News Archive
Dec 19, 2017 - Peace Boat's Global University 2017: Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies in the Asia-Pacific
Thirty-six students from 11 Asian countries gathered to join the programme.
Global University 2017 took place between August 10 and 28, 2017, with the theme of "Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies in the Asia-Pacific". Over the course of 19 days, 36 students from 11 Asian countries travelled from Yokohama (Japan) to Yangon (Myanmar/Burma), via Xiamen (China) and Singapore.

This year, the programme explored Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and participating students engaged in various activities that focused on "building peaceful and inclusive societies." Students came from 11 countries, and included students from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan), Kyunghee University (South Korea), University of Tokyo (Japan), and Jawaharlal Nehru University (India). The programme included fieldwork in four cities, namely Tokyo, Xiamen, Singapore, and Yangon.

In Tokyo, students visited different parts of the city to understand what Japan's postwar economic growth had left behind. Students learned that in the first decades after the WWII, many people migrated to Tokyo from other parts of Japan to find jobs. Most of them engaged in work as day labourers, never finding a stable job. Today, there are many elderly former day labourers, who are isolated in society without any social network to rely on. Some of them are dependent on social security, others have become homeless. Students volunteered at a soup kitchen to support homeless people, and also took part in a night walk to distribute flyers on free medical consultations to people sleeping on the streets. Students, especially those from Tokyo, were shocked to find out how "dark" places exist alongside the shiny department stores and skyscrapers, and how they had never really paid attention to these issues.

Planting mangrove trees in Xiamen.
In cities like Xiamen, mangroves have been damaged repeatedly due to urbanization and construction of transportation facilities. With the coordination of China Mangrove Conservation Network (CMCN), students planted mangroves in Haimen Island, 45 minutes from the port of Xiamen. Altogether, students planted 1200 mangroves despite the extreme heat and humidity. The biggest takeaway the students spoke of was the enormous effort required to restore the ecosystem once it had been destroyed. In Xiamen, students also visited a local primary school and gave a lesson on environmental sustainability. Incorporating many interactive activities, students creatively engaged the pupils to think about air pollution and deforestation.

In Singapore, students took part in a Day School organized by Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a local organization striving for the improvement of working and living conditions of foreign migrant workers. The staff members explained to the students what kind of issues are pressing migrant workers in Singapore, who come mainly from Bangladesh, India, China and the Philippines to work in the service and construction industries. Taking a walk around Little India, where most of the workers gather, students witnessed that a lack of open spaces, heavy fines, and constant patrolling, along with hostility from local residents, make it very tough for migrants to survive there.

Finally, in Yangon, students visited various local youth groups that in different capacities work on the issues of democratization, human rights, and inter-faith dialogue. Meeting people from the same generation and seeing how they take action to address the social problems they see was inspiring. Students engaged in deep discussions with the local youth groups. They talked about the role of youth, what they can do to mediate ethnic tensions, and how they can work with older generations. It also became clear through this interaction that taking activism to the transnational level is crucial. Indeed, some local youth highlighted the importance of not just considering the unique context of the situation in Myanmar/Burma, but also of understanding its commonality with other countries in the region.

Snapshot from an onboard seminar.
Onboard the ship, students spent hours every day discussing what they had learned through their fieldwork. This year, we welcomed three navigators to facilitate students' discussions and learning. Oshidari Kenro, Former United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Asia, shared with the students his extensive experience working in humanitarian missions. Aside from providing various insights from an international organization's perspective, Kenro also worked with the students to equip them with practical skills, such as presentation and coordination skills. Khin Ohmar, democracy and human rights activist in Myanmar and Chair of the Advisory Board of Progressive Voice, gave various lectures on social and political movements in Myanmar/Burma. Many stories she shared based on her long engagement in grass-root activities became a source of inspiration for students. Lee Kwang Boon, Vice President of the United Nations Association in Singapore, offered perspectives of the UN and helped students contextualize different issues they learned within the broader framework of the SDGs, the UN, and global citizenship. Through discussions, role plays, and many other group works, students were always encouraged to think: what if I were the homeless person? What if I were the local government official tackling the issue? What if I were a journalist reporting on these problems?

Fundraising efforts onboard.
Towards the end of the programme, students worked on what was called the Onboard Action Challenge. In small groups, students picked the theme of "development", "sustainability" or "social cohesion", and discussed concrete actions that they would subsequently implemented onboard the ship. One group came up with a song and dance to promote the SDGs. Another launched an onboard campaign to reduce the amount of food waste. There were also students who walked around the ship asking other passengers what they thought they could do to address climate change, and others who organized a photo exhibition featuring people from different cultural backgrounds. While initially shy, students quickly learned that "taking action" is not as difficult as they had thought. In fact, many were positively surprised by the willingness of people to get involved.

Group photo with members from a youth organization in Yangon.
After completing the programme, one student said "Peace Boat provided an ideal platform for us to communicate across the perceived boundaries of age, culture and language in a regular setting." Throughout the programme, the 36 students constantly reflected on their own background, made efforts to understand each other, sometimes struggled to come to terms with perspectives and opinions that were not familiar to them, and eventually formed strong bonds with one another. Since the end of the programme, students have already begun visiting each other's countries and collaborating to start small projects. We are truly looking forward to the exciting and innovative cross-national collaborations which we hope will flourish from this programme.

University Partnerships

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) [Japan] offered Global University as a two-credit course for their programme on conflict resilience. Five students joined.

Kyunghee University [South Korea] adopted Global University as a credit course for their liberal arts programme known as Humanitas College. Sixteen students joined.

The GLP-GEfIL (Global Education for Innovation and Leadership) Program at the University of Tokyo [Japan] designated Global University as one of their abroad programmes. Three students joined.

Sponsorship Schemes

Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation [Taiwan] offered two full scholarships for participants from Taiwan. The two scholars were selected from over 50 applicants.

The Brunei Project [Brunei Darussalam] offered two full scholarships for participants from Brunei Darussalam.

For further information, please read the Programme Report (also available in Japanese here). For organizations and institutions interested in discussing partnership and sponsorship schemes, please contact
Documents for download
2017 SGU Report2017 SGU Report JP