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About the Project

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Outline

This project strives to address urgent political, economic, social, and environmental issues of the 21st century by generating a transdisciplinary community and program of research across Japan, ASEAN countries, and the rest of the world. We seek to bring together individuals from a wide range of disciplines and fields to conduct research on a diverse spectrum of environmental and social topics.

Objective

As we enter the 21st century, we face a growing number of pressing issues such as global environmental degradation, the expansion of economic disparities and poverty, cultural and religious conflicts, aging societies, spread of infectious diseases, and natural disasters that threaten the sustainability of human society. These issues are interrelated, and efforts to treat only their symptoms will have limited impact. We must rethink approaches to development that assume the existence of abundant resources, rely upon stable environments, and measure progress by narrow, nationalistic metrics, characteristic of 20th century modes of human development. In our research on the sustainability of human-environment relations, we explore the types of development that human society should be collaboratively pursuing in the 21st century. This research has revealed that Southeast Asian societies are full of the contradictions of 20th century development: they have achieved rapid economic development yet have become highly unequal, sustainable agricultural and forestry practices are accompanied by rapid resource extraction and environmental degradation, democratic governments have become increasingly authoritarian and vice versa, and multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies both include and exclude various groups. We believe that such contradictions are highly problematic but also hold great promise for the emergence of sustainable, democratic, equitable, and peaceful societies. We further believe that the relationship between Japan and ASEAN countries, via collaboration and engagement among scholars, activists, practitioners, and citizens, is crucial for achieving these goals.

The objective of this project is to strengthen the networks that underpin political and economic partnerships between Japan and Southeast Asian nations by systematically organizing a transdisciplinary community that brings together not only scholars, scientists, and engineers, but also policy makers, opinion leaders, and individuals from a wide range of disciplines and fields based in Japan, ASEAN countries, and elsewhere. Furthermore, we will make full use of the available information technology to disseminate results of our research to various stakeholders around the world in order to envision approaches to the development of human society based on a diversity of sustainable and harmonious social, economic, political, and environmental relations and possibilities.

Activities

We will carry out transdisciplinary research with the goal of contributing to the formulation of policy, design of institutions and systems, and maintenance of peaceful civil society. Specifically, we will work on the development of economic strategy to realize well-balanced, hybrid growth, strategy for creating a “care society” supported by a public sphere based on resilient, flexible governance and an intimate sphere with a flexibly social structure based on mutual prosperity and mutual aid, and strategy for natural resource management that promotes the cyclical use of the environment and resources.

To advance transdisciplinary research that integrates academic, governmental, and civil societies in a coordinated manner, we will establish an ASEAN Research Platform and create a collaborative research scheme that brings together the expertise of scholars on Southeast Asia, scientists and engineers, and the Japanese and ASEAN political and business communities.

To address the social, economic, and environmental problems of development in the 20th century, we will establish a global information network to disseminate the results of our transdisciplinary research to stakeholders around the world to promote models of social and environmental sustainability. To nurture the next-generation of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers, we will recruit exceptional young researchers from Japan, Southeast Asia, and the rest of the world. We will promote intellectual exchange among early career researchers to encourage their participation in research on sustainable human-environment relations in Southeast Asia, advance their own research agenda, and to plan and organize international workshops.