On September 14, 2018, the International School Network visited the World Food Programme (WFP) to interview the Director of the Tokyo Office, Ms. Naoe Yakiya.
Japan office -Madoka
Because WFP is a voluntary organization, the Japanese office of WFP has the role of raising funds from the Japanese government, private sectors, and individuals. Ms. Yakiya shared that WFP has no asset contribution so it must raise funds from the public and private sectors. The Tokyo Office of WFP is also important for its dissemination of information not only to the Japanese government but also to the general public in order to gain support. The organization holds various means of public relations and communication.
The WFP focuses its mission on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 and 17: “Zero Hunger (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture)” and “Partnerships for the Goals (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development)”. Ms. Yakiya believes that addressing problems of hunger should not be just driven by sympathy but by urgent need. She hopes that more people can be aware of the reality of hunger as a worldly issue, especially because many people in countries such as Japan tend to believe hunger is a far away issue.
Ms. Yakiya explained to us the spiral of hunger and conflicts. She commented that hunger is a cause of conflict, and therefore peace can only be achieved upon the eradication of hunger and poverty. Food security is the root cause for many problems, such as malnutrition, vulnerable maternal and child health, and environmental issues. Lack of food also causes social problems such as radicalism, which leads to conflicts, and global economic impacts on commodity supply and prices. Ms. Yakiya emphasized that this is very relevant in Japan as well, as its economy is not self-sufficient.
World hunger has increased over the past year by 6 million. This resulted in 821 million starving people in the world, which is especially alarming because the increase last year had been the first increase in 10 years! Ms. Yakiya mentioned one of the main causes of world hunger: climate extremes and weather shocks. For instance, serious droughts and floods can lead to a shortage of food production and henceforth a rise in food prices. Poor people, especially those whose income is dependent on agriculture, are starving due to their inability to afford food. This has been worsening conflicts in various countries as well as creating critical situations that result in refugees and internally displaced people.
Ms. Yakiya explained that the Japanese office of WFP works to inform as many people as they can about relevant issues through social media and their homepage. They have invited the general public on many occasions to participate in campaigns and events. At the charity walk that took place in Yokohama earlier this year, over four thousand people participated. They also disseminate knowledge and information by publishing articles and delivering lectures at universities. The office has also appointed celebrities as national ambassadors, whose goal is to raise awareness of WFP's activities and goals.
Ms.Yakiya shared her views on globalization during the interview. Although she recognized issues such as territorial and economic issues that is caused by the expanding globalization, her views on globalization was mainly positive. Ms.Yakiya believes the phenomenon of globalization is crucial in enriching our culture. She claimed that diversity enriches our culture, stressing that globalization is necessary because Japan is not a self-sufficient country.
Goals - Erika
Ultimately, Ms.Yakiya aspires to become the bridge to Japan and rest of the world through representing Japan in the United Nations, among many of her colleagues. In achieving this goal, Ms.Yakiya believes that increasing visibility of Japan is crucial. Another vital aspect of her duty as the director of WFP relations office in Japan is connecting the Japanese society and WFP (World Food Programme). This connection could be attained by integrating Japanese policies in WFP, as well as sharing WFP’s policies with Japan.
When asked questions about her career, Ms.Yakiya kindly answered how she ended up as the director of WFP in Japan in great detail. The entryway to UN, according to Ms.Yakiya, is passing the exam for a program called the JPO. After passing this particular exam, one could go on and begin their career at various UN agencies for 2-3 years. Yet, the permanent position could only be given to candidates who are successful in remaining in the JPO for over 3 years. Ms.Yakiya then went back to discussing about her motivations of becoming a director in the United Nations. As for her interest in United Nations, the growing desire to work for this organization began in her high school days. Seeing various documentaries regarding United Nations sparked her interest in United Nations. Further, growing up in Hiroshima, Ms.Yakiya was also interested in peace and working with people from diverse backgrounds. Thus, United Nations seemed like a perfect match, because it would ultimately lead to a career focused on building peace within a diverse community. After graduating International Christian University and graduate school, Ms.Yakiya then went on to join a private company, as it was impossible for one to go on to working for the United Nations immediately after graduation. Once she gained experience working for a private company, she joined a NGO, eventually working as a United Nations volunteer working in Iran, Kosvo, while taking the JPO examination. Ms.Yakiya has been working for the WFP for 17 years, working in diverse positions such as external relations officer in Rome, head of programs in Butan, and head of public relations(reporting public information) in Sri Lanka, before starting her position as senior donor relations officer at the United Nations Tokyo office.
Ms. Yakiya’s passion for WFP started when she worked in Iraq. She saw that the work of WFP was very influential in Iraq, allowing her to realize the “power of food” as a basic need in many sectors. Food assistance is not only able to eradicate hunger but also can improve various areas in life including health, nutrition, education, and environment. Ms. Yakikya added that WFP also has a role for implementing logistics, which helps various services and systems such as transportation and air. As WFP is the largest humanitarian agency, Ms. Yakiya knew that she wanted to be part the organization for its great cause.
Ms. Yakiya introduced to us some of the projects undergone by WFP. WFP focuses on self-reliance, through food or cash for asset programs, and community programs. For instance, school meal programs allow for children to go to school and obtain an education. Innovative programs allow for refugees to exchange food at shops through facial and fingerprint recognition. Irrigation programs help farmers increase productivity in an eco friendly manner. Furthermore, WFP has been contributing the the empowerment of women by health counseling.
One advice Ms.Yakiya wishes to give students is to consider the many opportunities that await outside of Japan. She emphasized the importance of diversity and the advantages of placing oneself in a diverse environment. She also hopes that students will obtain more information about issues concerning world hunger and start thinking about what they can do to help the people in need, even on a small scale.
Gender equality - Arisa
When Ms. Yakiya started working at the WFP, she was surprised at how men and women were treated equally within the organization. She noticed that female workers were at times given more opportunities than their male counterparts, showing how much the organization invests in women. She herself was given the chance to work in Sierra Leone as deputy director, despite her lack of prior experience. She emphasized that women are given many challenges and opportunities for professional growth. Some obstacles that she faced as a female worker would be the difficulty in establishing herself when working in countries where it is uncommon for women to be in leadership positions.