Main Theme: Universities and Global Risks
With the acceleration of globalization since the end of the 20th century, it has become more clear that some of the issues that we assumed to be country or region-specific are in reality problems that we face on a global scale. It is no surprise to find what we formerly recognized as local issues and handled independently, take for example air and water pollution, are concurrently appearing elsewhere around the world. It also came to light that some of the affluence enjoyed by individuals or societies in one part of the world are the cause of pollution and ultimately posing threats to other societies and its people. Similarly, it is now recognized that many problems, such as climate change, are themselves global in scale. Once we realize that the countries and societies creating such problems and the ones being affected and damaged are different parties, we may perceive these problems as contributors to inequality in the world.
Universities around the world, including those in Japan and Mexico, have been leading technological innovation as hubs of knowledge. In one sense, emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has paved the way to bringing new knowledge to our civilization by liberating humans from certain types of labor as well as preparing the way for a data-driven society. However, we are faced by the question of whether these “achievements” produced by humans have the ability to provide unconditional support and service to human beings and their societies. We must not keep our eyes off of the fact that while technological innovation bring great benefits to our society, it also is a source of economic and social disparity.
What can Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) do to address these situations we face today? One of the missions of HEIs is to be a center of research among the diverse fields. In becoming the driving force of technological innovation, it is needless to say that it is crucial for HEIs to promote research within the field of natural sciences to understand the practical needs in human society. At the same time, in order to think of ways on how to effectively adapt such innovation into the society, HEIs should also promote intellectual activities in the humanities and social sciences fields, rediscover and recreate the value of what it means to be a human being, and then share the findings to the society. It is also key to establish a framework that fosters active exchange of ideas and discussions among researchers from Japanese and Mexican HEIs, who have different linguistic and cultural backgrounds – possibly sparking new chemical reactions in the process. The Japanese and Mexican HEI researchers should observe the society from the macro perspective, while also having the micro perspective, to envision the future and think of the concrete actions that are to be taken.
Another mission of HEIs is to nurture the next generation. It is key to support growth of those who are able to cultivate the knowledge and wisdom from our predecessors, as well as those who can apply the research results into the society. These next generation leaders should not only pursue what is technically feasible, but also embrace the diversity of cultures on this planet, and be able to understand and respect the different values from one’s self. It can be said that cultures of Japan and Mexico share a characteristic of having a diverse cultures combining the academic and cultural achievements of modern societies, with the fundamental culture unique to each country that has existed for thousands of years. What kind of framework would be effective in fostering collaborative learning environment for the young generation of the two countries? It is no question that each HEIs has made efforts in finding the effective ways in achieving this, and if such experiences can be shared at this Summit, we can expect to be able to provide an even more fulfilling opportunities for our students.
Based on these fundamental ideas, we would like to discuss the following four areas.
Sub1: Future direction of international exchange and educational activities between Japan and Mexico (e.g. sharing experiences after the COVID 19 pandemic) – Session 1
The path to solving the issues of global society, which were laid out in the main theme, is heavily reliant on how successfully universities raise awareness of students, leaders of the next generation, as well as on the actions they take. How can universities develop student mobility and academic exchanges between Japan and Mexico in such ways that lead students to take concrete actions? In considering this, the hope is to share ideas and experiences on how to develop innovational programs that go beyond the traditional student exchange.
Sub2: Issues of social fragmentation and inequality – Session 2
While technological innovation including emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), liberating humans from certain types of labor, has brought an economical and social development on a global scale, this has also created a new form of economic and social disparity in parts of the world including Japan and Mexico. It can be said that social division and inequality, related to ethnicity, gender and social class, have generated several problems and conflicts with human rights. Nevertheless, human society is still unable to eliminate such inequalities even if they conflict with such fundamental rights – nor has it been able to remedy the multi-layered social divisions that can occur alongside. These are fundamental factors that, by themselves, also directly lead to various global risks. The aim of this session is to bring ideas on what role universities should play in finding technological innovation that is desirable for humanity, and rediscovering and recreating the value of what it means to be a human being.
Sub3: Environmental issues, climate change, sustainable society – Session 3
A sustainable human society is dependent on how successfully human beings face the fundamental challenges in maintaining the global environment we live in. In relation, environmental issues, climate change, and sustainability are emerging on top of the agenda for HEIs around the world, including those in Japan and Mexico. By sharing examples of the most up-to-date initiatives taken by the universities of both countries on these universal issues, the aim is to deepen the discussion on what form the multilayered cooperation between universities of Japan and Mexico should take and how it should be developed in the next years to come.
Sub4: Future directions for international joint research between Japan and Mexico – Session 4
Collaboration between researchers from both countries with different backgrounds and standpoints has the potential to creatively bring in new perspectives to research activities. What kind of schemes and support measures will be effective in promoting this collaboration? What are some of the barriers that hinders this? What kind of framework is needed to support the researchers from HEIs in Japan and Mexico – those who can cultivate the wisdom from our predecessors, learn from one another and grow together? It is desirable that this session fosters exchange of ideas, including each side sharing their own creative experiences and trials, that may lead to further development of research exchanges between Japan and Mexico.