ASEAN and the United Nations University (UNU) today signed a MoU to further strengthen cooperation on sustainable development.

H.E. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN, and H.E. Dr. Hans J.A. van Ginkel, Rector of the UNU signed the document at the UNU Office in Tokyo.  Secretary-General Ong is in Tokyo on a 4-day official visit as guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Since 1998, ASEAN and the UNU have been collaborating on various activities and projects to strengthen sustainable development. These include promoting synergy and coordination in the implementation of the multilateral environmental agreements, bio-safety (addressing the safety concerns of genetically modified organisms), urban environmental governance, and better management of protected areas. The MoU builds upon these past achievements and aims to further strengthen cooperation between ASEAN and the UNU.

ASEAN, as it endeavors to establish the ASEAN Community by the year 2020, is striving for a clean and green ASEAN with fully established mechanisms for sustainable development to ensure the protection of the region’s environment, the sustainability of its natural resources and the high quality of life of its people.

Secretary-General Ong stated during the signing ceremony that ASEAN and its 10 Member Countries are fully aware of the need to have a good balance between economic growth and sustainable development.  “ASEAN, therefore, welcomes the growing ties and collaboration with the UNU, especially in research and capacity building in the various technical issues concerning sustainable development, and trade and environment,” said Mr. Ong.

UNU Rector van Ginkel said that the UNU has the expertise and the good connection with top-level universities and research institutes around the world to support ASEAN’s efforts in achieving growth with sustainable development. 

He pointed out that it is now necessary for ASEAN Member Countries to have a good understanding of all pertinent issues in trade and environment, and to develop their capacity in order to negotiate them in international forums efficiently. The WTO, UNCTAD and the Swiss Government are keen to support capacity building in developing countries in this highly complex area, he added.

ASEAN and the UNU will also look into new areas of collaboration, including training in ASEAN Member Countries on trade and environment, which will soon be tackled in the WTO negotiations, and ASEAN-UNU lecture series at the ASEAN Secretariat and in ASEAN Member Countries, and ASEAN fellowships for ASEAN scholars to conduct advanced research at the UNU’s Institute of Advanced Studies in Tokyo.  The Institute specializes on research into biodiplomacy, science and technology for developing countries, urban ecosystems, sustainable development governance, and education for sustainable development.

Secretary-General Ong and Rector van Ginkel also agreed to look into the possibility of tripartite cooperation among ASEAN, UNU and ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, particularly Japan, Australia and New Zealand to support the establishment of the ASEAN-UNU fellowship programme on sustainable development.