“Spirituality and Modern Society”: Peacebuilding Perspectives from a Former UN Official

Global Peace Foundation
March 8, 2021

On January 22, 2021, Global Peace Foundation Japan held an online seminar with Mr. Koichi Hagiwara, who previously served with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The theme of the seminar was “Spirituality and Modern Society” and engaged about 120 participants.

Mr. Hagiwara worked with UNIDO in Vienna, Austria for 27 years and retired in 2012. Since then, he has been teaching at a university and sharing his ideas on building peace through writing books and speaking at many civic programs.

At the beginning of the seminar, Mr. Hagiwara mentioned that he sees the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to “dig deeper” into “how things should be” as a country, as a global community, and as an individual. Looking back on his life, it was a very unforgettable moment when a teacher he admired shared her thoughts on the atomic bomb experience in Hiroshima and said, “I don’t want Japan to be a country that would engage in a war again.” In the United States, where Mr. Hagiwara studied, he had a head-on disagreement with an American student about the war and the atomic bomb. While he was looking for a purpose towards the cause of peace, he became interested in the United Nations.

Mr. Hagiwara

Mr. Hagiwara speaks on UN SDGs.

After graduating, he was assigned to Kenya for work at JICA and the director of the organization soon made arrangements to transfer Mr. Hagiwara to a job at the United Nations. At UNIDO, he supported the revitalization of industries in developing countries, but he couldn’t always deliver the expected results. With this, he began to think about the cause of this and realized that even for projects where cost performance was important, it was necessary to deal with the “heart”. It was also around this time that he began to have spiritual experiences, such as hearing the voice of “Save the Earth” in Vienna.

With regard to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the world is currently focused on, while he is sympathetic to the idea of​​ “No One Left Behind”, if the SDGs become too business-like, it would be difficult to achieve the goals. He proposed to incorporate “spirituality” into their efforts, with an emphasis on values such as compassion and kindness, as the 18th goal to support the rest of the 17 goals. In this, he felt that this was an area that the Japanese people could contribute greatly.

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