Over many decades, Japan has contributed greatly in the areas of global cooperation and coordination, through its generous donations of funds to the U.N. Despite such generosity, the number of Japanese working for international institutions remains low and has been increasing only marginally over the years.
For example, the number of Japanese staff working for the U.N. is only one-third of the “preferred figures” that are calculated annually based on the contributions and populations of member countries.
This is a serious problem for Japan since the country acknowledges that to raise its presence in the global community it must increase the number of Japanese working at international organizations. Furthermore, Japan is aware that a rising figure of globally minded organizational workers contributes to proving the country’s strong determination to actively promote world peace and prosperity.
Additionally, the existence of talented Japanese is very much desired to serve as the “liaison” between the respective international organizations and Japan, because their existence and rich international experience could help solve various diplomatic problems at home. Additionally, such workers contribute to enrich human resources as a whole, leading to the overall development of the entire nation.
Those workers in fact have already proven to be very efficient in bridging the gap and smoothly and efficiently promoting various projects and policies among the U.N., its related organizations and Japan. For example, they have served as capable liaisons for Japan in cohosting the Tokyo International Conference on African Development. The international conference to assist the development of the African nations has been held since 1993 under the initiative of Japan, together with the U.N., the U.N. Development Programme, the African Union Committee and the World Bank.
Well aware of the significant role played by the quality staff at global institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been actively pursuing untapped talent and pushing those Japanese to become global players, while offering information to the world on Japanese human resources capable of playing prominent roles in, and contributing to, the global arena.
One specific approach is MOFA’s guidance on international organizations to disseminate information about the recruitment conditions of international organizations. In 2015 alone, 74 such events were held both in and outside Japan. In the same year, MOFA also organized an outreach mission at five universities in the Kanto area that was attended by human resource personnel from those organizations. About 800 college students attended the outreach mission event.
Furthermore, MOFA is aggressively promoting its Junior Programme Officer (JPO) dispatch system that sends young staff to work at various international organizations for two years, so that those workers can accumulate enough knowledge and experience for future recruitment at the respective organizations they worked for after completing their dispatch period. Specifically, MOFA provides assistance to young JPO staff working at each international organization, discusses and collects information on job prospects with the respective international organizations, provides advice to JPO staff on the organizations’ hiring conditions and offers other assistance.
Though all the above are meaningful and important actions, the core question still remains as to why young Japanese are reluctant to leave Japan and work in international organizations. “I have heard young Japanese staff of MOFA lament that they cannot find Japanese spouses, or their family members disapprove of them living in a developing country. This is a pity because those people themselves are fully aware and interested in working for an international organization,” said Yoriko Yasukawa, now stationed in Thailand as the U.N. Population Fund Asia-Pacific Regional Director. Yasukawa remains one of the few Japanese who has worked for many years at the U.N. and related institutions. “We should draw up an evidence-based policy to overcome this dilemma that exists both on the national and private levels. In that context, the first action is to find out the true reason as to why spouses and families reject the idea of living outside Japan,” she continued.
One possibility is the comfort of being in Japan and enjoying living in a clean and safe environment, surrounded by people who are good and sincere. “But when you look at the world, you notice that there are many unhappy people in other countries suffering from dire poverty and living in dangerous situations. Because Japan has been there and overcome it, there is much that it can share with other countries,” she stressed.
“Japanese are liked and well respected in many countries around the world, including those in the Latin American region where I once worked. Japan is also highly regarded in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand where I’m currently stationed.”
According to Yasukawa, what is needed in Japan now is to “educate people to recognize the real conditions of the world and ensure they are aware of how fortunate they are.” She said that such information should be given at an early stage of learning, probably from around junior high school. Another point she stressed is for Japan to focus more on providing usable English education to its citizens, especially to up-and-coming generations.
As she started her career at the U.N. as a JPO 34 years ago, Yasukawa said that one advantage of working at an international organization is that you come to work with “very sharp people, literally from around the world.” After several years of working at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Yasukawa was dispatched to Guatemala as the regional officer, and then to Nicaragua in the same role. Looking back on her many years of working in Latin America, she said: “It was very exciting to become directly involved in the various issues unique to each respective nation. The problems of each country are different, and listening to the real voices of the people and working to find solutions together with them are the kind of worthy, priceless experiences that working at a global institution can provide.”
Today, numerous international organizations have been established both in Japan and abroad. Every day, they are tackling various global issues such as poverty, climate change, human rights, food and energy shortages, refugee protection, dispute prevention, health and hygiene, education, employment and female independence. Consequently, these organizations attract many intelligent people from around the world with different skills, as well as varied cultural and national backgrounds. In that context, working for an international organization becomes a truly meaningful career, both on individual and national levels.
“Thinking about working for a global institution is a truly worthy option, if you have the enthusiasm and will to contribute to world peace and development, and seek to achieve the ultimate goal of making the Earth a better, safer and more peaceful place for all people to live,” noted Yasukawa. With over 30 years of experience working for the U.N. and related agencies, Yasukawa became an expert in the areas of sustainable development, defense and promotion of human rights, democratic governance, conflict prevention and resolution. “As was my case, you can also build your own expertise if you continue working at an international organization over the years,” she explained.
The year 2016 marked Japan’s 60th year of membership in the U.N. Becoming a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council for the 11th time this year, Japan has been and will continue to be a peacekeeping nation that contributes to global society by providing financial, policy-making and manpower support to international organizations, especially the U.N.
In line with such determination, MOFA has said it will tackle various issues by taking full advantage of its knowledge and experience accumulated over decades, while concurrently understanding the role and responsibility of an international organization.
For this purpose, Japan as an entire nation renews its firm resolution to bring up superb Japanese with outstanding will, determination and enthusiasm in solving various problems faced by people around the world.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.