Foreign Minister Kono’s hopes for generation of ‘digital natives’
Six university students visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which plays a leading role within the Japanese government in promoting SDGs, for a dialogue with Foreign Minister Taro Kono. While talking about their research and other activities in SDGs, the students expressed their hopes and the issues they faced as they exchanged views with Minister Kono.
Two of the students took part in the HLPF at U.N. headquarters in July to discuss what roles they should fulfill in moving toward achieving the SDGs.
Nanami Kado, a senior at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and Moeko Onuki, a sophomore at Keio University, talked about the importance of having the younger generations express their views while acknowledging the difficulties of having those opinions reach a forum where actual policy decisions are made.
In response, Kono said: “Since the Internet was already in existence when you were all born, you represent what can be called the ‘digital native generation.ʼ In that sense, you likely have few technological barriers or psychological apprehension to get in contact or join hands with people from abroad. I believe there will be an increasing number of opportunities in the future for such members of the younger generation to serve as a catalyst for influencing various matters. To do that, I hope that as a minimum you will be able to use English freely and preferably become fluent in at least another foreign language. I realize that is not an easy task.”
Ayaka Ohashi, a senior studying business management at Meiji University, has also been active in an organization that runs an overseas internship program. She asked Kono, “What do you believe will be important in having more Japanese companies become involved in SDGs in the future?” Kono said, “First, it will be important for companies to become involved in such goals as part of their ordinary business operations, rather than consider their activities in SDGs as simply one part of their corporate social responsibility. Another important factor will be having not only major companies, but also smaller companies actively engaged in those goals. In that sense, we have begun a project in cooperation with the Junior Chamber International Japan to have companies across Japan become more aware of the SDGs.”
Naomi Niwa, a junior at Sophia University, explained that through lectures on SDGs and peace building she became more aware of the importance of law in such issues. Kono said, “Japan has a tremendous shortage in lawyers who are active in the international community. I hope more people like you will play a greater role in the future.”
Two of the students indicated they would continue to be active in SDGs after finishing school. Hayato Tomisu, a senior at Ritsumeikan University, plans to establish his own company while also working for another company in Shiga Prefecture, where he is from. His company would be involved in transmitting ideas about SDGs. Satoshi Iiyama, a senior at the University of Tokyo, has developed an interest in contributing toward achieving the SDGs through his research related to accessibility for persons with mental, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.
Kono said their continued interest after university was very encouraging and added: “The main concept of the SDGs of leaving no one behind also means that there is something anyone can do to achieve the goals. While there may be various restrictions, such as social standing, where one lives and financial concerns, I hope that within such restrictions you will all think about what is most possible for you and develop the skills to allow you to act on those ideas. I also hope you transmit your eagerness to those around you to increase the number of those who will work alongside you.”
The encouragement received by the students from Kono apparently convinced them to continue with their various activities in their own unique ways. Tomisu said, “I have now become resolved that my role will be to center my activities in my local community.” Iiyama added, “I was happy to hear that the perspective and sensibilities of young people will serve as our strength.”
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