22 February 2008
Mr. Roland Rich, Executive Head of UNDEF and Ms. Akiko Ikeda, Secretary of UNDEF were invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Tokyo to participate in two conferences entitled “Japan’s foreign policy for the promotion of human rights and democracy: challenges and prospects” (1 February 2008), organized by MOFA; and “Democracy Support for Japanese NGOs” (2 February 2008), organized by MOFA and implemented by Shanti Volunteer Association. It was Mr. Rich’s first visit to Japan as Executive Head of UNDEF.
Mr. Rich at his key note speech and the following panel discussion
The purpose of the conference entitled “Japan’s foreign policy for promotion of human rights and democracy: challenges and prospects” was to exchange views on democracy building and assistance and on human rights issues with the view to further strengthen Japan’s foreign policy. The conference began with an opening statement by Ambassador Akimoto, in charge of United Nations Affairs at MOFA, who stated that Japan is strongly supportive of further strengthening democracy promotion and mainstreaming of human rights issues as pillars of Japan’s foreign policy. Mr. Rich, in his key note speech, explained the value of international democracy promotion by describing the establishment of UNDEF, historical overview of democracy particularly in Asia, partnership with democracy-oriented organizations and foundations, aspects of democracy promotion, project application and selection process and partners of UNDEF, including UNDEF advisory board members. Throughout this speech, he emphasized the active participation of civil society in democracy promotion. Main topics addressed during the conference include the importance of civil society participation, long-term commitment to democracy assistance, economic growth for sustainable democracy, the rule of law as a form of democracy assistance to other developing countries and a multi-sectoral or comprehensive approach in dealing with democratic assistance. More than 140 participants, most of whom were representatives of foreign embassies in Tokyo, of civil society organizations and students, attended this conference.
Seminar participants and host Ambassador Akimoto
In the conference entitled “Democracy Support for Japanese NGOs” (2 February 2008), Mr. Rich emphasized that democracy does not run well if the society is not highly engaged by people/civil society and that the role of women is of particular importance in democracy building. Furthermore, he encouraged civil society organisations in Japan to build their capacities by partnering with other organizations and foundations. Subjects covered during the conference include a multi-cultural and inclusive approach to promoting democracy and an inclusion of vulnerable groups such as women, girls and minorities in democracy projects. Ms. Ikeda of UNDEF, leading two seminars, explained UNDEF’s priority in supporting civil society organizations and described ways to integrate vulnerable groups in project documents. In addition, she explained ways in which Japanese civil society could expand their networks with other organizations and provided guidance in drafting effective project applications. More than 35 participants attended each seminar, in which participants actively exchanged views on democracy assistance with particular reference to the inclusion of vulnerable groups.
Mr. Rich and Ms. Koda
Mr. Rich also met with Ms. Koda, director of the United Nations Information
Center (UNIC) where a short video interview was filmed (the video clip
is available at http://www.unic.or.jp/un_interview/index.htm#guest12).