Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

I have been, till recently, serving as secretary of Franciscans International Japan, an international NGO officially registered at the UN. This organization has branches all over the world and specializes in human rights, ecology and social justice issues.
This NGO participates, as a partner, in a variety of discussions conducted at the UN since 1995 and is a member of a group, called 'Category 1,' that enjoys the right of expressing directly its opinions even in the UN's Consultative body, ECOSOC (Economic Social Council). Up to now, Franciscans International has actively participated, also by writing, in UN conferences dealing with human rights and ecology issues.
Just to give some examples, Franciscans International took part in the World Food Summit (1996), in Habitat II (same year 1996), in the UN Human Rights Committee (1999). And more recently, it has participated in the international campaign for the "International Debt Relief" of developing countries that gathered over 17 million signatures.
Looking at the central headquarters one might get the impression that such activities belong to a distant world, unrelated to our local realities, but each local branch, as I mentioned above, has local and regional links through its work on human rights, ecology or social justice.

In other words, the central headquarters are related to the UN but the branch offices deal with local issues. In case local offices, especially of developing countries, feel powerless towards violations of human rights and extreme cases of ecological destruction, they make appeals to the UN, through the central headquarters in solidarity action.
Although the Japan office has never brought up such appeals to the UN, its members assist sometimes groups of developing countries active in the promotion of human rights and in the preservation of the environment. It also cooperates with other NGOs in peace movements.
Other fields where the Japan office collaborates are: programs to assist and improve the lives of ethnic minorities in the Philippines, planning and execution of prayer meetings for peace and dialogue with persons of other religions, assisting hospices for terminal AIDS patients, providing human assistance to Muslim victims, no matter their religious or cultural backgrounds, etc. The office conducts meetings and campaigns calling on its members to provide financial help and/or to participate in visits to developing countries.
As explained above, not only the members of the Japanese branch, but also those of other national offices can receive international support when there is a need to appeal to the UN Human Rights Commission or should assistance for their local or regional activities be needed. In case people interested in the activities of Japan branch would like to participate also in the programs, try to contact directly the office.
Again, persons that would like to get directly in contact with the headquarters in Geneva or New York and to apply for membership, without getting involved in activities of local branches, can register directly at the headquarters. In this sense, Franciscans International is a UN registered NGO with free open participation.
To check the updated conditions and participation fees, please, take a look at the web page of Franciscans International

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