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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the United Nations General Assembly, June 7, 2012 at United Nations headquarters. [AP File Photo]

Ashli Ferguson serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

For the first time ever, young Americans are being offered an exciting opportunity to bring the voice of U.S. youth to the United Nations. This year, the U.S. Department of State is teaming up with the United Nations Association of the USA to send one young citizen to the UN General Assembly in New York as a pilot program entitled the U.S. Youth Observer Program.

That means, if you are age 18 to 25, and have an interest and passion for international affairs, civic engagement, and youth issues, you could qualify for this once in a lifetime chance to see the United Nations in action — in person. The U.S. Youth Observer will travel to New York, interact with the U.S. delegation and other youth representatives from around the world — and then report on their experiences to their peers and the rest of the world.

As a young American working for the Department of State, I am really excited about this opportunity. In my current role in the State Department’s International Organizations Bureau, I often meet with young people from the United States and around the world, and the interest in the United Nations is great. Their interest makes sense — young people everywhere are influencing global events to an unprecedented extent. This program hopes to capture some of that interest and encourage Americans to engage in issues and policies that will affect their futures.

Visit www.unausa.org/usyouth to learn more and apply for the opportunity to have your voice heard at the United Nations. Don’t forget, applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on September 7, 2012!

Posted by Ashli L. Ferguson / August 23, 2012 at http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/youth_observer_un_general_assembly

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This autumn there were many reports about the Japan Tourism Agency proposing to give away 10,000 free flights to Japan in 2012. After the proposal was reported, people from around the world sent messages to Japan National Tourism Organization saying they would like to participate in the programme to visit Japan and to help revitalize Japan’s tourism industry following the March 2011 earthquake. So it is with regret that the Japanese Government announced the budget for this proposal has been declined, so the flight give away will not be going ahead.

Thanks to the support of the international community, Japan is making vigorous progress towards reconstruction in the earthquake and tsunami affected northeast of Japan, but recovery from the earthquake continues to be a pressing issue.

“We realise that this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese Government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction. We also would not want people thinking that the generous donations given from around the world to aide those affected by the disaster was being spent on giving people free flights.

The places most popular with visitors to Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Osaka, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Okinawa – were outside the earthquake and tsunami affected areas. Please do not let the fact that there will be no free flights put you off visiting Japan. There are lots of great deals available and Japan is ready and waiting to welcome back visitors more warmly than ever before,” said Kylie Clark, Head of PR & Marketing, Japan National Tourism Organization.

To find out more about the deals available on flights and holidays to Japan, please visit www.seejapan.co.uk.

For more information about this matter, please visit the Japan Tourism Agency website at www.visitjapan.jp and Japan National Tourism Organization’s global website at www.jnto.go.jp. The Japan Tourism Agency statement on this annoucement can be viewed here.

The Fuji Maru (the ship for SWY22-23) will be made available for those in need of shelters who were displaced by the tsunami/earthquake. The temporary housing will start March 24 and will last until mid-April at a port in the affected area in Iwate Prefecture.

Full story available here.

This is from a post from IYEO (International Youth Exchange Organization of Japan) http://www.iyeo.or.jp/en/index.html
All of us are connected by a unity and experience that is deeply rooted into the fabric of who we are and how we see this world. In part this is in thanks to Japan who continues to value diversity, friendships amongst other countries and ability to bring thousands of people together since 1988 under the purpose promoting mutual understanding and friendship between Japanese and foreign youths as well as to cultivate the spirit of international cooperation and the competence to practice it, and furthermore to foster the youths with capability of showing leadership in various area of international society.

You are one of the 3096 OPY (Other Participating Youth) Alumni’s that have come through this program and come out with an  extended friendship with fellow participants and appreciation of a diverse culture and society around you. We have 2270 JPY (Japanese Participating Youth) Alumni brothers and sisters from Japan, that have been affect in some shape by occurrence on March 11, 2011 and the aftermath that has occurred since.

