By Naoko Iwasaki
TOKYO, Japan, 6 June 2011 – Reaching the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged children and families is the need of the hour. That was the overarching message conveyed by Executive Director Anthony Lake late last week at a meeting hosted by the Government of Japan and organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the UN Development Programme, the World Bank and UNICEF.
|VIDEO: 5 June 2011 - UNICEF reports on UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake's visit to Japan. Watch in RealPlayer|
Leaders gathered in Tokyo to review progress made on achieving the Millennium Development Goals as their 2015 deadline approaches.
“Although it has been only a short while since the great East Japan earthquake, I am pleased that we are able to hold today's conference as originally planned,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in his opening remarks. “I hope you will take this decision as the expression of Japan’s resolve to continue playing an active role in the international endeavour to achieve the MDGs.”
‘An equity approach’
The meeting participants – including representatives of over 110 countries, as well as regional, international and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector – affirmed the importance of achieving well-being for all in a time of new challenges. They identified human security, equity, mutual support and sustainability as guiding principles toward meeting the MDGs by 2015.
|© UNICEF Japan/2011/Sato|
|UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on the softball field with girls at a middle school in Onagawa Town, located in Japan's earthquake- and tsunami-affected Miyagi Prefecture.|
“Even if we otherwise succeed in achieving the MDGs as a whole, our societies will remain unstable if their vulnerable populations are left behind,” said Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto. “In order to achieve the MDGs in a sustainable way, it is vital that we correct social inequalities and build ‘caring societies’ that are considerate of their vulnerable members.”
In his comments, Mr. Lake commended the host country’s longstanding assistance for others.
“The Japanese Government’s consistent support, and the Japanese people’s unfailing generosity, already have helped to improve the lives of millions of people,” he said. “We must focus investment in areas that provide the greatest return and the most sustainable results. And that is what an equity approach, and a greater focus on human security, will achieve.”
Visit to Miyagi
While in Tokyo, Mr. Lake held discussions with members of the bipartisan Parliamentary League for UNICEF. He also met with five university students who had volunteered on the ground during Japan’s earthquake a tsunami emergency. The students expressed their determination to continue helping those in need in Japan and overseas.
|© UNICEF Japan/2011/Sato|
|At the UNICEF Tokyo office, Executive Director Anthony Lake stands with young volunteers who have provided support to vulnerable people in the disaster-affected region of Tohoku, Japan.|
On Saturday, Mr. Lake met with evacuees – including many children – in Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, where 488 people were killed and some 454 remain missing following the tsunami. Along with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyanagi and UNICEF Japan Ambassador Agnes Chan, he visited an elementary school, a middle school and an evacuation centre set up in a gymnasium.
The Japan Committee for UNICEF has been providing assistance for local children in the areas of health, nutrition, education and protection.
Making a difference
“I have noticed, while Tetsuko and Agnes were speaking and singing with the children and evacuees, that some of them were laughing and crying at the same time,” said Mr. Lake. “This was very appropriate. The laughing reflected the strength, spirit and courage of the people there; the crying, the human and physical extent of this catastrophe.”
He added: “I am proud of all that UNICEF’s people in Japan, with the help of so many national committees around the world, have done to make a real difference for the children of the region.”
UNICEF Japan earthquake and tsunami emergency relief website
(external link, opens in a new window)