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Knowledge Co-Creation - Profiles of researchers

Global Sustainability - Creating the new fields of environmental studies and development studies

Shunji Matsuoka
Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies
Director, Institute for Global Development and Sustainability

"Social capacity" and "institutions" are inextricably linked

Since the early 1990s, within my research in international developmental cooperation and international environmental cooperation, I have worked to establish a model for "the development of social capacity and institutional change", a model that can become a new policy for international development.

In this context, the term "social capacity" exceeds the approach of micro-level capacity development, which is the process of people merely acquiring some kind of skill or knowledge. I believe that "social capacity" refers to the ability to actively connect aid with the development of developing society, or the formation of the society's problem-solving capacity by the entire society.

In international society after World War II, developed countries have injected large amounts of aid money into developing countries, competing with each other over a quantity index for such monetary amounts and results. However, political motivation for aid to developing countries was weakened by the end of the Cold War, and, at the same time, there was failure in the aid given to Africa. Due to these events, the phenomenon known as "aid fatigue" has begun to be seen among the donar countries of Western countries. In the 1990s, the harsh reality of class division and poverty has become even more apparent, while aid money from Europe and America has decreased. This marked a major turning point in international developmental cooperation.

From even before this turning point, the debate regarding capacity development has focused on issues such as the problem of capacity in the government and public sectors of developing countries which receive aid, and the problem of project management capacity. Upon entering the 1980s, this debate expanded towards an emphasis on public private partnerships, which are projects based on cooperation between the sectors. In other words, emphasis was placed on capacity development theory at a higher level of macro social capacity.

"Effective Environmental Management in Developing Countries" (published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) was written and edited by Professor Matsuoka. The book summarizes the formation of social capacity and institutional change.

Upon entering the 1990s, this kind of social capacity development showed emergence as a theme central to a new methodology that would demolish conventional boundaries. Personally, through opportunities presented by my association with project evaluation for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), I traveled to various regions of Southeast Asia and Africa. While performing survey activities in these regions, I got a first-hand look at the difficulty of performing projects that envelop the entire region, as well as the difficulty of producing results through aid.

My view of capacity development uses a macro-level approach, in other words, an approach based on the formation of capacity for society as a whole. An important aspect of this approach is the perspective towards changes in the micro-level, which is the actual behavior of people, and the macro-level, which is social capacity. These different levels must be viewed as being in a reciprocal relationship. Therefore, it is vital that the concept of "institutional change" be included in this perspective.

The keyword "institutional change" is related with the new academic approach known as "new institutionalism", an approach which originated in the fields of economics and political science. In this approach, the term "institution" refers not only to laws, but also includes the broader scope of customs and standards for behavior and thinking that have been historically formed by the region. Social capacity is constrained by institutions which already exist, and the two are inextricably linked. A reciprocal relationship exists in which improvements in social capacity make it possible for people to change institutions, and in which changes to institutions make it possible for people to further exert social capacity.

I believe that a model and methodology for correlating the "development of social capacity" with "sustainable social development" can be established only by grasping capacity development from this kind of macro perspective and by positioning the loop of micro and macro.

Figure 1: Total System of Social Capacity within Environmental Management and Institutional Change. A social environmental management system (SEMS) is composed of a reciprocal relationship between institutional change and social capacity environmental management (SCEM), which is formed by partnerships between government, citizens, and corporations. The system changes dynamically and is in a reciprocal relationship with socioeconomic conditions in the region, environmental quality, and external factors.

Researchers as litmus paper

Viewing actual conditions onsite is an important aspect of environmental and development work. Of course, academic work such as gathering and analysis of data must also be performed at the same time. However, it is vital to understand onsite occurrences and to grasp elements that can only be seen onsite. Therefore, it is necessary to travel to various sites and to carefully perform interview surveys with citizens and other related parties.

Survey of a rennovated well, part of a project for global warming and desertification in Mongolia (Dundgovi Province; November 27, 2008)

For example, the population of Kenya has increased explosively since the country gained independence in 1963. Along with this increase in population, destruction of forests has proceeded with at a rapid pace. In response, JICA implemented a social forestry project based on participation by villager living in the region. This kind of project is currently referred to as community forestry activities. However, it is difficult for members of the community to understand why they should work diligently to plant trees, an activity which does not produce immediate results. This is only natural, since people living in the region can acquire more benefit for their daily lives by clearing forest to create a field and grow food. Another difficulty of such a project is that work is performed by farmers who are by no means forestry professionals.

Naturally, even when visiting the same site, some people will be able to grasp important points, while other people will overlook these points. The difference between these two types of people is the amount of studying that they have done. It is not enough to simply visit various sites. In both environmental and developmental fields, it is necessary to obtain the required knowledge, gain experience in surveying, and foster keen perception in yourself.

Researchers are like litmus paper. Therefore, when visiting various sites, it is desirable to place yourself in as neutral a state as possible. Long periods of visitation are necessary under severe conditions, so it is important to pay close attention to your health. For example, in a village of the Punan tribe in Sarawak, Malaysia, mud has flowed into the village as a result of forest destruction, and the water of the river has become muddy. However, it is necessary to use this muddy water to brush your teeth and wash your face. Also, when a squall comes, you stand under the eaves of a building and shampoo your hair using rain water that flows down from the roof.