We are reaching out to you as petition to financially support our Japanese friends directly in this recovery from the disaster reported below. We know you have friends and loved ones who also want to contribute and want to ensure that their dollars go directly to Japanese people in need. This effort is done voluntarily without cost of overhead to oversee the effort. We have a direct contact and bank transfer account with IYEO (International Youth Exchange Organization of Japan) http://www.iyeo.or.jp/en/index.html which all our JPY Alumni’s came through to get in the SFWY program. They are gathering and assessing all the needs of past and current participants along with their loved ones. We have set up a PayPal Account where you can easily process funds that will be transferred over to IYEO. If you or someone you know wants to contribute click here. (Link to paypal)

Thank you for consideration in financially supporting this effort and passing the word along to your family and friends. It’s a critical time for the people of Japan and they need all the support, assistance, prayers, encourage and help in these next coming days, weeks and years into the future.

These will go in different sections of the blog

The Earth Quakes:

There have been hundreds of aftershocks following the devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the East Coast of Japan on March 11. More than two dozen are greater than magnitude 6, the size of the earthquake that severely damaged Christchurch, NZ last month.

The USGS has updated the magnitude of the March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake in northern Honshu, Japan, to 9.0 from the previous estimate of 8.9. Independently, Japanese seismologists have also updated their estimate of the earthquake’s magnitude to 9.0. This magnitude places the earthquake as the fourth largest in the world since 1900 and the largest in Japan since modern instrumental recordings began 130 years ago.

Reported by U.S. Geological Survey Released: 3/14/2011 5:35:00 PM

The Lost:

  • There is now over 6,911 confirmed deaths in the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan last week. The figure surpasses the death toll for the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Japanese Police say 10,316 remain missing. They suspect that many other people have not been reported as missing because entire families were lost in the disaster. The quake is Japan’s worst natural disaster in the post-war period, after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which claimed 6,434 lives.
  • In Miyagi Prefecture, 4,030 people have been confirmed dead, and 2,214 are missing. Iwate Prefecture has confirmed 2,223 deaths, and says 4,253 people are missing. Fukushima Prefecture has 602 deaths, and 3,844 people remain missing.
  • In Aomori Prefecture, 3 people are confirmed dead. Yamagata and Hokkaido prefectures have confirmed one death each.
  • In the Kanto region, the death toll includes 19 in Ibaraki, 16 in Chiba and seven in Tokyo.

Reported by NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, on March 18, 2011

The Refugees/Evacuees:

  • More than 285,000 people are taking refuge in quake-ravaged northern and eastern Japan as of Thursday evening.
  • The evacuees are wide-spread in more than 2,000 shelters in 15 quake-hit prefectures.
  • In the northeastern region, which includes the 3 hardest-hit prefectures, 265,000 people are taking refuge at 1,900 shelters.
  • Among them, Miyagi Prefecture is worst hit and 166,000 people are taking refuge in 1,000 shelters. That is about 60 % of the total evacuee number.
  • Fukushima Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture each has around 47,000 to 48,000 evacuees.
  • The quake did not spare the Kanto region, Tokyo and its surrounding areas. More than 20,000 people are taking shelter at around 300 places.
  • One week has passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami last Friday. But it remains unclear when the victims will be able to start rebuilding their lives, raising fears that their temporary stay at shelters may be prolonged.

Reported by NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, on March 18, 2011

The Continued Aftermath:

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

  • The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency revised upward its evaluation of the severity of the disaster by one notch to Level 5 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.
  • Level 5 is the third highest on the 8-notch scale and the worst for any nuclear accident to have happened in Japan.
  • The agency says it raised the rating because more than 3 percent of the nuclear fuel has been damaged and radioactive material is leaking from the plant.
  • The disaster’s initial rating of Level 4 was the same as the fatal criticality accident that occurred at a nuclear fuel plant in Ibaraki Prefecture in 1999.
  • The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Friday that the installation of power cables at the Number One and Number 2 reactors is expected to be completed on Saturday. The operation to add power cables at the Number 3 and Number 4 reactors is likely to end on Sunday. The agency said, however, that it will take some time to confirm the safety of the damaged facilities.
  • The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company have been scrambling to restore power at the plant to restart the cooling systems for the reactors.
  • The earthquake and tsunami on March 11th severed the plant’s electricity supply and destroyed its emergency generators

Reported by NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, on March 18, 2011

KEDRON: Kedron State High School played host to 80 youth delegates from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe earlier this month. The students were visiting as part of the Ship for World Youth program, operated by the Japanese consulate.

