Tag Archives: Pacific nations

The most remarkable Japanese person who dedicated himself/herself to Africa’s development is anonymous

Mr Shinobu Mashima in South Sudan: more than 10 kids in a car!

As we promised in one of our previous posts, Steppes in Sync is proudly linking you with the newly arrived United Nations Volunteers UNV Programme Officer in Ukraine Mr Shinobu Mashima of Japan.

Before joining UNDP/UNV, Mr Mashima spent several years working for Japanese NGOs both in the field and at headquarters. As a field staff member, he had been working in Indonesia, East Timor and South Sudan. At the HQs, Mr Mashima was in charge of several projects mainly supporting children and youths at risk of either natural or human-caused disasters. He received his B.A. in Development in Africa from the University of Delaware and M.A. in Peace Studies the UK-based University of Bradford.

With local staff in Juba, South Sudan
With local staff in Juba, South Sudan

One of the snow-filled February evenings, we sat down with the new UNV coordinator for Ukraine in a tea house around the corner from the UN House in Kyiv to hear more of his story.

Please briefly tell us about your experience in South Sudan? Why did you become interested in working in Africa?

I was working for a Japanese NGO and was dispatched to South Sudan as a project coordinator. South Sudan became an independent state just one year before I came there. There were so many issues to be tackled including social stability, infrastructure, governance, education, health, etc. Amongst all these issues, our organization concentrated on delivering support to children and youths by providing awareness sessions to children –most of them were so-called “street children”– and vocational trainings. It was an extremely difficult project but I personally believe children and youths are the most vulnerable groups under such a devastating environment and need to be supported as a matter of priority.

The reason that I wanted like to work in Africa was simple: I thought the biggest needs for assistance would have place exactly there in Africa. I still believe this is correct if we look at the size and number of aid-procuring bodies including the UN. But simultaneously I realized that Africa has a capacity of development just like other regions do. I no longer put limitation on my work and interests to Africa but anywhere I could contribute my knowledge and experience.

Who would you say is the most remarkable Japanese person promoting human development in Africa? Maybe professor emeritus at Sophia University Sadako Ogata, who has served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as the Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board and as the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency? Or there are others?

The most remarkable Japanese who dedicated himself/herself to the African development is anonymous. They are likely to live in remote areas and tend to work for the grass-roots projects. They seem to have no interest in self-promotion nor stability in their own lives. I do recognize the significance and achievements of Ms. Sadako Ogata and Mr. Hideo Noguchi [Japanese bacteriologist whose portrait has been featured on Japanese 1000 yen banknotes since 2004]. But here I would rather touch upon the unknown aid workers who are devoting themselves to supporting the local people. I would also mention that “they” can be not only the Japanese but also Ukrainians or of any other nationality.

At opening celemony of Youth Center in Indonesia
At the opening celemony of  a youth center in Indonesia

How can Ukrainian youths become UN Volunteers? What level of expertise is generally required of Ukrainians to become international UN Volunteers?

Please visit our UN Volunteers website. General information about UN Volunteers including the registration and qualifications can be found there. There is FAQs page that might answer to your specific questions.

Regarding the general requirement for International UN Volunteers, it is difficult to define the qualification. Before joining the UN Volunteers, I spent nearly 6 years working for the Japanese NGOs both in the fields and HQs after receiving my B.A. in Development and M.A. in Peace Studies. It took about one year until I finally took this assignment in Ukraine. But I know there are those who have more experience and academic titles but were not yet able to take assignments of this kind. It depends.

Last but not least, UN Volunteers is a great opportunity to be a part of the UN and I look forward to having more registrations from young motivated people.

Steppes in Sync will keep you updated on the interesting people working within the United Nations system especially now that our founder Andy Kozlov embarked on an UNV service as a national volunteer based in Kyiv.

See related reading

For Chornobyl with Love: strumming Ukrainian pain in Japan and relieving that pain in Japan

Africa-Asia prospects I: Japan’s dilemma of North or South

Sogetsu School of Ikebana experts from Japan to teach Zimbabweans in Harare

How to wash hands creatively: lesson from Japan #2

Three Japanese films to be screened at the 2012 International Images Film Festival for Women in Zimbabwe

Toyota encourages Zimbabwean kids to dream up the cars they will drive when they grow up

UNESCO partners with NHK to produce World Heritage videos

Don’t get quickly discouraged. The United Nations will answer Your questions if you are persistent enough

UN4U in Eastern Ukraine

The challenges of reporting on sustainable development in Ukraine. What is this ‘sustainable development,’ by the way?

