Special Supplements / United Nations Day Special

Hello world: Sanrio teams up with UN on SDGs

by Michiru Mekata

Contributing Writer

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Since her creation in 1974, Hello Kitty has become an international icon. However, she is now more than just a popular character on commercial products. In a bid to reach a wider audience, Hello Kitty has joined the ranks of advocates for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During a playful “interview,” she spoke with United Nations Information Centre Director Kaoru Nemoto about their partnership and the power of cute when addressing heavier topics in the virtual sphere. Excerpts of that exchange follow.

Nemoto: It was in March last year that I visited Sanrio Puroland in the city of Tama, Tokyo, to see your show. I was touched by your message that we can bring peace to the world and create a bright future through friendship, human bonds and a smile.

Kitty: Thank you. I’m very happy to know that you understood my message; I tried to appeal through my simple gestures and words.

Nemoto: Yes. Your message, in fact, was very close to what we at the United Nations have been trying to stress through our 17 SDGs. Meeting you, Kitty, I really felt the enormous energy and power you had in trying to pass on your message.

I thought it would be wonderful if we could work together with you to spread the thinking of the SDGs further to everybody, especially young people, around the world. That was also the time when we started thinking seriously about using the power of entertainment to reach out. So the timing was perfect.

Kitty: I’m glad to be loved by many people as a cute figure. But above that, I want to be kind and close to everybody around the world through my actions and words. My perspective seems to be very close to what you mean by “outreach” at the United Nations.

I have been interested in the SDGs for some time, and learned that each goal was a problem shared by everybody in the world. I found out that if we could reach each goal, we could even change the world. This was how an exciting idea came up that if I could meet with and talk with people who are working on SDGs, I could tell others about them in simple terms.

Since I decided to become a YouTuber last year, I thought it would be a lot easier to convey messages about SDGs through my live images. So, what I started to do from late August last year was to find out and discuss SDGs-related issues in Japan with people who were working on them. I uploaded videos in Japanese, and received many positive comments from students, companies, my fans and so on.

Nemoto: When you came to visit me at my office, we even created a song for SDGs together, didn’t we? Since that pilot project in Japan went well, we decided to partner with you on a global level and collaborate more actively.

The United Nations’ approach in this collaboration is to involve various United Nations organizations such as UNICEF and UN Women in a multifaceted manner.

Through consultations with your team, we decided to create a global video series released monthly in both English and Japanese, with Kitty introducing the SDGs. Called #HelloGlobalGoals, six of our 17 goals have been chosen to be featured in the video series. Those goals were: goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being; goal 4, Quality Education; goal 5, Gender Equality; goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; goal 13, Climate Action; and goal 14, Life Below Water.

The first video was released on Sept. 24, the first day of the SDG Summit 2019 at U.N. Headquarters. It highlighted the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed giving a surprise call to you personally, requesting your help in further promoting the SDGs around the globe.

Kitty: That really was a surprise! I’m very happy that my work with the United Nations gives me the chance to meet many experts in each field around the world, learn about many things I didn’t know before, and put out information in my own words.

There may be times when my work will take me to very poor places or open my eyes to things that I had never thought of in the past, but that is all exciting and thrilling.

As a YouTuber, I want to say hello to every person, from the very young to the very old, both in Japan and throughout the world. In my own words, I want to say, “Hello SDGs, Hello Global Goals!”

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