Teacher Steve Lang said the school put on a day of Australian culture for the students, with games of backyard cricket and Australian Rules and some authentic Aussie food. In return, the delegates, aged 18-30, performed traditional dances from Micronesia, Oman and Japan.

The Ship for World Youth sees students travel around the world, stopping in about five countries to experience local culture.

Mr Lang said Kedron students were given a window to future study and work opportunities in other countries. “It opens them up to stories and ideas from around the world,” he said. “It also shows them some insight into problems in the world that they can help fix.’”

This article appeared at http://northside-chronicle.whereilive.com.au/news/story/ship-for-world-program/ on Feb. 21, 2011.

THE Ship of the World Youth program has thanked Fiji for the effort put into hosting the 310 international youths during their stopover in Suva two weeks ago.

Program official Tamae Saito said from Brisbane that the Fiji port of call left a lot of good memories for participating youths, a statement from the Information Ministry said. “Feedbacks we received from them were very positive and they appreciated all the work done by the Government of Fiji, alumni members and local volunteers. Thank you very much once again,” Ms Saito said in an electronic mail after the ship’s second port of call in Australia.

“The people at the schools and institutions warmly welcomed us, and youths learned greatly from their visits.”

Ms Saito said the traditional welcome ceremony was inspiring and it was a great honour for both ship officials and participants to meet and greet both the Prime Minister and the President of Fiji. “The cultural night was very well organised and splendid, thanks to the efforts made by your Government and the local volunteers,” Ms Saito said.

“The night was a highlight of the visit. The participating youths said they felt like ‘super stars’ and were excited to perform in front of the 2000 plus spectators.”

“The village visit was another highlight, and we will never forget those big smiles of villagers and the warm hospitality we received from the people,” she said.

Fijian delegate, Fenton Lutunatabua, said participants from other countries expressed their immense appreciation for the Suva port of call program and activities. “I now take this opportunity to thank the SWY alumni as well as the Ministry of Youth and everyone else involved with the port of call activities. For putting together the best port of call ever,” Mr Lutunatabua said. “On behalf of the Fiji delegation as well as everyone else from other delegations that left a piece of their heart in Fiji, vinaka vakalevu!.”

Meanwhile, the MV Fuji Maru called into Brisbane last week where SWY delegates visited various institutions including the Queensland University of Technology Education, the United Nations Youth Association, Conservation Volunteers Australia and a Police Citizens Youth Club as part of the port of call activities.

The article appeared at http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=166281 on Feb. 17, 2011, and was written by Elenoa Baselala.

There is a saying in Japan, “The hand reaches the itchy spot” which means, ” Being very attentive”. This is an ironbound rule of service in Japan. After visiting Japan, many tourists comment that, ” Japanese are friendly”. Wherever you go, the staff of hotels, restaurants, train stations, and information offices treat visitors kindly.

I can now say, this is true.

I was one of the few lucky members of the media invited for the Welcome Reception buffet dinner on board the Ship for the World Youth cruise vessel Fuji Maru on Thursday evening.

The invite read: The Ambassador of Japan in Fiji and The Administrator of the 23rd Ship for World Youth requests the pleasure of your company at a buffet reception on board the MS Fuji Maru at the Kings Wharf berth port of Fiji. The date was set for Thurday 1900 hours to 2100 hrs. (79pm to 9pm).

From The Fiji Times, only two – News reporter Monika Singh and myself. We felt honoured for this exciting priviledge.