These reporters and media execs shape English-language reader’s perception of Ukraine

What a young Ukrainian expert in international relations can learn traveling for 15 days with 450 people by Indian train

The Perks of Traveling by Rail in Zimbabwe (if any)


Dummy’s guide to the role of earthquakes in creative trends

by Andy Kozlov

Ever thought what happens to human creativity after a megathrust earthquake?

Take the second most powerful one ever measured by seismograph — the 1964 Alaskan earthquake — lasting nearly four minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in US and North American history, at a magnitude of 9.2, and caused above 100 human deaths.

Or the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake in what is now the People’s Republic of China: the deadliest earthquake on record, killing approximately 830,000 people. The Portuguese Dominican friar Gaspar da Cruz, who visited the Chinese port city of Guangzhou later in 1556, heard about the earthquake.

What reaction did the news stir up in this man, you think? He viewed the earthquake as a possible punishment for people’s sins, and the Great Comet of 1556 as, possibly, the sign of this calamity (as well as perhaps the sign of the birth of the Antichrist).

Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte Province (the location of the first power-generating windmill farm in Southeast Asia) in the Philippines was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Paoay church is prime example of Earthquake Baroque architecture. Aside from Baroque, the church facade also exudes Javanese architecture reminiscent of Borobudur of Java. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Conservation Society in the Philippines)

There is a behaviour pattern here. Some two centuries later, Gaspar da Cruz’s native land experienced an earthquake that almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas — the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The earthquake had struck on  All Saints’ Day and had destroyed almost every important church in the city, causing anxiety and confusion amongst the devout Catholic citizens.

Once again, theologians would speculate on the religious cause and message, seeing the earthquake as a manifestation of divine judgement. The Alfama, Lisbon’s red-light district, suffered only minor damage.

Can you imagine  what consequences this unexpected earth shaking had on the course of the growingly secularizing human thought of the colonial thinkers? The 1755 earthquake has sometimes been compared to the Holocaust as a catastrophe that transformed European culture and philosophy. As Theodor Adorno wrote, “[t]he earthquake of Lisbon sufficed to cure Voltaire of the theodicy of Leibniz.” Voltaire’s Candide attacks the notion that all is for the best in this, “the best of all possible worlds”, a world closely supervised by a benevolent deity.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also influenced by the devastation following the earthquake, whose severity he believed was due to too many people living within the close quarters of the city. Rousseau used the earthquake as an argument against cities as part of his desire for a more naturalistic way of life.

The Great Lisbon Earthquake  accentuated political tensions in the Kingdom of Portugal and profoundly disrupted the country’s colonial ambitions.

The young Immanuel Kant, fascinated with the earthquake, collected all the information available to him in news pamphlets, and used it to formulate a theory of the causes of earthquakes. This Age of Enlightenment disaster response/humanitarian emergency opus, according to Walter Benjamin,  “probably represents the beginnings of scientific geography in Germany. And certainly the beginnings of seismology.”

Now Earthquake Baroque, anyone? Precisely! It is a style of Baroque architecture found in places like the Philippines and Guatemala, which suffered destructive earthquakes during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Lisbon’s Pombaline architecture (following the 1755 earthquake) and Sicilian Baroque in Sicily (following the 1693 earthquake) are examples of the same style.

Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais in Lisbon

In our days, earthquakes are likely to influence such creative processes as film or TV shoots. An earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994  in Reseda, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, spoilt the day for the Star Trek crew. The season five episode of Seinfeld entitled “The Pie” was due to begin shooting on the day of the earthquake before stage sets were damaged. NBC’s The Tonight Show, hosted by Jay Leno, took place in the NBC Studios in Burbank (which is close to the epicenter of the quake) and Leno asked the crew to stop what they were doing.

All of the earthquake sequences in the Wes Craven film New Nightmare were filmed a month prior to the Northridge quake. The real quake struck only weeks before filming was completed. A team was sent out to film footage of the areas damaged by the Northridge earthquake. The cast and crew had initially thought that the scenes that were filmed before the real quake were a bit overdone, but when viewed after the real-life quake hit, they were horrified by the realism of it.

Read profiles of photographers that documented the 1994 Northridge earthquake:

Brant Ward who has covered stories in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Somalia.

Steve Hymon, the best transportation reporter in Los Angeles according to Curbed LA,  Los Angeles neighborhoods and real estate blog. Hymon was part of the Los Angeles Times reporting team that won a public service Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for stories on King-Drew medical center.

