Antipoverty activist tries to keep ’15 goals alive

by Tetsuji Ida

Kyodo

As executive director of an umbrella alliance of civic groups trying to fight poverty in developing countries, Masaki Inaba is actively engaged in policy recommendations and a public awareness campaign, with the goal of a poverty-free world.

A Kyoto native, Inaba, 44, leads the 70-member alliance Ugoku/Ugokasu, the Japanese version of Global Call to Action Against Poverty, set up in March 2009 to help achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, including halving poverty by 2015.

“Japanese lack interest in (the goals) even in this crucial time ticking down to the 2015 achievement deadline,” said Inaba, who penned and issued a booklet about the eight MDGs late last year in collaboration with other members.

“There wasn’t even a book (in Japan) for the public summarizing the content of the MDGs and the current situation,” he said.

In 2000, 189 U.N. member nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations, with the pledge turning into MDGs to be achieved by 2015.

Inaba has long led citizens’ movements, including a campaign in support of day workers in Yokohama when he was a university student, and gay rights struggles.

He became involved in the fight against poverty in developing countries in 2002.

Although he had experience addressing AIDS issues in Japan, he had to feel his way around this new challenge, establishing a network of citizens’ groups and lobbying politicians and bureaucrats among others, he recalled.

In a decade, Inaba has gotten some response in tackling global poverty issues.

“In Japanese society, it’s difficult to see clear achievements and we cannot say we’ve accomplished this,” he said.

“But, in reality, everything has changed well.

“Either politicians or bureaucrats have become attentive to civil society’s voices,” Inaba said, adding that it has become possible for civic group representatives to take part in venues for policy settings and government delegations.

He is worried about Japan losing its clout in the international community without addressing global issues properly.

“Although interest is fading amid the economic crisis, Japan may lose its presence in the world unless it deals with global-scale challenges such as poverty and environmental problems appropriately as a developed country,” Inaba said.

“The responsibility of Japan’s civil society is great as well.”