Recently, U.N. Information Centre Director Kaoru Nemoto had the chance to meet Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa. Nemoto asked about Kamikawa’s expectations toward the U.N., especially in relation to the upcoming 14th U.N. Crime Congress to be held in Japan in 2020. The two also exchanged views on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and crime prevention, as well as female leadership in Japan. The summary of the dialogue is below.
Nemoto: I understand you have maintained a keen interest in the U.N. over the years.
Kamikawa: Yes. The U.N. is a symbol of global societal cooperation. Many U.N. offices are located in the U.N. University building in Shibuya. I find great meaning in its related organizations collaborating within the same U.N. building in Japan, especially in the areas of public outreach.
Nemoto: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), comprised of 17 goals, urge universal action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. How do you personally feel about the SDGs?
Kamikawa: I originally became aware of the SDGs when I learned about the Inuit people living in the Arctic Circle. Being where they are, they are severely affected by global warming. Mother Earth is something we have borrowed from the future, and we should have an open way of thinking about what is happening to it as a direct issue involving us, instead of something distant or unrelated to us. Such understanding is also crucial among government institutions for acting meaningfully toward the future, coordinating with the private sector and rallying support from various partners.
I am determined to tackle the issue of crime prevention from the viewpoint that children are the shared assets of all humankind. To this end, we must build a safe and secure society ruled by law. Legal infrastructure is an important base that should be accessible to anybody, and the ground must be cultivated that enables each person to return to society. We should prevent crime according to this idea, and this stance is in sync with the SDGs. By December, the ministry plans to draw up a considered and comprehensive basic plan to prevent recidivism, involving both government organizations and society.
Nemoto: What initiatives have you taken as justice minister in engaging private citizens in your field?
Kamikawa: In Japan, we have a long history of public collaboration to prevent crime and encourage societal re-entry. Today, we have as many as 4,500 youth volunteers, who specialize in supporting juvenile offenders rehabilitation in society. They stand by, listen and help tackle the respective confronting issues. Furthermore, we have around 14,000 Human Rights Volunteers who have been making painstaking efforts for many days, months and years to protect human rights. Such all-out efforts of the ministry, society and citizens organically work to prevent poverty and crime.
Nemoto: During your first term as justice minister from Oct. 2014 to Sept. 2015, you were successful in bringing the 14th U.N. Crime Congress to Japan in 2020.
Kamikawa: My repeated appointment as justice minister has allowed me to think and act deeper as a legal administration professional. By winning the bid to host the congress, I thought Japan would gain the great opportunity to shape its ideal profile toward the future. My aim is for us to scrutinize on the strengths and weaknesses of our nation at this meaningful event that brings together experts in this area. In that context, I would like to continue calling for and encouraging the active participation of all those involved.
Nemoto: Turning to the issue of female leaders, Japan still has a very limited number of them, especially in the political arena. What can be done to improve the situation?
Kamikawa: Above all, I think an overall bottom-up action is required. Japanese women tend to have a resistance against being involved in politics, and the Diet — our policy-forming platform — remains a faraway realm for each person. The ratio of female members in the House of Representatives is less than 10 percent, and the World Economic Forum positions Japan’s gender gap among the world’s 144 countries at 111th.
Even so, we find women from top-ranking countries such as Finland share much the same issues as Japanese women. Such a situation provides us some relief and encouragement that we can overcome the situation and improve toward the future.
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