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Global Appeal 2008 [2008/02/27]

Sasakawa with the presenters of Global Appeal 2008

On January 28, Global Appeal 2008 to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy was launched at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. Appeals have been issued every year since 2006, to coincide with World Leprosy Day, the last Sunday in January. The aim of the effort is to eliminate leprosy and solve the human rights problems related to the disease. This year, the third global appeal was signed and announced by the representatives of ten international organizations that are engaged in global activities to protect human rights. Among the groups are Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Save the Children Alliance, the World Women’s Summit Federation, and the Nippon Foundation. (Photo:The Royal Academy of Medicine)

Leprosy is only weakly infectious, and has been curable since the 1980s. However, even individuals who have been cured of leprosy frequently face discrimination and prejudice, due to residual disabilities such as deformations of the face, hands or feet. In addition, family members are also discriminated against in terms of education and employment opportunities. This year’s appeal aims to overcome such discrimination.

The global appeal was read by Sahira Adam Hamadi (11) and Ame Juma Muhamed (12), children from Tanzania who have overcome the disease. This was the first time the two children had been out of Tanzania and they appeared surprised to see such a large audience, but read the appeal in clear, steady voices. (Photo:Presenters of the Global Appeal)

Global Appeal 2008 was an initiative of Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy and Japan’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy. In his keynote speech, Chairman Sasakawa asked for the cooperation of all involved parties, saying, “Let us work together to solve the human rights problems of leprosy, in keeping with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Chairman Sasakawa and other advocates will continue their efforts, aiming to establish guidelines for eliminating discrimination related to leprosy at the United Nations Human Rights Council and to pass a related resolution at the United Nations General Assembly.

*The movie is here

Posted by TNF at 10:16 | Leprosy | URL
Toward an “Aids to Navigation Fund” in the Malacca and Singapore Straits [2008/02/25]

(Photo:Representatives of three nations on the coast of the Malacca Strait)

On the 15th of January, a conference was held in Tokyo between The Nippon Foundation and representatives of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia—the countries bordering the Malacca and Singapore straits—to address the establishment of a fund aimed at ensuring safe navigation through the straits. This conference resulted in the initiation of concrete steps toward the establishment of such a fund. The fund is the first of its kind and will seek voluntary contributions from the countries and companies that themselves use the straits. At the conference, The Nippon Foundation announced it would contribute one-third of the fund’s total for the first five years and would provide 150 million yen to cover research costs to determine the amount needed by the fund.

The Malacca and Singapore straits carry the world’s largest volume of sea traffic, with 94,000 vessels passing through their waters each year. In recent years, the growth of the Chinese economy has driven the volume of maritime traffic passing through the straits to record highs, with a corresponding increase in the risk of maritime accidents. In light of these circumstances, in March 2007 a symposium was held in Kuala Lumpur on improving navigational safety and protecting the environment of the straits. It was at this symposium that Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, proposed the establishment of the fund.

In December of last year, Mr. Sasakawa visited London to meet with representatives of four major maritime transportation organizations: the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Shipping Federation (ICS/ISF), the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO). Through these meetings, Mr. Sasakawa obtained the cooperation of these organizations in the establishment of this fund.

The January 15th conference in Tokyo built on these agreements, addressing more concrete topics, such as the framework for the fund and future schedules. At a press briefing held after the conference, chairman Sasakawa emphasized the need for new efforts in maritime safety, efforts that break free from the traditional concept that the seas may be used free of charge. He said, “We will seek contributions to this fund as part of the corporate social responsibility of companies, such as shipping firms, that use the Malacca and Singapore Straits.”

(Photo: Scene from the press conference)
Posted by TNF at 11:33 | Sea & Ship | URL
Fact-finding mission on sign language interpretation visits US [2008/02/20]

A lecture at the U.S. National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Efforts are underway in Japan to train specialized sign-language interpreters, with the aim of opening the doors to advanced education for those with hearing disabilities. In December, the Postsecondary Education Programs Network of Japan (PEPNet-Japan) dispatched fact-finding mission to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the United States, the world leader in this field, to observe its sign-language interpreter training program firsthand.

When hearing-impaired persons wish to study specialized fields at universities or graduate schools, the fact that they cannot hear course lectures is a definite handicap. Even when universities allows sign-language interpreters or note-takers to attend class with the student, highly specialized course content can pose problems. This is a field in which Japan has made almost no advances.

U.S. law guarantees education for hearing-impaired students, through such means as sign language interpretation. Each university has counselors to work with students with disabilities, and specialized sign-language interpretation has come to be a recognized occupation. RIT, which provides training for sign-language interpreters, shares its campus with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and has 1,000 hearing-impaired individuals in its student body.

