Seabed 2030 Project Given Fresh Momentum [2019年12月26日（Thu）]
I was very pleased that the Schmidt Ocean Institute of the United States has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project to share all of its collected mapping data with our endeavor to map the entire ocean floor by the end of the next decade. The signing came after representatives of both groups met at the Royal Society in London in late October, making the Palo Alto, California-based institute one of more than 100 organizations to formally support the project.I believe that this will give fresh momentum to our ambitious global initiative, as the U.S. institute itself reached a major milestone by mapping more than one million square kilometers of ocean floor only recently.About 32 million square kilometers or 15 percent of the world’s oceans have been mapped, according to the Seabed 2030 Project, which was launched at the United Nations Oceans Conference in 2017 by the Nippon Foundation and General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
Understanding the bathymetry of the world’s oceans is vital for improving maritime navigation, and also for enhancing our ability to predict climate change and monitor marine biodiversity and resources. A comprehensive map of the seafloor will assist global efforts to combat pollution, aid marine conservation, forecast tsunami, and better understand tides and wave action.
We are determined to work closely with the Schmidt Ocean Institute and all the other partners and stakeholders to achieve the goal of mapping the entirety of the world sea floor by 2030.
at 10:00 | OCEAN
Quiz Contest Promotes Chinese Students’ Understanding of Japan [2019年12月24日（Tue）]
The final of the individual competition of the Sasakawa Cup Japanese Knowledge Contest for University Students in China 2019 held at Nanjing University on November 16-17.
Photo by Ms. Guo Shasha of the China Pictorial.
The Japan Science Society (JSS), The Nippon Foundation’s partner organization, has been working to promote Chinese people’s understanding of Japanese culture and society for years. As part of such efforts, JSS held the Sasakawa Cup Japanese Knowledge Contest for University Students in China 2019 at Nanjing University on November 16-17.
The annual contest was joined by about 340 Japanese-language students from 114 universities across China. It consisted of team and individual competitions, with participants quizzed in Japanese about a wide variety of topics on Japan such as its history, current affairs, social issues and literature.
The competition used a fastest-finger-first format, with some contestants giving correct answers before the whole questions had been read out, reflecting just how much they knew about Japan.
Following a heated contest, the special prize for the team competition was won by the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (Sichuan Province), while that for individual competitors went to Mr. Yang Yuheng of the Information Engineering University, Luoyang Campus (Henan Province).
The winners of the special and first prizes in the team competition and those of the special, first and second prizes in the individual matches will be invited by JSS to visit Japan for exchange programs with Japanese students.
Geopolitically, Japan and China are inseparable. They are the only two countries on Earth whose peoples have maintained relatively friendly relations over the past two thousand years, despite a few unhappy conflicts in history.
I hope sincerely that by continuing private-sector initiatives such as these quiz contests, young people of Japan and China will seek new future-oriented relations between the two nations.
The final of the team competition.
The Nippon Foundation Donates $2 Million for Education of Refugee Children at Cox’s Bazar [2019年12月20日（Fri）]
At a press conference in Dhaka on December 11, 2019, I announce that The Nippon Foundation will donate $2 million to BRAC to scale up its education programs for children of Myanmar refugees in the Cox’s Bazar camp.
The Nippon Foundation has announced it will donate $2 million to BRAC, a non-governmental organization based in Bangladesh, to scale up its education programs at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp for children of Muslim refugees from Rakhine State in the neighboring Myanmar.I made the announcement at a press conference at the BRAC center in the capital Dhaka on December 11 during a visit to Bangladesh, along with BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh.The money will be used to build 50 two-story prefabricated movable steel structures to be used as learning centers for 8,000 displaced refugee children aged 4 to 14 years from Myanmar, who are taking refuge in Ukhya and Teknaf sub-districts of the Cox's Bazar camp.Besides, 100 pre-primary learning centers will also be built for the host community’s 3,000 children of 5 to 6 years of age. To select the location of the centers, engagement with parents and the broader local community will be prioritized in a bid to ensure their consent.I told the press conference that I visited the Cox’s Bazar camp as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation early this year to personally witness the reality on the ground, adding: “When I was there, I found the situation was much more serious than I thought.” “I have seen the refugee camp from the Myanmar side and Bangladesh side as well. And as a result, I actually saw, with my own eyes, how difficult the situation is. And under such a difficult situation, the Bangladeshi government is trying to provide humanitarian aid” to the refugees, I said. BRAC’s Executive Director Saleh said that "55 percent of the people who came from Myanmar are children. So, we are focusing on their education."
Explaining further, I said: "The objective of our initiative is to create education opportunities for the children of Muslim refugees so that they can also learn alongside the host community’s children.” I sincerely hope that the displaced children will be able to continue learning when they return to their homeland.
The Bangladeshi government was quite reluctant to approve construction of buildings at the Cox’s Bazar camp by international organizations and western countries for fear of making the refugee situation there permanent.