Andrea Booher whose assignments have taken her to East Africa, Latin America, Micronesia, India, Haiti and throughout the United States. In the last twenty years, Booher has worked as a photographer documenting disasters for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

See related material:

The most-used creativity test in the world

Steppes in figures #1: Creative industries

Biosphere Connections by Star Alliance+UNESCO+National Geographic

Odd hotels of the developing world

A Zimbabwean Tale of Two African Architects (with vintage images of Bulawayo and Harare)

Harare theatre scene for dummies.. by a dummy

What the world’s only active Somali archaeologist has in common with the Iraqi-British winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize

UNESCO partners with NHK to produce World Heritage videos

Kramatorsk photographer gets a gold medal in an All-Ukrainian competition between almost 1,000 photo artists. Gets exhibited at Tashkent Biennale in Uzbekistan

Know more stories of how creative projects were interrupted (or inspired) by the shaking, comment below ↓

Freelance Diplomacy and Small States

Sir Henry Wotton, XVIIth-century author and British ambassador to Venice

Sir Henry Wotton, who served King James I as ambassador to Venice, once stated that “an Ambassador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”

In the multi-polar interconnected world an aspiring diplomat no longer has to be drilled by a formal academic program. And the state that uses diplomat’s services will often abide with philosophies different from her own countries.

It could. in fact, be a supra state like the EU. Or consider the work done by an UN citizen ambassador. Or if one were to find this position too symbolical than how about putting on a hat of a freelance diplomat? There are provisions specifically included in the articles of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which allows a non-national to represent another country diplomatically.

According to Wikipedia, freelance diplomacy is a form of self-financing diplomatic representation used by countries who as a general rule, could not afford to hire expert diplomatic consultants full time. A freelance diplomat is hired for a specific task or may sometimes be contracted on a permanent basis to run a Delegation, Mission or Embassy. They may also be used to promote investment into the country they work for. It is understood to be a performance-based relationship, where the diplomat is paid on results only.

It would be interesting to note that some intellectuals put diplomats (statesmen) close to artists. Especially when we are talking about the Western civilization.  John W. O’Malley, in his book Four Cultures of the West, describes the prophetic, academic/professional, humanistic, and artistic cultures all as being part of larger Western philosophy. He puts statesmen in “culture three” (humanistic) because they are concerned with contingencies. O’Malley says a statesman must ask: “Is war required of us now, under these circumstances?” A statesman argues, therefore, from:

probabilities to attain a solution not certain but more likely of success than its alternatives. Like the poet, then, the statesman deals with ambiguities, very unlike the protagonist from culture two, who traditionally argued from principles to attain truth certain and proved to be such; cultures two and three represent, thus, two different approaches to problem solving. Like the prophet of culture one, the statesman of culture three wants to change society for the better, but to do so he seeks common ground and knows that to attain his end he must be astute in compromise. He does not shun the negotiating table.

And, let’s face it, to be a freelance diplomat, one needs creativity. The same principle applies to small states that often use the services of freelance diplomats.

The more adept small states have managed to join bodies, regional or global, and maneuver to promote their interests within frameworks established by and for larger powers.

A Founding Partner of the Centre for Small State Studies at the University of Iceland Michael Corgan writes:

Among the earliest small states to do so were the Venetian Republic and Vatican in the 17th century. The text of the Peace of Westphalia, the wellspring of the current state system, credits Venetian diplomats for bringing an end to this general war in Europe.

The Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, gives Communion in the hand to Senator John Kerry, 2006 (image courtesy of traditioninaction.org)

And the 1962 Vienna Diplomatic convention includes the designation nuncio as co-equal to ambassador, in part a recognition of the centuries-long role played by the Holy See’s diplomats and diplomatic practice. In more modern times some small states, notably Switzerland and the Nordic countries, have shown how a focused and well-informed diplomacy can produce remarkable results, especially when vital economic or security interests are involved.

One of the first major decisions of the UN’s International Court of Justice was the 1951 Anglo-Norwegian Fisheries Case.  Although this in itself could be considered a victory for a small state on the world stage, it was an even smaller state, one only 7 years independent, that seems to have made the most of the decision. Iceland’s government immediately saw a trend in world affairs and notions of sovereignty and promptly extended its own fisheries limits from 4 out to 12 miles. Nor were the Icelanders finished yet. Over the next quarter of a century this smallest of the small states that had chosen to join the world’s major bodies aggressively and progressively led the way in extending protected fisheries limits out to the now universally accepted 200 miles.

