Mark Yokoyama – Japan 2018, Gallatin Global Human Rights Fellow
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Mark Yokoyama – Japan 2018, Gallatin Global Human Rights Fellow


Well, good afternoon.
Hope you guys aren’t asleep yet. We still have a few more guys so we’re
ready to get going. And so first – [laughter from audience]
Yes, perfect. Well, my name is Mark Keiga Yokoyama
and I’m currently with Wagner now, but prior to that I used to
be in Liberal Studies core program and so thank you so much for Dean Mostov
for coming along, and at the same time I just like to thank Beth Haymaker, Dr. Pataki,
at the same time Vasuki for all your support and actual contribution into
doing this project. Unlike the rest of what you have seen so far, what you’ll
notice in my presentation is that I have no data, no images, or direct quotes. And
the reason to do this is something that I’ll explain down the road but at
the same time I just want to let you know, since it will just be around five
words every slide. Well first of all, I just wanted to also mention the reason
why I disliked the title of this presentation to be “Human Rights For A
Sustainable Future,” since in approaching the issue that I was dealing with,
I first have to introduce you to an organization that I had the opportunity
to volunteer with and that would be the… … there we go.
it’s an NGO called Human Rights Now, it’s internationally located. We have one of
their headquarters in New York City as well, but I was able to work as a
volunteer with the actual team in Tokyo. However, at the same time I was also
allowed to go off-site and work alongside my own people in Fukushima,
Japan. And in terms of the work that I was able to do there, I was able to focus
on one point which is the extent of refugee rights in Fukushima. If I
could take you back along a few years back we see how in the nuclear disaster
of March of 2011 we saw around 80,000 people from Fukushima forced to become
nuclear refugees and vacate their own homelands. Since then, for the next
six years, these refugees were forced to live in temporary housing areas but with
still the aid from the government themselves. However, from them in the year
of 2017, the free housing programs by TEPCO, which is
the Tokyo Electric Power Plant which created the disaster itself, was
terminated and so these individual refugees had no choice but to find
housing for their own. At the same time for the next 12
months they were still allowed to gain economic incentives to stay wherever
they decided to relocate in. However in March of 2018 their entire right to not
only stay in area that they were staying in, in terms of their economic incentive,
but also their right to travel through their highway passes has been revoked so by the time I arrived there this summer, it was around let’s say June,
there was nothing I could do almost in terms of policy since the damage in a
way has been already done. And so my entire experience as the individual was
in the frontlines in Fukushima to work on this policy issues were
based on three things: damage control, damage control, and damage control. These things began simply by understanding how we had different
cultural stigmas apply to different types of areas of Fukushima as well, and
how we had a huge cognitive dissonance between what individuals experienced
inside Fukushima within their 20 kilometer radius zones, and also outside
of Fukushima as well. And so looking at the overall issue that we couldn’t
really even mention due to the fact that there was a huge social pressure around
the issue, I could gain individual testimonies from individuals, but at the
same time failed to actually distribute it or even in a way give it to other
people. And so therefore we couldn’t publish individual testimonies all the
way into collective actions that were taken. And although we have events that
we were able to conduct in numbers up to a thousand people, the entire outcome
that we saw was something that we could not talk about as much as we wanted to, since: 1) The refugees themselves did
not want to be identified as refugees. 2) The fact that they were nuclear refugees would affect their entire social status
as there was an entire misunderstanding within the Japanese citizens that there
were some individuals who are gaining more money than the other
rest of the citizens who cannot gain actual economic incentives from the
government up until this point. So knowing these things there were
only a few things I could actually do, and one of them was to address
the environmental health concerns, which in the state that we saw, the individuals
who were forced to return to their actual own houses lived in areas that
had around 20 millisieverts per year, which in away is around
15 metres [15 times] above what the actual international baseline was set
for how safe it can be for individuals who live in a certain area. And so
clearly there was a public health issue. However, at the same time we were
conducting different types of tests through different areas inside Fukushima,
and through our entire tests and trying to look at different types of local food
that we grew, we saw that the food that we were able to grow in Fukushima
was in fact safe. However the problems were more based
on how the entire perception around Fukushima and if proved produces that we
have being so in a sense toxic due to the radiation exposure we had that
individuals were no longer buying it and all the exhaustive marketing efforts
that we were able to engage ourselves in was just not paying off. And so that was the exact moment
when I saw the limitation of policy and how the intervention that
we can do through the government itself is limited when it comes to not only
shaping a narrative, but also looking at the ways that we can actually reach out to our
own citizens. And this is the moment that I realized that we had to find a way to
re-evaluate how governance structures work not only inside the mayoral [provincial] level
but also in the federal level when it comes to higher state powers. In most of
the countries that we were able to so far look into through this fellowship, we
see how we can rely on the international human rights law and different types of
national laws that set and refer into the actual human rights context of the
issues that we see. However, in countries where speaking out itself is almost
considered to be a social crime, it’s hard to even testify for your own case!
