The Value of En and Wa in Strengthening Academic Collaborations in ASEAN
Kyoto University’s mission is to “sustain and develop its historical commitment to academic freedom and to pursue harmonious coexistence within human and ecological community on this planet”. Now, the University aims to increase engagement with the international community through forward-looking, leading-edge research. Based on these developments, the opening of the Kyoto University ASEAN Center represents an important step ahead in providing new opportunities for educational and research exchange and international collaborations across the ASEAN region.
The ASEAN region has abundant natural wealth encompassing both land and marine resources. Historically, the region has played a pivotal role in promoting cultural exchanges between the East and West spanning over 15 centuries. Endowed with diverse natural environments, South East Asian countries have undergone significant changes by fostering various cultures and lifestyles. It is important to note that the region has accumulated a wealth of knowledge to promote mutual prosperity and coexistence with diverse communities. The region has also undergone dynamic development to adapt to new challenges.
During the Cold War, conflicts between Eastern and Western Blocs escalated in the region, which led to ongoing civil wars. However, South East Asian countries started to build new foundations for their communities after the resolution of various conflicts in the 1990s. Today, around 600 million people — a population greater than that of the EU — live in the region, which has become a major political and economic center connecting the emerging nations of India and China. If the world seeks to establish a global community that respects the uniqueness of individual regions, reciprocity, and coexistence, I believe that ASEAN is the best model.
Based on a deep respect for the diverse traditions and cultures of the ASEAN region, the Kyoto University ASEAN Center aims to establish new academic collaborations founded on the concept of Wa (輪, “link”) and promote activities that lead to the demonstration and development of potential in the region. The Center aims to address urgent matters faced by contemporary society by nurturing these vital human “links”. To realize this goal, we envision the Center as a “one-stop service” for mutual development in the ASEAN region.
In particular, the Center aims to promote significant growth by supporting knowledge exchange between ASEAN and Kyoto University, to act as a hub that builds on the concepts of Wa and En (縁, “connection”) in research, education, and international collaborations, and to disseminate the results of research and potential capabilities enabled by these invaluable connections to the wider community.
Through the fulfillment of this mission, we at the Kyoto University ASEAN Center actively encourage top-level research activities of which we can be proud. By providing a base for research activities that will lead to larger networks connected by both Wa and En, the Center will enable the exploration of new horizons. In line with Kyoto University’s original mission statement, we will — together with our friends throughout Asia — proactively support frontline research and reinforce the University’s open engagement with the world.
The opening of the ASEAN Center will therefore strengthen our commitment to accelerate educational and research collaborations between Kyoto University and partners in the ASEAN region, as well as to find solutions to some of today’s most urgent global issues. It is our sincere hope and wish that this Center will create further opportunities to share opinions and ideas, and we warmly welcome your participation, support, and cooperation.
Mamoru Shibayama, PhD
Director, Kyoto University ASEAN Center