Honorary Advisor of AMDA International, Mr. Mikio Tajima, Delivers Speech at UN ECOSOC Meeting.
The following speech was delivered at 52nd Session of the Committee for Social Development by Mr. Mikio Tajima, an Honorary Advisor of AMDA International and Former UN Director, on February 12, 2014 at United Nations Headquarters.
I represent AMDA. AMDA stands for Association of Medical Doctors of Asia. We look after medical health-care sectors in 65 countries. We also deal with 154 emergency relief/recovery cases. We had many lessons to draw successes, difficulties and thoughts for the future.
Be it a natural calamity or man-made disaster, demand for humanitarian emergency relief is growing almost day by day. As you may recall nearby three years ago, we had a North-East Japan Earthquake of 9.0 magnitude followed by devastating tsunami swallowing and washing away people, houses, cars and practically everything. It was undoubtedly one of the most horrifying natural disasters of the past few decades. AMDA, one of the first to reach the disaster region, has been actively engaged in emergency relief and rehabilitation efforts. We have witnessed the utter despair in the human helplessness against the unthinkable power of nature. At the same time we have seen the strength and courage of the people of the North East in their efforts to rise above this crisis.
Today, the stark reality of the disaster still looms heavy over the directly affected disaster region. The pace of recovery is slow while the local economy struggles with high unemployment rate and restructuring of local business that were completely destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Life is still hard on the people. They are in endless mourning for their families and friends who did not survive the disaster. They are fighting with all their power to rise above this hard and trying time. What sustain these people are people within their communities as well as people from the outside.
A strong sense of trust and ties that bind neighbors together still exist in local communities of present-day Japan. Traditionally, Japanese society has built a system of mutual assistance among neighbors. We call it SOGO FUJO, one of AMDA°«s guiding principles and it certainly works also across the boundaries. Many volunteers, within Japan as well as from other parts of the world, have come to help the disaster affected communities.
Several communities were badly affected. One of them is FUKUSHIMA, which as you may recall, is the region where nuclear-energy plants are located. I have just received encouraging news from that region saying that, thanks to local initiatives and determination of the local people, they have already organized five local-level, morale boosting social gatherings outside Fukushima region but the very first one in Fukushima proper, which was held only two weeks ago. There was a local scare for further radio-active leakage and the organizers were very much afraid but they had the biggest turn out of more than 8,000 people, of whom 90% were from the very local FUKUSHIMA region. They had great GOURMET meals, sports festivals, children°«s games and all-day entertainment. This clearly shows the determination of local residents that they shall somehow overcome. This local initiatives is another important guiding principles of AMDA. Maximum dialogue should be encouraged and promoted among all local entities.
Immediately after the earthquake/tsunami, a road map was drawn up by all concerned describing division of labor, who, who does what and when, who to pull out and who to take over. But in the final analysis what counts most are local initiatives and determination and they are not to be let down. I congratulate everyone for taking part in this cycle of mutual assistance. This is SOGO FUJO at its best. Though we humans are very vulnerable toward natural threats, we have each other to support in times of crisis and it is this solidarity that can give us hope and encourage to move forward.
Thank you, Mme Chair.