expanding collaboration with the U.S., Australia and India
Ocean science as a form of science and technology diplomacy also plays an important role in the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP). It is significant to collaborate in the field of ocean science in the Quad cooperation between Japan, the U.S., Australia and India. Japan, the U.S. and Australia have already cooperated in the field of observation, and it is important to further expand the quality and scale of this research in the future, as well as to advance cooperation with India.
In the stable development of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, understanding the ocean situation using satellites as a collaboration between marine science and space technology will contribute not only to security, but also to disaster prevention and the eradication of “illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries”. Similarly, cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), particularly in the maritime field, including the promotion of a blue economy with Indonesia, will have a significant impact.
On the other hand, cooperation with Pacific island nations, which have a significant influence in international public opinion on the oceans, is an important diplomatic issue for Japan. Palau, for example, will host an international conference called “Our Ocean” created by U.S. Envoy John Kerry during his time as a Secretary of State, this year for the first time in the island nation. With this background, cooperation in the field of ocean science is expected to have a significant impact at the 9th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM9) to be held this year.
In combating climate change, it is important for Japan to actively promote dialogue with China in promoting ocean science, as the U.S. and China have agreed to cooperate with each other. There is already a bilateral agreement on marine plastic waste between Japan and China. I think it significant that ocean science will lead Japan-China science and technology cooperation, on the foundation of *Sino-Japanese cooperation that has been built up so far.
The Basic Act on Ocean Policy, enacted in 2007 as a response to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, states in Article 4 (Enhancement of Scientific Knowledge on the Oceans) that “in view of the many fields in which the oceans are not scientifically understood, scientific knowledge on the oceans must be enhanced.”
In response to new international issues, such as the marine plastic waste and the Arctic environment, Japan’s science and technology leadership is expected. It is possible to lead the international community while maintaining Japan’s international position in science and technology in the marine field. Japan, a maritime nation and science and technology nation, will play a leading role in the success of “the UN Decade of Ocean Science”, which will also greatly contribute to the further development of science and technology diplomacy, an important pillar of Japanese diplomacy.
“International Development Journal”, June edition, 2021


視点 国際開発ジャーナル 論説委員


論説委員 角南 篤 (公財)笹川平和財団 理事長


さらには今後、「ゼロエミッション」をターゲットに各国が指導権争いにしのぎを削る姿が視野に入る。そうした中で、我が国が国連でもリードしてきたSTIによる地球規模課題への貢献を目指すSTI for SDGs、とりわけ海洋科学の推進と利活用はこれまで以上に求められるようになるだろう。
他方、海洋に関する国際世論で大きな影響力を持つ太平洋島嶼(しょ)国との協働は、我が国の重要な外交課題である。例えばパラオは、米国のケリー特使が国務長官時代に作った「Our Ocean」という国際会議を、今年、島嶼国では初めてホストする。こうした背景からも、今年開催される第9回太平洋・島サミット(PALM9)では海洋科学分野での協力には大きな意味を持つと考えられる。


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