Visiting a rose farm in the suburbs of Nairobi as part of Kenya's "Survey of Capacity Development in the Field of Commerce" (September 13, 2007)

On the other hand, you cannot take a bath for many days in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, a place with no rainfall. A shower existed a long time ago, but the shower broke and can no longer be used due to the inability to repair it for the last few years. I once visited this area with a Mongolian foreign exchange student who had only lived in the city of Ulaanbaatar. She was surprised at the conditions in her own country, saying that "I had no idea that things were this bad."

Rather than debate monetary amounts, international cooperation in the future must produce outstanding qualitative results, from the perspective of both academic research and actual practice. For this purpose, it is necessary to utilize the knowledge, experience, and technology possessed by Japan, while at the same time joining with corporate projects to advancing international developmental cooperation through public private partnerships. Japanese corporation are implementing outstanding projects at the private level for international cooperation activities. One small example is a mosquito net which was developed by a major Japanese manufacturer. This mosquito net keeps out malaria-bearing mosquitoes and has made major contributions to regions in Africa.

My research in the environment and development is not limited to developing countries, but also include developed countries. One example of this is found in the issue of global warming. In addition to researching environmental destruction occurring in developing countries, I am also researching projects in Kita-Kyushu and the Bunkyo Ward of Tokyo that include measures against global warming. Fundamentally, I believe that both developing countries and developed countries share the same framework of forming social capacity in order to achieve sustainable management of the environment and development in regional society.

Intellectual salons give birth to new values

I would like to spend about 5 years in the future to advance the model of social capacity formation and institutional change. In addition to academic advances, my objective is to create a model which can be used in the actual management and evaluation of projects, including projects of the Ministry of the Environment and the JICA in which I am already involved.

As head of the JBIC' S (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) project to support improvement in the environmental management capacity of Indonesia, a roundtable discussion regarding environmental policy was held with members of provincial government environmental agencies and NGOs (Indonesia, South Sulawesi Province, Makassar City; March 8, 2007)

By further generalizing the theoretical model which is part of academic research, returns will be made to educational programs of the graduate school and undergraduate schools. Furthermore, this model will be utilized in support of actual practice in the community - in other words, achieving social contribution. The ideal state is to create a model that is useful in the various dimensions of academic research, education, and social contribution.

Another major theme is that I would like to establish the field of "global sustainability" as an academic area which addresses the environment and development from a global perspective. As part of this project, I conducted researchers within Waseda University whose work is related to the environment, and founded the "Waseda University Sustainability Academic Research Meeting". This is not a formal organization, but more like a salon for the free exchange of ideas. Intellectual salons play a vital role when trying to develop new knowledge and new academic research. No matter what age a scholar attains, he or she must never lose interest in the simple pursuit of intellectual curiosity.

In April 2008, I also established a Project Research Institute(*) known as the "Institute for Global Development and Sustainability". This organization includes many people from outside of the university, and exists in order to advance research exchange and joint research relating to development cooperation. A major aim of all activities is to link the approach to issues which emerge across academic fields with the creation of new scholastic fields. One strength of Waseda University is its ability to organize interdisciplinary research through approaches to regional research in areas such as China and Asia. I would like to form a new, additional strength by seeing how many new fields can be created in response to the issues of the "environment" and "development" themselves.

In the future, in order for universities to remain in existence, the ability to produce interdisciplinary value and knowledge will be brought into question. Although researchers must heighten their independent initiative towards the creation of intellectual value, care must also be taken to prevent research from going in unrelated directions. Therefore, it is necessary to create a balance between these two aspects through adept management of researchers.

(*) Project Research Institutes is a unique system of Waseda University that provides support for voluntarily created joint research projects within the university. –› Project Research Institutes, Comprehensive Research Organization: http://www.kikou.waseda.ac.jp/waseda_open/index.php)

Shunji Matsuoka
Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies
Director, Institute for Global Development and Sustainability

Completed credits for his Doctoral Degree in Economics and Economic Policy from Kyoto University, Graduate School in 1988. Obtained a PhD. (Academic) from Hiroshima University in 1998. Before acquiring his current position in April 2007, he served as Lecturer and Assistant Professor at the Combined Science Studies Department of Hiroshima University, and then as Assistant Professor and Professor at the Hiroshima University Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies. Has served as Guest Lecturer at Malaya University in Malaysia (1996), as Guest Research at American University in Washington DC (2000), as Guest Researcher at the International East Asia Research Center (2003 until present), as Guest Research at the Combined Global Environmental Research Center (2005 until present), and as Guest Professor at the Tottori University Arid Land Research Center (2007 until present). His areas of expertise include Major in environmental economics, environmental policy, international environmental cooperation theory, international developmental theory, and policy (project) assessment. His major works include "International Development Research: A New Challenge towards Independent Development" (written and edited, Japanese), "International Development Series, Edition 2: The Environment and Development" (co-written and co-edited, Japanese), and "Iwanami Lectures, Environmental Economics and Politics, Edition 6: Global Environmental Issues and the Global Community" (co-written, Japanese).

Shunji Matsuoka: Official Site


Institute for Global Development and Sustainability


WASEDAWASEDA UNVERSITY Research Promotion  http://www.waseda.jp/rps/