The United Nations Children’s Fund is an international organization working for children’s rights all over the world. The International School Network interviewed the director of UNICEF in Japan and Korea, Mr. Kunihiko Chris Hirabayashi.
During the interview, we came across the significance of "children" within UNICEF and our society. To give a better understanding, Mr. Hirabayashi presented us a booklet titled Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is a human rights treaty which was established about 25 years ago. The CRC defines the civil, economic, political, social, health, and cultural rights of children. On Article 1 in PART I of the CRC, the convention confirms that "a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier". The CRC was recently ratified by the United Nations and as Mr. Hirabayashi explained, its purpose is to give a clear definition of rights for the children in order to protect them legally. Mr. Hirabayashi commented that the idea of UNICEF is that “children are not just small adults”. He said that children are “human that need special attention and protection".
Currently, there are various organizations that hold a similar motto to UNICEF such as Save The Children and Red Cross. UNICEF has a large network with individual networks within it, which is a similar structure of other organizations. Mr. Hirabayashi mentioned that one of the most important and unique strengths of UNICEF is its global and international voice. UNICEF is part of the UN General Assembly, with numerous member states. Mr. Hirabayashi explained that UNICEF is open to suggestions as well as criticisms. It is a network that encourages face-to-face talk, as it works hard to gain trust through evidence and attentively collected statistical data. Mr. Hirabayashi also mentioned that UNICEF's aim is not to "blame anyone", as global issues are the responsibility of all.
Currently, UNICEF is helping children in 155 different countries so that they can reach a position in which they will be able to stand up on their own legs and work their way ahead for a bright future. Sustainability is one of the most important concepts in global development today, as global issues require cross-border strategies. The basic role of UNICEF is to provide support through governments or local organizations. The degree of support depends on the needs and abilities of both sides. UNICEF plays an advisory role towards governments and expands financial and expert support to governments with financial difficulties. To maintain sustainability of the projects done by UNICEF, the organization works towards constructing reliable connections with local community-based organizations, and monitoring situations.
As students who live in a privileged environment, we wondered how we can work together in order to contribute in saving children around the world. To this, Mr. Hirabayashi commented that “adults cannot help children as much as children can help children." He said that the young generation is more influential and more understanding of children than adults. Mr. Hirabayashi advised us to teach our past experiences to the younger ones so that they can create their own shield of defense.
UNICEF works hard to respect local cultures while persuading governments and people of different countries to follow the CRC. To do this, UNICEF uses traditional communication mechanisms, such as through local figures, organizations, and media.
Mr. Hirabayashi explained to us the formula of the formation of trust, which is “TRUST= C + R + E + I”.
C stands for Credibility. This is the explanation and supporting data. When people are familiar with an organization, they are more likely to trust it. R stands for Reliability. Reliability comes from quick, proper, and repeated responses. Mr. Hirabayashi commented that it is important to meet with people frequently, to continuously respond to requests, and to be punctual with due dates. E stands for Expertise. People are more likely to trust experts and professionals, as they are respected to have experience and knowledge on the certain topic. I stands for Intimacy. Being passionate and saying things from the bottom of your heart shows confidence and perseverance.
Before becoming the director of UNICEF for Japan and Korea, Mr. Hirabayashi worked as a heart surgeon specialized for children. In 1994, he discovered a shocking photo of a starving small child in the suburbs of South Sudan. Mr. Hirabayashi then decided that he would like to work in contribution to the betterment of human society in the world. Mr. Hirabayashi says that it is not easy to change the world. Organizations act towards helping people in large scales but do not directly save lives, whereas doctors, although on a smaller scale, are able to noticeably save lives. Mr. Hirabayashi says that both ways of working are very fruitful and meaningful, as “every one thing [towards helping those in need] is very crucial”.
The message Mr. Hirabayashi has towards students is to be ambitious. He says that it is important to use all of the opportunities offered in our lives. He comments that students should open their eyes more, not only to their surroundings, but also to global issues for a more fruitful and meaningful life. He believes that sharing ideas and accepting others are the first step to creativity. He explained that it is important to know about other people in order to know how to help them, and that it is important to pay close attention to children and use our full capacity to support them.
Mr. Hirabayashi also believes that students must appreciate and show deep care for their family. He says that one can return the support of one’s parents/guardians not only directly but also through helping other people.