But it did go along with our project, which envisages constructing movable steel structures designed for temporary use by refugees and taking care of children of the host community, which has been significantly impacted by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar.
With BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh (right).
An image of one of the two-story prefabricated movable steel structures to be used as learning centers for 8,000 refugee children from Myanmar.
The Nippon Foundation Ready to Support Bangladesh to Achieve Zero Leprosy by 2030 (2) [2019年12月19日（Thu）]
With participants in the first-ever national conference of people affected by leprosy in Bangladesh, who gathered in Dhaka from around the Country.
On December 12, I participated in the country’s first ever conference of persons affected by leprosy, who traveled long distances from all over Bangladesh to the capital.
I told the participants I was very happy to see their faces and meet them for the first time. “You know the disease better than doctors. Your government is working to eliminate leprosy by 2030. And we are here to learn how we can help your government fight leprosy.”
I shared my experiences over the last 40 years, during which I have devoted myself to the struggle to eliminate leprosy and its associated stigma and discrimination from the world, visiting 120 countries on this mission.
“No matter which country I visited, the plight of those affected by leprosy is the same,” I told them.
I said that the Bangladeshi “government has already announced the Zero Leprosy Initiative that will help eliminate the discrimination you have been facing,” assuring them of the two foundations’ continuing support for Bangladesh’s initiative to achieve zero leprosy by 2030.
During my stay in Dhaka, I also appeared on television together with Health Minister Maleque to speak directly to the people of Bangladesh. I stressed that there is an effective cure for leprosy, it is available for free, and that early diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent physical impairment.
In the early stage of the disease, I explained, there are hardly any noticeable symptoms except for painless, discolored skin patches, and this is one of the reasons behind delayed diagnosis. I urged viewers not to overlook these patches and check out their family members at home.
Yes, people in Bangladesh do love taking photos! Speaking with participants in the conference of persons affected by leprosy Appearing on a live television show on Channel 1 from 5 p.m. on December 11, 2019 I urged viewers to always check their family members for discolored skin patches, which are an early sign of leprosy.
The Nippon Foundation Ready to Support Bangladesh to Achieve Zero Leprosy by 2030 (1) [2019年12月17日（Tue）]
Shaking hands with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (far left), who announced the Zero Leprosy Initiative aimed at eliminating leprosy in the country by 2030.
I visited Bangladesh from December 10 to 13 in my capacity as Chairman of The Nippon Foundation and World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination to attend the National Leprosy Conference 2019 and the country’s first ever meeting of people affected by leprosy.The National Leprosy Conference was held in the capital Dhaka on December 11 and brought together Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Health Minister Zahid Maleque as well as hundreds of health workers, medical professionals and a number of persons affected by leprosy. The Nippon Foundation and its partner organization, the Sasakawa Health Foundation, organized the conference, which came about after I called on Prime Minister Hasina during my previous visit to the South Asian country in February this year and received her support.“It is very reassuring−and pleasing−to receive such strong commitment from the country’s leader,” I said in my speech to the gathering, hailing the Prime Minister’s announcement of the Zero Leprosy Initiative aimed at eliminating leprosy in the country by 2030. Due to the Bangladeshi government placing high priorities on measures against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, the national prevalence of leprosy has been declining in recent years.
Yet it is an undeniable reality that many new cases are still discovered nationwide today with about 4,000 patients newly detected per year over the last few years in Bangladesh.
“I urge everyone to work with each other to accelerate the actions needed to achieve Zero Leprosy in Bangladesh by 2030,” I stated, adding: “Both The Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation are ready to work with you.”
As our photographer was not allowed to carry a camera into the conference hall for security reasons, we have no photos of the National Leprosy Conference 2019. However, there are other photos that record my recent visit, as you can see in the next piece.
Note: However, we have since received photos of the National Leprosy Conference 2019, which are now on this blog.
Addressing the National Leprosy Conference 2019 held in the capital Dhaka on December 11, 2019.
Environment Minister Koizumi Gives Keynote Speech at Social Innovation Forum [2019年12月10日（Tue）]
The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2019 opened with a keynote address by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at Tokyo International Forum on November 29, 2019.
The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2019 was held from November 29 to December 1 at Tokyo International Forum in central Tokuyo.
The annual gathering opened with a keynote speech by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who took up a Cabinet portfolio for the first time in September this year. This was his fourth appearance in as many years at the forum, which is designed to search for specific measures to resolve increasingly complex social issues through innovative ideas and actions.
In his speech to an estimated 1,000 audience, Minister Koizumi said that he has assumed “the post which most requires social innovation,” expressing his determination to lead the world in tackling what is no longer being called climate change but the climate crisis, and challenges facing the oceans, especially marine plastic waste, and other issues.
He cited an estimate that there would be more plastic waste than fish in the sea by the year 2050, and warned that 90 percent of Japan’s sand beaches would disappear by 2100 if the Paris climate agreement for reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions is not attained. He does “not want to pass on such a future to the next generation,” including his own child expected to be born early next year, he stressed.
