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Yukika Sohma

President, Association for Aid and Relief / Elected Vice Chair, Ozaki Yukio Memorial Foundation : Japan

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The world is in the midst of a strong current that we call globalization. There are different kinds of globalization, of which the overall result is that the world is becoming smaller and ever more integrated in a single symbiotic system. As people, goods and money move freely about, our relationships grow deeper.

In the process, global problems such as those affecting the environment and various conflicts of interest are provoked that cannot be resolved if we are all thinking in national terms. In this age no nation can afford to think only about its benefits. This applies just as much to individuals. We cannot be living just for ourselves. We will all end up at a dead end if we are narrow-minded, self-centered and nationalistic.

My father, Ozaki Yukio (1858-1954), stressed the need for a collaborative scheme beyond the framework of nation-states, a ‘hai-hanchi-ken’ for the world as Japan achieved at the time of the Meiji Restoration, along much the same lines as the world federalism that some in the West were proposing. Today more than ever we in Japan should be thinking of the mutual interest of all nations – not how to benefit our country in isolation from others. We must always think of Japan as a member of the world community. This means that we should decide what course our country should chart, first considering what is happening in the wider world and what is best for all mankind.

In 1979, I founded the Association to Aid Refugees to give help and relief to the “boatpeople” who were fleeing their country. I was motivated by a burning conviction that we cannot ignore people in distress just because they come from other regions and carry different passports. The Association today addresses issues beyond supporting refugees, such as extending assistance to people with disabilities and other handicaps, and is part of the campaign to abolish anti-personnel mines.

Here in Japan I continue to chair the Gakudo-juku, a study course for citizens to encourage them to become leaders imbued with a global vision and a democratic spirit, putting into practice the commitment of Ozaki Yukio. To date three hundred citizens have completed the course.

I am convinced that in order to realize the vision of Universal Design to create a social environment that respects the dignity of every individual, we must all think and act with a global perspective. 

May the vision of a society where each one of us is respected and cared for regardless of our origins be realized through practicing the principles of Universal Design for all.

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