Iceland accomplished its aims against the efforts of much more powerful states, notably the UK and later Germany as well, taking advantage of several factors such as its geo-strategic value to NATO and clever use of media characterizations of a David versus Goliath. The principal asset this state—with fewer than a quarter million people—took into its three so-called Cod Wars, however, was the skill, persistence, and thorough grounding in facts of the issues of its diplomatic corps.

Nor is it only Northern European small states that have had an impact on events out of all proportion to their size. It was a Maltese UN diplomat, Arvid Pardo, who introduced the concept of the “common heritage of mankind” into the Law of the Sea section dealing with rights to resources on the deep seabed. This idea, which looked to the interests of all small states, was extended into the Law of Space where the sharing of data includes micro-states with no hope of themselves participating in any space exploration.

Though the idea of an International Criminal court had been talked of for some decades after the UN’s establishment, the spur for the effort that actually led to the Court’s establishment was begun by Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1990s as a way to deal with drug traffickers.

Emerging economies are turning to experienced freelance diplomats to increase trade and procure private investment from abroad.

Born and educated in England, Colin Evans (born 1964) is widely considered to be the best example of a “freelance” or Commercial Diplomat in the world today. He is a fluent English and Portuguese speaker. He has represented countries from Africa, Central America and the Pacific and is often hired as strategic consultant to delegations at the FAO and UNESCO.

Freelance diplomats are often presented with diplomatic credentials and other documentation to facilitate their work, including diplomatic passports and CD license plates.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara and Somaliland may not have much in common, but they share the same predicament: all are unrecognized states striving to capture international attention. Enter Independent Diplomat (ID) (Facebook page) — a non-profit organisation founded in 2004 by former British diplomat Carne Ross.

The nonprofit group, comprised of former diplomats from a variety of nations, stands ready to help would-be governments navigate the complex system of national bureaucracies and international organizations designed to accommodate established nations.

”Very often government or international officials will refuse to talk to our clients, or if they talk to them they’re reluctant to give them the information they need,” said Nicholas Whyte, who heads the Brussels office of the nonprofit group.

”And from our clients’ side, they are often inexperienced in dealing with international bureaucracies precisely because nobody talks to them,” said Whyte, an Irish international affairs expert.

ID’s projects have included: helping Kosovo achieve recognition as a new state, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, Somaliland, Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara.

ID has also assisted various non-profit organizations, including: Human Rights First, the International Center for Transitional Justice and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Nicholas Whyte heads the Brussels office of the Independent Diplomat

The group also counsels established nations on issues where they lack expertise, including advising the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the U.N. climate change process and working with East European countries applying for EU membership.

Independent Diplomat adheres to a strict policy of rejecting clients engaged in armed struggle.

But critics say ID can only accomplish so much without involving governments and should not pretend to have more influence than they do.

Robert Cooper, the former secretary-general of the European Council in Brussels, also questioned the group’s influence. ”Achieving anything in foreign affairs is very difficult for non-governmental groups,” he said. ”Some NGOs perform extremely valuable work and are well respected … but in the end nothing is achieved without governments [and] they should not pretend that they have influence when they don’t.”

Still, Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran, said those involved in the endeavor were ”individually capable people” who could make a difference. ”Their philosophy and their code — and the approach that they take — does fill a gap for countries and for movements who don’t have access to the international system,” he said.

With offices in New York, Washington, London, Brussels and Addis Abeba the organization provides its clients with guidance on how to approach foreign governments or international organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union.

Independent Diplomat’s annual budget comes from foundation and government donations, as well as client fees. Clients are charged according to their ability to pay, with the poorest paying only nominal amounts.

Global Tourism Prospects and Trends

Tourism is an important force to reduce poverty and foster global solidarity (photo courtesy of Bikyamasr.com).

According to a new forecast put out by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),

The World Tourism Organization Building in Madrid

international tourism is set to reach a staggering 1.8 billion by 2030 – growing at a more moderate yet sustained pace than past decades with the number of international tourist arrivals increasing globally by around 3.3% each year.

UNWTO encourages the implementation ‎of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, with a view to ensuring that member ‎countries, tourist destinations and businesses maximize the positive economic, ‎social and cultural effects of tourism and fully reap its benefits, while minimizing its ‎negative social and environmental impacts.

By the numbers, this will add an over 40 million tourists (and their dollars) to the tourism economy every single year. In absolute terms, the emerging economies of Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Eastern Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will gain an average 30 million arrivals a year, compared to 14 million in the traditional destinations of the advanced economies of North America, Europe and Asia, and the Pacific.

By 2015, emerging economies will receive more international tourist arrivals than advanced economies, and by 2030 their share is expected to reach 58%.