The Japanese delegation consisted of 10 persons, including a number of university staff members that assist students with disabilities at places such as the Tsukuba University of Technology—a national university for people with hearing and visual impairments—as well as researchers and sign-language interpreters. On its one-week tour of the U.S., the group visited the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and other facilities. Lectures that they attended covered subjects such as the social structures needed to establish sign-language interpretation as a specialized occupation, and curricula for related vocational education. They also visited a private-sector firm headquartered in Rochester, New York that provides interpretation services throughout the U.S. (Photo : At a sign-language interpretation company)

Mayumi Shirasawa of the Research and Support Center on Higher Education for the Hearing and Visually Impaired at Tsukuba University of Technology, said, “Although in Japan sign-language interpreters have established a solid position in the community, I have become painfully aware that Japan is definitely behind the times in training sign-language interpreters who can handle advanced content. However, the introduction this tour provided to state-of-the-art efforts in the U.S. has given me hope that such efforts will be adopted in Japanese universities as well.”

The National Technical Institute for the Dear also runs the Postsecondary Education Network International (PEN-International), which is working to create environments around the world for hearing-impaired education. In addition to the Tsukuba University of Technology in Japan, participants include universities and organizations from China, Russia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Czech Republic, and South Korea. The Nippon Foundation was involved in the establishment of PEPNet-Japan and continues to provide support to PEN-International.

In addition to continuing its observation of activities in facilities that have taken the lead in this area, PEPNet-Japan, operated by the Tsukuba University of Technology, plans to invite specialists from the U.S. to Japan this year to take part in experimental interpretation activities at Japanese universities and other institutions. PEPNet is aiming to adopt the expertise in higher education for hearing-impaired students that have accumulated in the U.S. over 40 years, hoping to develop a firm base for such programs in Japan as well. (Photo :The Rochester Institute of Technology)
Posted by TNF at 11:30 | Education | URL
Thoughts of Nepal’s King Gyanendra [2008/02/18]

Yohei Sasakawa (left) and King Gyanendra

Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, visited Nepal from February 1 to 5 to observe the status of leprosy in the country. Following his inspection of local sites, he had an audience with King Gyanendra for the first time in about two years, the last being in November 2006.

The king has a deep understanding of leprosy elimination activities and thinks highly of the efforts of Chairman Sasakawa, commenting, “Leprosy elimination activities are being carried out in a very intelligent way. Attempting to end not only the disease but also discrimination is a wonderful approach.”
At present, with the constituent assembly vote coming up in April, security in Nepal has deteriorated and extremists have carried out bombings in various locations to obstruct the election process. In regard to this, the king implied that the decision as to the continuation of the monarchy should be left to the public, saying, “You may notice that there have been a lot of changes in this country since we last met … the constitutional assembly election must be carried out freely, fairly, peacefully, and safely. If that happens, I believe the many citizens of this nation will come together and make the right choices.”

Since the political change in April 2006, King Gyanendra has not appeared in public and has kept his silence. However, he voluntarily answered questions from the Japanese reporters accompanying Chairman Sasakawa--the first time since 2006 that he has expressed his political opinions to the foreign media.

Summary of the statement of King Gyanendra on February 4

The interim government, which consists of six ruling parties and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), agreed to abolish the monarchy at the end of 2007 and stipulated the transition to a republic in the interim constitution. However, this decision does not reflect the voice of a majority of the people. It is not democratic for party leaders alone to determine the political system. If a free, fair, peaceful, and safe election is conducted, I believe that most people will choose monarchy. The election should reflect the voice of the people. Democracy needs to be strengthened in each village and at the grass-roots level. I hope everything will be democratized.
It is said that the majority of the people do not have opportunities to express their opinions and do not have freedom to choose. Katmandu is only a part of Nepal. The voices of people living in the hills and mountains as well as in the Terai region are not being listened to. Unfortunately, I have been informed that not everything goes well under the interim government in Nepal. Laws are not being upheld and public order is disturbed. Nepal was once a peaceful and stable country, but we now find ourselves in dire circumstances.
Some of the leaders in the interim government act contrary to the cultural, social, and traditional values of Nepal. Many people recognize this fact, and evaluate if such actions are right.
It is my desire that the international media go to the streets and directly ask people what they think. They should more frequently speak with ordinary people in Nepal and report the situation to international society.

*The movie is here.

