High economic growth continues in Cambodia. Meanwhile the economic gap is widening between people’s lives in urban and rural areas. Cambodia is the country where the reduction rate of forests was the most accelerated in the world between 2001 and 2014. Large-scale development of farmlands is under way, which causes many land problems throughout the country. Farmers suffer from land grabbing by companies or lose their land because of debts. They go to cities and get unstable jobs with low salaries. In order to resolve such poverty, it is necessary to realize selfreliance in rural areas for themselves.
Activities in Cambodia
Activities in Laos
The forest of Laos is full of natural resources such as fruits, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, wild plants, crabs, fish, and medical plants. It also offers building materials, firewood, and dyer’s weed. These resources serve as daily food for villagers as well as an important cash income. On the other hand, rapid economic growth often causes deforestation due to the construction of plantations or development of mineral resources. Also, the land of villagers is sometimes forcibly expropriated, harming their livelihood.
Activities in South Africa
24 years have passed since the end of apartheid in 1994. South Africa’s economy has been getting more powerful, including joining BRICS and G20. On the other hand, the gap between the rich and the poor is getting widen, and it has many social problems such as poverty, high unemployment rate, and inequality. These problems especially affect the younger generation. It is reported that two-thirds of the children aged between zero and fourteen are under poor living conditions and the unemployment rate is no less than 50% for the youth aged between 15 and 34. These situations directly connect with other social problems such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, which is referred to as the worst in the world, the loss of educational opportunity, and crimes. We should conduct activities to cut the negative chain of problems that have spanned for generations.
Activities in Afghanistan
Armed fights among the alliance of the Afghan government and foreign militarymainly the United States, the Taliban, and the self-claimed “Islamic State” (IS) are spreading over the country. While the Taliban expands its occupation area, the IS is also making its presence especially felt in the eastern part of the country such as Nangarhar Province, where JVC implements its projects. Even though the number of civilian casualties exceeded 10,000 in 2017, the international aid and interests of world is diminishing. Corruption is at the worst level in the world and the country is ranked 169th in the Human Development Index.
Activities in Palestine
Due to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, free movement of people and goods has been restricted for 11 years. Industries are devastated and resources are lacking. Gazans are facing severe poverty, with children suffering from serious malnutrition. The illegal separation wall and Israeli settlements divide the communities on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, disrupting people’s access to health, education, and work. Because of the discriminatory social structure of the occupation as well as continuous violence of the Israeli authorities and settlers, youth are unable to anticipate a bright future. A large number of students drop out of school and lose connections in the community.
Activities in Iraq
Kirkuk, our project region, is a religiously and ethnically diverse region, but due to historical factors there is high tension among the diverse groups that live in the area. However, after the self-claimed “IS” emerged in 2014, violence broke out and around 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) relocated to the 700,000 resident Kirkuk city. A new conflict has arisen between the physically and mentally injured IDPs surviving very difficult conditions and the host community that started suffering from an economic crisis due to the flow of IDPs which made the living situation in Kirkuk more complicated and difficult than ever.
Activities in Sudan
US economic sanctions against Sudan, which continued for 20 years, has been officially lifted with conditions including resolution of domestic conflicts. This enhanced the opportunity for peace and the situation in South Kordofan state where the conflict between the Sudanese government forces and the anti-government force erupted in 2011 has been stabilized. Both the government and the anti-government rebel declared “unilateral ceasefire” and have extended it since the mid-2016, while peace agreement has not yet been signed. The lives of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been reconstructed and improved to some extent, however, the most children do not have birth registration which is necessary to receive basic social services including school registration and exemption of medical expenses. They also face challenges in accessing education due to lack of school facilities.
Activities in Korea
Situations are beginning to change drastically around the Korean peninsula, with the North-South and US-North talks by their national leaders, raising the mood for conversations. However, Japan has many issues with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) over history, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, abduction of Japanese people, etc. Without sufficient methods and channels, solutions are not easily found. To overcome the mutual distrust between the two nations, it is necessary to encourage contact beyond national or governmental relationships. This can be done by reporting how the real people of North Korea look like and delivering information about Japan to North Korea, so both can better understand each other.
Kesennuma, Miyagi-pref. (Great East Japan Earthquake)
The Great East Japan Earthquake claimed more than 1,000 lives and destroyed some 9,500 housing units in Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture. In the 7 years since the disaster, large-scale public works for reconstruction have been in progress in various parts of the city including the completion of the public housing complex for disaster evacuees. However, more than 350 people are still forced to live in temporary housing or publicly-funded rental accommodations. In August 2011, JVC opened a local office in Kesennuma city and has continued support activities in Shishiori district to help the disaster victims confronted with a multitude of problems in rebuilding their lives.
Minamisoma, Fukushima-Pref. (Great East Japan Earthquake)
Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture suffered (on March 11, 2011) complex disaster from the Great East Japan Earthquake; massive earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and radioactive contamination due to a nuclear power plant accident that occurred. The occupancy rate of temporary houses in Minamisoma City declined to approximately 11 percent because many people moved to the public housing complex for disaster recovery and other dwellings. On the other hand, the isolation problem among residents living in such public housing has continued to grow more serious and cases of so-called “solitary death (dying alone unattended)” also started to occur at the Minamisoma public housing for disaster recovery.
Research and Advocacy
In 2017, JVC continued advocacy activities about national security policies, by giving statements together with other networking organizations, on issues of the Conspiracy Law’s enacting and shrinking space for civil society. As advocacy with people struggling against land expropriation caused by free trade, JVC continuously adressed the issues of ProSAVANA, Japanese ODA programme in northern Mozambique. As to the TPP, JVC continued to advocate on the position of Japanese government after the US’s withdrawal.
Activities in Japan
JVC plays an important role in informing the Japanese public of the conditions in the areas where we are active through raising awareness and expanding public support. JVC participated in “Global Festa”, one of the largest events for international cooperation in Japan. In addition, JVC organized six events with more than 500 participants altogether in collaboration with “GARDEN Journalism”, a company which supports information dispatch to citizens, and “Courrier Japon” of Kodansha Publishers.