Danida alumni contribute to a sustainable World EXPO 2025

Danida alumni EXPO2025
The theme of EXPO2025 in Osaka sets the framework for a workshop in Shenzhen. Photo: Vibeke Quaade

“Designing Future Society for Our Lives” is the overarching theme of the 2025 World Expo, which will be hosted in the specially designed venue of ‘Yumeshima’ in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city. Eight Danida alumni gave their input at the conceptual stage.

By Nina Vlemmings

Yumeshima has not yet been built, but its conceptual foundations and vision are clear. Yumeshima will be a live testing ground for a future society that embraces a ‘happy way of life’, as described by Mr Ryosei Mizuguchi, the Section Chief for the International Exhibitions Promotion Office in Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The World Expo, also known as the International Registered Exhibition, takes place every five years and is one of the world’s largest organised events, welcoming between 10-20 million people from around the world. The World Expos provide countries with the opportunity to showcase their newest interventions, designs and innovation in dedicated spaces (national pavilions), whilst their themes are designed to raise awareness of - and find responses to - universal challenges of our time. So hosting a World Expo is both a huge opportunity and great responsibility - one that Japan is taking very seriously.

World Expo at UNLEASH 2019

Mr Mizuguchi was in Shenzhen, China, seeking inspiration from this year’s UNLEASH talents in a dedicated workshop that he co-hosted with the UNLEASH Secretariat and Deloitte in Shenzhen, the host city of UNLEASH 2019 that is often referred to as China’s ‘Silicon Valley’. He and his colleagues were keen to gather ideas for how the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals could be meaningfully integrated into the heart of the EXPO 2025 in Osaka – contributing not only to the UN 2030 agenda, but also far beyond.

It is an ambitious task and a cohort of 50 out of the 1000 talents from UNLEASH 2019 were invited to contribute their expertise and ideas in the identification of potential strategies and solutions to help make it possible. This group of 50 UNLEASH talents had been carefully selected and incorporated diversity across nationalities, professional and academic backgrounds, SDG focus areas and gender.

Danida alumni EXPO2025
Danida alumni Selorm Yaotse Dorvlo, Sharon Moffat and Rinita Rezwana discussing World Expo 2025. Photo: Vibeke Quaade

Danida alumni and fellow UNLEASH talents contribute solutions

Amongst this group were seven Danida alumni from Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They work across a range of fields and specialisms from waste management and legal aid to engineering and agriculture as engineers, community advisors, university lecturers and programme managers. Besides being both Danida and UNLEASH alumni, they have at least one more thing in common: They are all committed to solving today’s complex global problems.

“UNLEASH has given us in-depth knowledge about the SDGs, strengthened our problem-solving skills and also connected people with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. I think this adds a lot of value to the World Expo design process. During the EXPO workshop, my group realised that we were addressing a number of the SDGs in the solutions we were coming up with,” Peter Rock Okowoko, Danida alumni and Assistant Lecturer at Gulu University, Uganda.

Danida alumni EXPO2025
Danida alum Peter Okwoko works with his group to develop sustainable solutions for EXPO 2025. Photo: Nina Vlemmings 

The structure of the workshop involved participants being divided into smaller teams, all tasked with coming up with ideas for how the EXPO 2025 could embed sustainable solutions related to: 1) Venues, Materials and Consumption, 2) Event Themes, 3) The National Pavilions and 4) Travel and Transportation.

The proposed ideas included a ‘Sustain Tracker’ app that uses gamification to encourage sustainable behaviour amongst EXPO participants. Another idea was a moveable floating island that forces people from different cultures and backgrounds to share resources and pavilions as part of simulating a vision for a collective global society. Yet another was the creation of a virtual EXPO, where countries create pavilions at home for their residents to visit and experience the global event through virtual reality.

Waste management and inclusivity as top priority

Although the individual solutions may have been diverse, all teams shared an emphasis on minimising waste and ensuring effective resource-management across the different categories. They also emphasised inclusivity and limiting the event’s carbon footprint by incorporating artificial intelligence and the latest technology. There were a couple of offers made to leverage the UNLEASH alumni community throughout the EXPO 2025 design process to maintain an integral focus on the SDGs, and it will be interesting to see if Mr Mizuguchi and his team decide to take them up on that.

Danida alumni EXPO2025
Enoch Narh Kudjordjie shares his experience of contributing to EXPO2025. Photo: Nina Vlemmings

In any event, the overarching expectations of this group of young global change-makers are clear: They want to see a truly global and inclusive EXPO 2025 that encourages cross-cultural collaboration, whilst setting new standards for waste reduction and resource management.


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