Posted by TNF at 14:47 | Leprosy | URL
NISVA volunteer Yoshihara: Teaching returnees to the Philippines [2008/02/13]

The Yoshiharas

With support from The Nippon Foundation, Keiko Yoshihara (61), a senior-citizen volunteer with the Nippon Skilled Volunteers Association (NISVA), has since this past October been teaching Japanese to Filipino returnees in the city of Davao. Davao is the second-largest city in the Philippines and the scene of a revival of a local community of persons of Japanese descent, which broke down after the end of World War II.

Ms. Yoshihara originally worked as an educator, teaching mathematics and home economics at elementary and junior-high schools in Ibaraki Prefecture. The year after her husband Fumio (73) was dispatched to Jordan as a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) senior-citizen volunteer in the spring of 2004, she retired early to be at her husband’s side. While assisting at a supplemental school for Japanese children during a one-year stay in Jordan’s capital city of Amman, she had the idea of volunteering on her own. She applied and was accepted to join NISVA at the end of 2006. Her appointment began this past October.

Today, her duties at the Philippine Nikkei-Jin Kai International School, operated by the Davao Japanese Association, include both instructing local Japanese teachers and counseling second-generation Japanese-Filipinos who have returned from Japan with their mothers and speak only Japanese.

Ms. Yoshihara says, “The children are all bright and cheerful, and none of them are truant, which is pervasive at Japanese schools. It is rewarding teaching them, and I interact with them mostly to provide emotional support. This is an easy place to live, with a nice climate and an abundance of fresh fruit.” Her husband quips with a laugh, “Now that I’m a full-time homemaker, compared with Jordan and Davao, it’s Japan that seems unusual. Maybe it’s because people there study too hard in juku cram schools.” For now, Ms. Yoshihara plans to serve for one year in this appointment, while Mr. Yoshihara says he will return to Japan before the New Year, as he currently has only a two-month visa for the Philippines.

This year, NISVA has dispatched a total of 18 senior-citizen volunteers overseas. Ms. Yoshihara is one of the two volunteers who teaches Japanese.

Davao developed before the war with the production of Manila hemp. The city was home to the largest population of Japanese in Southeast Asia, numbering 20,000 people. However, the area’s ethnic Japanese community dissolved after the war. The Japanese Association was reestablished in 1980, and today its membership totals 6,400. Nearly one-half of its membership, mostly third- and fourth-generation people of Japanese descent, work in Japan, and the number of “new second-generation” people, born to one Japanese parent and one Filipino parent, is rapidly growing. The entire town is growing enthusiastic about learning Japanese, and so there is now a pressing need for Japanese-language teachers. (Photo:The bustling city of Davao)
Posted by TNF at 13:40 | Human Resources Development | URL
In the Philippines, visually impaired students face austere conditions [2008/02/11]

Visually impaired university student goes to school accompanied by his mother

Philippine university facilities for visually impaired students are inadequate, and those who have gained entrance face a lack of adequate teaching materials. These were the findings of a Nippon Foundation fact-finding mission regarding the state of visually impaired students in the Philippines. The mission was designed to help prepare for the expansion of a program for Indonesian students with visual impairments, to the Philippines and Vietnam. As in Indonesia, the need is high.

The mission interviewed 16 visually impaired students at 11 Manila universities, including the Manila Central University and the Philippine Christian University, asking about their concerns and problems in university life. Results showed that in the “soft” areas of administration and policy, universities hesitate to accept visually impaired students, and lack the expertise to do so. Similarly, infrastructure and materials—such as Braille textbooks and computers with sufficient processing power for these students’ special needs—are largely nonexistent. In discussing their life at the universities, students taking part in the interviews pointed out that the universities were “uncooperative” and that improvements were needed.(Photo: A student responds to an interview question)

Due to the lack of Braille textbooks, students say study is difficult because they need to rely on the assistance of family and friends and to resort to such measures as recording classes on cassette tapes. Christopher Tunbokon, a computer science major, said, “It’s difficult to get around campus and attend class on my own, because the university provides no support at all. I have to move around with my mother as my guide.” Del Rosario Mary Grace, a psychology student, said of studying in such a difficult environment, “I wasn’t interested in psychology originally but I had to major in it because there were no other choices.”

