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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2013 Early Spring Issue]>[News & Chuo University News] International Week 4th Theme: United Nations

Hakumon CHUOIndex

News & Chuo University News

International Week

4th Theme: United Nations


Kiyotaka Akasaka
Former United Nations Under-Secretary-General

My question for the youth: What value does your life have if you spend every day seeking only stability and comfort?

Decreasing number of Japanese UN employees

Kiyotaka Akasaka is the former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. Last August, he became Director of the Foreign Press Center Japan. The 64-year old Akasaka has a strong message for today’s youth: “Young people—go out into the world!” Following his graduation from the Kyoto University Faculty of Law, Akasaka entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Afterwards, he spent 25 years overseas serving in positions such as Assistant Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations, and Deputy Director-General in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Akasaka is concerned by the decreasing number of Japanese students studying overseas, as well as by the decreasing number of Japanese UN employees. Although he retired from the UN last March, he still pays great attention to the organization. Akasaka knows that Chuo University contains Academic Impact, a network which connects the UN with universities throughout the world. He recognizes that Chuo University has actively worked in the Academic Impact initiative.

Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka

The number of Japanese employees working in the UN is overwhelmingly small. Japanese account for only 786 of the approximately 30,000 full-time UN employees, or just 2.6% of total employees. These figures include employees at organizations such as UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and WHO (World Health Organization). When considering only the United Nations Secretariat, the number of Japanese has decreased to only 214 of the 12,000 UN employees, or just 1.7% (as of July 31st, 2011).

In 1990s, Hiroshi Nakashima was Director-General of the WHO, Sadako Ogata was High Commissioner of the UNHCR, and Yasushi Akashi was Secretary-General of United Nations Headquarters. All three of these individuals exuded a presence in their international fields. No Japanese person held a top position in the UN for more than two years after Koichiro Matsuura retired from UNESCO Director-General in 2009. Finally, Koji Sekimizu was appointed to the top position of IMO Secretary-General in 2012.

Vitality of China and Korea

Recently, young Japanese people say that they don’t want to go overseas. After peaking at 83,000 students in 2004, the number of Japanese foreign students has continued to decline, falling to about 60,000 in 2009. There has been a particularly prominent decrease in the number of Japanese students studying in America. In 1995, there were more than 40,000 Japanese studying in America, the largest number of any country in the world. This number decreased to 21,000 students in 2011, which makes Japan 7th in terms of foreign students studying in America. China is No. 1 at 158,000 students, an increase of 23% compared to the previous year. The ranking continues with India, Canada, Korea, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia.

The same can be said for countries themselves. It is easy to recognize a country’s condition from the vitality and energy of its citizens. When I worked at the UN, I felt the force of an energetic country from India, China, Korea, Brazil, Turkey and Qatar. These countries hosted large international conferences and expositions. In terms of sports, they hosted the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup

My generation grew up in Japan that overflowed with energy and was soaring upwards. I read Saka no Ue no Kumo (Clouds Over the Hill) by Ryotaro Shiba and believed that tomorrow would be better than today.

Today’s youth lives in Japan which is on the downside. They must live in a difficult time in which tomorrow might be worse than today. However, depending on one’s perception, it could also be called the coming of a very interesting age. Someone has to fulfill the great task of supporting and turning around flagging Japan. We have entered an age which once again requires the energy of wild youth.

The world is vast and offers countless chances for testing your own potential. Throughout the world, these chances await energetic young people. There are still many opportunities in the UN, research institutions, universities, NGOs and volunteer activities. Japanese people are serious, responsible and value teamwork. These qualities make Japanese people valued anywhere in the world. In order to restore the vitality of Japan, how about going out into the world? (Lecture held on the Korakuen Campus, Chuo University on December 18th, 2012)

Chikako Takase, Director of the United Nations Centre for Regional Development

What it takes to work at the UN

Takase studied abroad in Singapore when she was in high school. After graduating from International Christian University, she completed the Master’s Program at the University of Sussex Graduate School in England. She began working at the United Nations Secretariat from January 1984 and assumed her current position in February 2012.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Law did not yet exist in Japan when Takase was searching for employment during her 4th year at university. At that time, women were forbidden from nighttime work.

Ms. Chikako Takase

Takase recalls when she was studying development economic at graduate school and earnestly seeking employment at the UN: “There was no internet back in those days. I wanted to work at the UN and wrote letters to each organization. Although almost all of the replies were negative, everyone responded to my letters. That was my first step towards employment at the UN. It’s important to think and act independently.”

After learning about UN employment supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Takase traveled to Jakarta. She worked as an Associate Expert in UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization). Afterwards, Takase was involved in the Young Professionals Programme, an international examination held by the UN. She then worked as a UN employee mainly in the economics field. She is currently Director of the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), which was established in 1971 in the city of Nagoya. From the perspectives of economic/social development, environmental action and disaster control planning for regional development, the centre supports the improvement of development staff at the level of emerging nations, cities and regions. The centre has offices in Kenya and Columbia.

“Work at the UN Secretariat can be described as behind-the-scenes work. Employees create reports for meetings held by the Secretary-General and prepare background papers for government officials to refer to at important meetings. Employees also participate in negotiations and analyze policy.”

According to Takase the UN Secretariat offers equal opportunities regardless of gender and women can work unconstrainedly. She encourages university students to be proactive by working at international offices or taking advantage of foreign study and internships.

Takase works at the UN and strive for the good of international society. The internet age provides an opportunity to embrace new challenges.
(December 18th, 2012; Korakuen Campus)

Impression from Student Reporter
I want to work in humanitarian support and the construction of peace as an international official. During international week, lectures were given by prominent individuals with rich experience working at the United Nations. It was a precious opportunity to listen directly to such individuals. The lectures were very interesting and I hope that our university creates another such opportunity in the future. After listening to the lecturers, I am motivated to study even harder every day in pursuit of my dreams.

(Student Reporter: Hibiki Takeda, 1st-Year Student in Faculty of Policy Studies)