A taste of Japanese hospitality on board the Fuji Maru.

Not wanting to arrive late, we left base around 6.45pm. The short ride to the wharf was a transportation relief considering it had been raining in the capital a few hours earlier. We were thankful to have had avoided muddy puddles, and the possibility of sweating had we walked. We get off at the main gate to security checks before clearance.

It’s a little after 7pm but its bright and the air is cool outside. Maca Lutunauga of Radio Fiji joins us as we make our way to the magnificent cruise ship now looming a few metres ahead. Armed with camera, tape recorder, and my curiosity, I pictured the scenario that awaited and went over in my mind story ideas and pictures that would make for an interesting feature.

At the foot of the ship’s ladder are three Japanese personnel who greet us and ask to see our invite cards.Then a polite gesture with their hand to give the go ahead to board the ship. As we clamber up the steps, someone mentioned that during the day trip, guests were asked to wash their hands. We were not.

At the top, more Japanese personnel, and ship officers all decked out in their white uniforms and hats, greet us.

Inside the cool of the elegant ship’s lounge, more Japanese staff with guest tags await. They take our invite cards and hand each person a “guest” name tag to wear.

The hospitality famously known to have been cultivated as a part of Japanese tradition now permeated the entire atmosphere. Neatly dressed staff in suits and uniforms had an ever-present smile and bowed politely as they greeted each arriving guest.

As we enter the dining hall, the scene is overwhelming. Beautiful women and men of various races, colours and languages all having a great time, with drinks in their hands chatting excitedly. The ship’s youths mingled into the colourful crowd.

As each distinguised guest makes their entrance, the MC makes the introduction in Japanese which is interpreted by a female staff in English. Present were the President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and other representatives of the government of Fiji, the youth participants and other members who were travelling on the Fuji Maru, members of the Fiji Alumni of the SWY (Ship for the World Youths), diplomatic corps, and distinguished guests.

I could only observe in amazement as the efficient ship’s crew, hosts and hostesses, waiters and waitresses and even security guards made everyone feel comfortable, safe and very welcome in their quiet, casual and polite manner.

I had heard and read somewhere how the Japanese have an amazingly “polite” way of entertaining guests. This evening was no exception.

After the speeches, the ship’s administrator calls for a toast.

Waiters move quickly and open a carton of Lager beer on every table, and sets out at least a dozen glasses for guests to pour to their heart’s content before the raising of glasses. We are amazed by this gesture.

The toast is quickly followed by the opening of food heaters neatly set out on every table. Excited chatting starts again as everyone settles into a relaxed mode and indulge in fine wining and dining.

Delicious, mouthwatering Japanese cuisine emerged from under the lids in all its colour and perfection. Different fish, shellfish and other seafood made up the buffet, prepared in many different ways – raw, dried, boiled, grilled, deep fried, steamed.; rice dishes like sushi and fried rice, Sashimi (raw seafood) definitely enjoyed raw because they were fresh and prepared correctly, soya sauce and wasabi. One of my favourite was Tempura, a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that has been battered and deep fried. There were plates of crispy Tempura shrimp and vegetables, prawn, shrimp, squid, scallops, crab, and a wide variety of fish; chow mein dishes and Japanese fried rice.

There were meat dishes like yakitori – grilled chicken pieces on skewers, beef steaks coated in exotic seasonings, lamb, and coated chicken drumsticks.

We couldn’t resist skewered fish balls and meat balls dipped in creamy sweet and sour sauce. Yum!

Mouthwatering desserts of all sorts from Japanese cakes to ice cream and fruits were served on demand.

The seasonal delicacies were surely the topic of conversation (at least amongst our crowd it was!) as everyone savoured the delicious food with friends and associates.

Time seemed to flow fast, yet amidst all the talking, meeting and greetings, you find your mind at peace in a space filled with serenity – I guess that is the essence of Japanese hospitality.

This piece appeared at http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=165498 on Feb. 6, 2011, and was written by Ruby Taylor-Newton.