Since 2006, the Nippon Foundation has worked with local Indonesian NGOs, developing a range of activities to assist visually impaired students at four Indonesian universities. These include computer training, the conversion of textbooks to Braille, reading services, and information access. Support centers for visually impaired students have been established within these facilities, where computers are available with text-to-speech software and services, from counseling to course assistance, are tailored to suit students’ needs. At present, it is said that less than 10% of all visually impaired persons in Asia receive primary education, and less than 1% study at universities or other facilities. For this reason, the Nippon Foundation, in partnership with the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and local NGOs, is working to expand its assistance in this field to the Philippines and Vietnam as well.(Photo: A student studying in an assistance room)
Posted by TNF at 11:57 | Basic Human Needs | URL
BIMSTEC Tokyo Conference [2008/02/06]

BIMSTEC Tokyo Conference, held at the Nippon Foundation

On December 3, 2007, the Third International Conference for BIMSTEC-Japan Comprehensive Economic Cooperation was held at The Nippon Foundation in Tokyo. The conference aimed to promote economic cooperation between Japan and nations in the Bay of Bengal region and to publicize the existence of BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Cooperation). In total, 70 people attended the conference, including government representatives, researchers from the member nations and representatives from international organizations. The conference was cosponsored by the Centre for Studies in International Relations and Development (CSIRD) of India, and the Asian Forum Japan.

BIMSTEC is an international organization made up of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand for the purpose of promoting Economic Cooperation. The name BIMSTEC began as an acronym made of the original member countries’ names. With the addition of Nepal and Bhutan, today BIMSTEC has seven members and has changed its official name to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Cooperation. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation is supporting BIMSTEC’s economic research activities under a three-year plan, and the December conference in Tokyo was a part of this support.(Photo:U.S. researchers also presented reports)

In his opening address, CSIRD Director B. S. Malik called for greater interest in the nations of the Bay of Bengal on the part of Japan’s political and industrial spheres. He said, “BIMSTEC, founded 10 years ago, now faces the new issues of the environment and climate change. In our relations with Japan, key issues also include population movements in connection with immigration, energy, and technology transfer. Although the path toward a structure for economic cooperation in Asia is a long one, BIMSTEC is playing a crucial role in working toward this goal.”(Photo:Attendees:listen to call for a greater interest in the nations of the Bay of Bengal)

The conference included reports and discussions on five themes, including “Japan’s Economic Cooperation Duty,” “Prospects and Strategies for Comprehensive Economic Cooperation,” and “The Feasibility of a Free-Trade Agreement Between BIMSTEC and Japan.” Arjun Asrani, former Indian Ambassador to Japan and Chair of the India-Japan Forum, led a panel discussion on Asian economic integration, pointing out that, “Trade negotiations between individual countries are not showing much progress, and with industry backing politicians there is little motive for supporting free-trade agreements.” However, one presenter stated that “spreading Japan’s regional focus (which has been to date concentrated on Thailand and India) more widely around the Bay of Bengal would be beneficial to both sides,” while others were of the opinion that Japan should proactively work to promote the transfer of knowledge. This conference was characterized by the mutual understanding that, as Mr. Malik said, “Although our goal is a distant one, we will not stop working toward it.”
Posted by TNF at 10:50 | Human Resources Development | URL
API workshop held in Davao Expansion of eligible countries considered [2008/02/04]

Chariman Sasakawa Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the API Workshop

From November 25 to 29, in Davao, the Philippines, the 6th annual workshop of The Nippon Foundation Fellowships for Asian Public Intellectuals (API) was held, giving fellows from the past year a chance to report on their research activities and discuss matters such as shared research subjects and future plans. Six fellows were selected from each of the five eligible nations (Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia) for a total of 30 participants. Former fellows, representatives from partner instituttions, and participants from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were also in attendance, for a total of about 70 attendees.

In the November 25th opening ceremony, Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, expressed the aim of the program: “Asia is faced with a large number of issues that transcend national borders. It is my hope that this API program not only will serve to achieve progress in Asia but will also grow into an organization that communicates the voice of Asia to the world.” The API program is unique in that it requires fellows to conduct research outside of their own countries, thus building a trans-national network of intellectuals. Fellows come from a variety of professions, including, but not limited to academics, journalists, activists, and people working at nongovernmental organizations. Research themes for this year covered a wide range, from politics to natural disasters, religion and traditional culture. Director Koji Tanaka of Kyoto University’s Center for Integrated Area Studies, who took part in the workshop, commented, “The strongest facet of this program is the community that both current and past fellows are building together.” Including fellows from the 2007 group, more than 200 public intellectuals have participated in the program to date.(Photo:The Opening Ceremony)

Ex-president Corazon Aquino, also in attendance for the first time since the initial 2002 conference in Bali, expressed high hopes for the future of the group, and in an interview with a Philippine newspaper before the workshop, Chairman Sasakawa made it clear that this was not a short-term project, saying “We can only develop human resources by building a foundation and then continuing our efforts in the long term.”(Photo:Workshop Participants)
Posted by TNF at 10:45 | Human Resources Development | URL