According to the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (UNSCTD), tourism spending contributed $10 billion to the world’s least developed countries in 2010 alone; while nearly 17 million travelers sought out new and unique international destinations. These numbers are a drastic shift from a decade prior, where the numbers came in at $3 billion and and 6 million travelers, respectively.

One innovative world tourism project was featured by Terracurve in 2010. Back then, Ontheglobe.com, an organization specializing in tourism promotion and cultural awareness projects for developing and post-conflict nations, started conducting tourism promotion projects with the support of US tourism agencies and ministries from around the world.

Explains Andrew Princz, Ontheglobe.com cultural navigator, “With the support of international governments, we have brought the stories of disparate cultures of the world.” “Given the global economic models of today, we are confident that corporations will acknowledge the need to more deeply understand the cultures in the countries in which they are all doing business.”

For ten years, Ontheglobe.com has spearheaded the concept of cultural navigation, whereby authors are encouraged to partner with and participate more closely and take an active interest in the realities faced by the peoples and cultures that they visit.

The site has conducted cross-cultural missions involving tourism promotion and cultural awareness campaigns taking its members to over two dozen nations including Angola, Kazakhstan, India, Peru, Cuba and Samoa. The site combines a bit of National Geographic with a bit of UNESCO and throws in a touch of Hollywood for good measure.

The fundraising campaign looks to benevolent financial sponsorship for specific projects. Corporations and individuals are offered multi-tiered levels of support targeted at the implementation of website improvements, content production, the launch of branded products, the development of a charity arm, and a web-based TV series.

Contributor levels range from the Backpacker supporter for those contributing less than US$100, to the Royal Sponsor for backers of over US$25,000.

The project most likely was halted when Andrew Princz passed away in June 2011.  Ontheglobe.com is kept online in his memory.

David Scowsill, President & CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council comes up with another set of stunning figures, “Travel and Tourism accounts for 258 million jobs globally. At US$6 trillion (9.1% of GDP) the sector is a key driver for investment and economic growth and at a global level. It is larger than the automotive industry at 8% GDP, and just smaller than banking at 11%.”

According to Wikipedia, the following countries are Non-members of the World Tourism

Egypt uses the Arab Spring events to attract more tourists and lure the ones that were scared of by the same events, at the 2011 ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show (photo courtesy of Invisiblepr.com).

Organization: Suriname, Guyana, United States, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Liberia, Somalia, Comoros, Ireland, Iceland, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, Singapore, New Zealand, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, Niue, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and the rest of states with limited recognition.

The most significant change among the top ten destinations by international arrivals in 2010 was the rise of China to third position, according to the 2011 UNWTO Tourism Highlights Edition, released last June. China ousted Spain for third place, and has overtaken both the United Kingdom and Italy during the past few years. In terms of receipts, China (+15%) also moved up the ranking to fourth position, overtaking Italy (+1%).


China travel boom helps global tourism income generated by inbound visits near US$3 billion a day mark (photo courtesy of Chinatraveltrends.com).

China also moved into third place in the top ten ranking by international tourism spenders, with an expenditure of US$ 55 billion, overtaking the United Kingdom (US$ 49 billion). China has shown by far the fastest growth with regard to expenditure on international tourism in the last decade, multiplying expenditure four times since 2000, the UNWTO report says. Ranking as the seventh biggest source market in 2005, it has since overtaken Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom.

Other key global tourism trends in 2010:

  • International tourist arrivals reached 940 million and tourism receipts generated US$ 919 billion
  • Travel for leisure, recreation and holidays accounted for just over half of all international tourist arrivals
  • Slightly over half of all travellers arrived at their destination by air
  • France maintained its position as the world’s number one tourism destination.

As an internationally traded service, inbound tourism has become one of the world’s major trade categories. The overall export income generated by inbound tourism, including passenger transport, exceeded US$ 1 trillion in 2010, or close to US$ 3 billion a day. Tourism exports account for as much as 30% of the world’s exports of commercial services and 6% of overall exports of goods and services. Globally, as an export category, tourism ranks fourth after fuels, chemicals and automotive products.

The large majority of international travel takes place within the traveller’s own region, with about four out of five worldwide arrivals originating from the same region.

The total tourist arrivals by region shows that, by 2020, the top three receiving regions will be Europe (717 million tourists), East Asia (397 million) and the Americas (282 million), followed by Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Every year on September 27, we celebrate the World Tourism Day. This serves to raise awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and the contributions it can make in the economic, political and social sectors, and how it can help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Keep an eye on UNWTO World Tourism Barometer

Download ITB World Travel Trends Report 2011-2012