20th Anniversary Symposium of the World Maritime University

Malmö, Sweden

Six years have gone by since I last visited you here in Malmö. in 1997, and so today is a great pleasure for me. I am delighted to offer my congratulations on the twentieth anniversary of this excellent institution.

The successful execution of WMU’s mission is made possible by the support of the Kingdom of Sweden, and the friendship of the city of Malmö. Additionally, the University’s programs would have no effect at all were it not for the willingness of coastal countries to dispatch their maritime officers for further training. Most important of all is the dedication of the brilliant faculty here. To all of you, I would like to extend my deep gratitude and respect.

Those of us here today are extremely fortunate that our countries have coastlines. This good fortune is something that we must remember to be grateful for. But beyond simple fortune, the position of our countries has had a deep impact on the development of our societies.

This is partly because the oceans have been used to transport everything conceivable. Goods, people, hopes, and even misfortunes and sorrows… Further our people’s lives in every age have been closely linked with the ocean. It has provided a livelihood for large segments of our populations. However, in all parts of the world, the last half of the 20th century has seen the explosive development of such areas as shipping and fishing. It has seen unprecedented exploitation of our undersea and coastal resources. It has seen a progress of marine tourism and leisure activities. As this has progressed, we have come to the realization that every region in the world is experiencing a heavy pollution of its oceans, a depletion of marine resources, and a destruction of coastal environments. It has become clear that even the oceans have a tolerance limit—one which they are fast approaching.

Until the past few decades, it was thought that our oceans were large enough to easily accommodate unfettered utilization. The fact is, however, that they are rather fragile. We have come to realize that reckless development and exploitation are increasing the danger that the very foundations for human survival will be destroyed.

When we recognized this danger, we came up with the following points which all of humankind needs to be aware of:

  • Oceans are a common heritage of humankind.
  • Our oceans are an essential component of Earth’s life-support system.
  • All marine problems are closely interlinked. They need to be studied as a whole.
  • Marine development and exploitation must be carried out in sustainable ways that fully take the global environment into consideration.

Today, we can say that we have achieved an overall transition in the way we think of our oceans. The idea of a “freedom of the seas” has given way to the principle of ocean governance, which guides today’s maritime activities. One vital issue of the 21st Century is how to actually put this concept into practice. You see, for the most part, it still only exists in the form of principles and rules.

Territorial issues are also a direct result of the global nature of our oceans. In regions where the territorial waters of several nations abut each other, the actions of any one government are naturally limited. In order to keep these limitations from stirring up regional conflict, frameworks of multilateral cooperation have become increasingly important.

In order to address issues such as these, WMU was founded twenty years ago, and since then has provided higher education in the maritime and shipping fields from an international perspective. It is this kind of proactive international cooperation that The Nippon Foundation most likes to support. The Nippon Foundation was founded by my late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa, in 1962. Today, it is the largest foundation in Japan. Its activities range widely, but focus on two major areas: basic human needs and human resources development. Further, it has had a strong tie to the sea since its founding, due to the fact that Japan, is an island nation, and is thus completely surrounded by the sea. Since WMU focuses on human resources development in the maritime field, it is a joy for us to support.

Here, we have channeled our energy into cultivating the human resources that will contribute to the global maritime community. We do this through the Sasakawa Fellowship Program, under which students from around the world can study at WMU. These students will then take their places as the next generation of maritime leaders. Since it was first begun in 1987, this program has provided fellowships to 260 students from 39 countries.

This year, our support will expand even further with the endowment of three Nippon Foundation Chairs.

Another example of our work to develop the human resources of the maritime world is a network of universities that we helped to establish—the International Association of Maritime Universities, or IAMU. As technology progresses, the skills required of seafarers are undergoing drastic changes. They are being required to master equipment and concepts that are advancing at a dramatic pace. IAMU was therefore founded in 2000 in an effort to achieve higher levels of maritime education in all countries. The ultimate goal is to promote maritime safety and at the same time protect the marine environment. Today, the network has a membership of 34 merchant marine and maritime universities around the world, including WMU. The association seeks to respond to the coming changes in the maritime community by conducting research at member universities in such areas as the exciting new roles envisioned for marine specialists on seagoing vessels.

Ryoichi Sasakawa’s motto, which describes our foundation’s outlook, was “The world is one family; all humankind are brothers and sisters.” He felt strongly that, in order for countries to become self-sufficient, it is necessary to give the younger generations the opportunity to receive a proper education. He wanted education to endow young people not only with knowledge and skills, but also with an understanding of the diversity of cultures and values that would help them to nurture a sense of mutual tolerance. Our support of WMU is directly in line with these ideas.

There is a Japanese saying: “It takes ten years for a tree to grow, but it takes one hundred years to foster human resources.” In recognition of the effort required to raise our younger generations, I promise The Nippon Foundation’s continuing support of WMU.

The leaders needed by international society are people who have profound insight into regional and global problems. At the same time, they respect our planet’s plurality of values and diversity of cultures. They can overcome the differences among nations, religions, ethnic groups, and cultures. They have the will and drive to commit themselves to world peace and prosperity. I believe that the true underlying concept of WMU, and its role, is to cultivate leaders with this kind of awareness.