And that is exactly the reason why when we come to looking into the way that we
are to structure our entire cultural system into addressing the issues that
we have, we must find a bottom-up approach in terms of reforming what we
already have. And that is the reason why in the end
of my entire individual research project that I was allowed to conduct, and had the privilege to actually engage myself in, I reached the conclusion where we have to apply the
principles that we see in conventional businesses onto what we can see into
the government, so that we can apply that also on to our local NGOs as well, which
is all founded along the three lines of governance, risk management, and
compliance. If we were to apply these three principles and take it into the
extreme levels, an extreme meaning just to make sure that we can follow it
properly, we at least will be able to have a general baseline understanding of
the scientific facts behind the environment that individuals live in. And
that was the main takeaway that was I able to have since the rest of the entire
experience was based on the pro/con evaluation. The pros are based on how we
can actually interact with individuals who need assistance. The con is the more
we interact with these individuals who are in need of assistance, or even try to
write papers about them, we expose them socially. So we may
improve their livelihood but at the same time we put them at risk, and we don’t
really get to think about how what kind of livelihoods they get to live afterwards
if we are researchers since we get to leave but originally I’m also
born and raised in Japan and in Fukushima. I lost my house with these
fellow people of Fukushima in Japan. And as an individual who is going to
go back home, and next year I get to be with them, and actually
share my experiences with them. However, even if I were to share my experience of being in an international university, there are limitations to that, since even disseminating information on social media leads to further exposure, writing an academic paper about it leads
into situations in which normal individual citizens don’t have exposure
to it or don’t have access to it and whenever we can make any sort of social
event through artistic movements which I have been engaging in for the past
around eight years and also had the opportunity to engage myself in this
year, we see a problem where we think about it for one second and then it just
goes away. And so the entire experience that I was able to have is based on how
we can actually look onward and it’s extremely fundamental and very, very down
to the core, and looking how 1) We need an accurate map to show which area of
Fukushima is actually dangerous, because even to this day we don’t have a proper
accurate map that shows which area inside the region that we live in is
dangerous. 2) We need to find a way to restructure the
governance structure that has been done in terms of the financial markets within
Japan especially since June of this year, but at the same time into the
legislature group, and 3) Being how individually we must find a way to cope with the actual fact that no matter how much we were to seek aid or even support as
refugees, no matter how much we try to even show our pain or even share that,
sometimes even having other researchers come in and all these efforts, in the end
of the day we have occasions where we are no longer able to use it for the
betterment of what we can do. And so the question is, “well what can we do?” and to
that answer, I realized how we had these different citizens who never protested,
never posted a single thing, but all they ever did in my own hometown and also in
the forefront of the nuclear Daiichi power plant, was to just volunteer all
the way through and it’s something that everyone can do but it’s also engraved
in all of our not only humanity but also in our culture to help one another as well.
And now with the Olympics coming up in 2020, we have another opportunity to
see that. And we’ve been seeing an influx of population, and we hope to see
that again. So thank you for this opportunity.
[Applause]

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