I followed up his presentation with a speech dealing with ocean environmental issues, stressing the importance for every one of us to do whatever we can in a concerted effort to change the future.
It was quite fortunate for The Nippon Foundation to have Mr. Koizumi as a keynote speaker for four years in a row, since one opinion poll after another puts the 38-year-old son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the top of the list of candidates for the next prime minister.
The three-day forum also featured 12 “Future Sessions,” in which new acquaintances who met at the venue engaged in creative dialogue on a wide range of topics such as family and child-rearing, work style, community, agriculture, and artificial intelligence (AI).
The final day of the forum saw the selection of The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Award 2019 winners. Pending final approval by the foundation’s board of directors, the top prize of 10 million yen will be given to Mr. Tomoya Onaka of the NPO “Silent Voice” for developing a service for matching hearing-impaired persons on the web with an instructor who can communicate in sign language. The winners were chosen from among the 10 finalists who made presentations during the forum and 131 entrants from all over Japan.
Altogether, more than 3,000 people participated in the forum. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who took part as well as the foundation’s staff members for their hard work to make it a success.
I followed Minister Koizumi with a speech dealing with ocean environmental issues in front of an audience estimated at 1,000.
8-year-Old YouTube Star Ryan Donates $100,000 for Kids Hit by Typhoon [2019年12月06日（Fri）]
I was really heartened when The Nippon Foundation received a $100,000 donation from Ryan Kaji, an 8-year-old American YouTube star, and his family to support the Foundation’s relief activities for people hit by Typhoon Hagibis. Ryan is the son of a Japanese father and Vietnamese mother and his family said in a statement that they “directly felt the impact of the typhoon as our father, Shion, was in Tokyo on business when the typhoon struck Japan” in mid-October. “We are making this donation to The Nippon Foundation to support these children,” they added.
Ryan operates the popular YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview,” which features a variety of educational videos, including science experiments, skits, and family activities, and is popular in North America, Europe, and Asia with its cumulative subscribers reaching 31.44 million. Ryan was named the “highest-paid YouTube star” by Forbes magazine in 2018, when he was estimated to have earned $22 million.
The Nippon Foundation has been receiving donations from many people to support our disaster response and recovery operations.
We fully recognize the responsibility entrusted in us to make good use of such heart-warming donations as we engage in our activities.
1,650 Houses Completed for Conflict-Affected People in Myanmar [2019年12月05日（Thu）]
Speaking at a ceremony in the village of Lay Kay Kaw, Kayin State, in southeastern Myanmar on November 27, 2019, to mark the completion of 1,650 houses for conflict-affected people.
I visited southeastern Myanmar in late November to attend a ceremony to mark the completion of 1,650 houses for returned IDPs (internally displaced persons) and repatriated refugees.
The houses were built under the second phase of a project The Nippon Foundation began in 2016, with funds provided by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the areas controlled by the ethnic armed organizations that have signed cease-fire deals with the Myanmar government.
Besides the residential buildings, we built 27 schools, 7 healthcare centers and 29 wells. Under the first phase of the project, we built 1,250 houses, 7 schools, 4 healthcare clinics, 5 wells and 1 bridge.
I joined the ceremony held in the village of Lay Kay Kaw in the state of Kayin on November 27 as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, together with Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama. The Myanmar side was represented by General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), Ms. Nang Khin Htwe Myint, Chief Minister of Kayin State and General Mya Tun Oo, Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air) of the Defense Services of Myanmar, as well as about 500 local residents.
Speaking at the gathering, KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe expressed his gratitude to The Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government for their assistance. He said Myanmar used to be the richest country in Southeast Asia, but has now become the poorest due to decades of conflict, expressing his determination to rebuild the country.
I said I was hopeful that as we provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict-affected areas where a ceasefire prevails, people there will feel the fruits of peace.
So far, 10 out of almost 20 ethnic armed organizations have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government of Myanmar.
The Nippon Foundation remains committed to supporting conflict-affected people throughout the country, working closely with the Government of Myanmar, state and regional governments, and respective ethnic armed organizations.
I expressed my readiness to back up efforts to achieve a ceasefire with the rest of the armed ethnic groups, which will be a major step forward in the complicated peace process across the country.
With General Mya Tun Oo, Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air) of the Defense Services of Myanmar.
Ms. Nang Khin Htwe Myint (left), Chief Minister of Kayin State, hands an identification card to a refugee who returned from Thailand.
General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, Chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU) and I fill in the eyes of a Japanese daruma doll, symbolizing
perseverance and good luck, praying to achieve nationwide peace through concerted efforts.
Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama.
The ceremony was attended by some 500 villagers.
We were given a friendly welcomed by young girls living in the village.
Taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with residents and dignitaries.
I was interviewed by the local media.