Young people have the power to turn around situations by connecting with one another beyond nations and borders, says JCI World President
By Chris Daniel Wong and Simrenjeet Kaur
Youth movements are playing a pertinent role in masterminding the revolutions currently sweeping across the Arab world and North African League. Such is the power of the youth movement. With this in mind, The Leaders spoke to Kentaro Harada, the World President of Junior Chamber International (JCI) on how the youth of today can change the future of a nation, and even the world, and the role of youth organisations like JCI in empowering them to be world-changers.
As the leader of the world’s largest youth association, the JCI, what is your aspiration as the World President for 2011 and beyond? What do you want to see JCI achieve?
My primary goal, as JCI World President, is the establishment of human security, a concept that was launched by the former United Nations (UN) Secretary- General, Kofi Annan.
Human security is to secure the daily lives of human beings, not only in Malaysia and Japan but for all people. We would like to eradicate extreme poverty in African and Asian nations and also secure human rights. To achieve human security in this century we need to commit to three goals.
1. the United Nations Millennium Development Goals
2. the United Nations Global Compact
3. the Omoiyari Campaign
These 3 goals will help us achieve the realization of human security in this century. It will take time because money is not enough, but one day in the future, we will certainly achieve them.
Coming back to the 3 goals which lead to Human Security as you had mentioned earlier, how can JCI members at our local organization play a part in achieving them?
We need to get more of our members involved by organizing projects related to these three goals in local communities. This is due to the fact that not all members can travel overseas frequently. JCI takes great pride in conducting the UN Millennium Development Goals project in Malaysia.
There are a lot of programs at world level adopting and advocating the UN Millennium Development Goals. How can this program when given prominence at national, country or local level, be able to impact the community and the youth as well?
It is important to pioneer or frontier new sectors that can impact the community. If we are merely followers, we won’t be able to create an impact on the community or nation, but if we are pioneers, we can certainly create an impact. Maybe ten or twenty years later, entrepreneurs may face the need for a global compact. The world needs changing so why not apply these changes as young and active citizens.
As you may know, JCI is pretty strong in the Asian and European continents as well as the North American nations. But this is not the case in Africa. Despite Africa emerging as a continent in terms of economy, why do they still have civil wars and as the JCI World President, what are your plans to empower the youth in the Africa?
How can JCI make an impact and create positive changes in their lives?
It will take time as we cannot achieve everything in just one year. The growth rate is more than 30 per cent, which is a good sign in Africa. We do not have JCI in all African states; we are only in Tunisia, Morocco and North Africa. As such, I will be visiting West Africa in April, particularly Togo and Ghana in order to reactivate JCI activities. The JCI members in Africa have enough money and time. They are educated and developed, so let them help their people. I will need to discuss on how they can develop Africa and support their people themselves, of course with support from international organizations.
The recent civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa was mainly started by youth movements in the respective regions due to the current economic status. Once all these die down, how can JCI play a part in nation building, especially youth building?
This [the civil unrest] actually happened because the world is changing, unlike in the 20th century where there was a lack of information and people could not connect that easily. Now, we have social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well as high-tech mobile phones, which enable the younger generation to connect easily to one another. These sites allow youngsters to encourage each other and share information with one another. For sure we are not here to start riots but this is the evidence that the world is changing. Young people have the power to turn around situations by connecting with one another beyond nations and borders.
If JCI goes to another country, say an African or South American nation, we will need to recruit members. This way we can connect and become friends through JCI’s various missions. The power of the national government seemed almighty in the last couple of centuries, but today, citizens’ associations have a more important role. International associations like the UN and JCI will ensure human security again by sharing information, talking and encouraging each other. In fact, JCI is a perfect platform for this.
How can JCI play an active role in youth unity?
Let’s refer to the three goals I mentioned earlier. Why I picked these three goals is because I feel it is important to share them with citizens of the planet. JCI will take it upon itself to create awareness of these goals. If only one per cent of the population knows it now, we (JCI) will work on it until at least 10 per cent becomes aware. This will result in a more united world.
Like any other youth, Malaysian youngsters have their aspirations as well. As such, since this is your third trip to Malaysia, how do you view Malaysian youth; are they moving forward? How can JCI help them advance?
Malaysia has very good youth movements comprising members who are highly educated and experienced in youth issues. The Malaysian government must also be commended for their continuous support to these youth initiatives, thus creating a strong relationship between the two parties.
These youth movements should now be placed in the centre of the JCI network. The involvement of the local government and young leaders in the Outstanding Young Malaysian (OYM) award organized by the JCI will set the right example for the younger generation in Malaysia. The youth in Malaysia can use the OYM as a platform to move forward. As such, from my point of view, I only see a bright future for JCI Malaysia.