News Archive LAST UPDATE  October 13, 2010
September 23, 2010 Peace Boat and the Republic of Ecuador call for the creation of a Japan-Ecuador Civil Society Forum
Peace Boat members meet President Rafael Correa during his visit to Japan
Aiming to further strengthen ties between Asia and Latin America, Peace Boat and the Embassy of Ecuador in Japan jointly convened a meeting on September 6, 2010 to call for the creation of a Japan-Ecuador Civil Society Forum. Several members of President Rafael Correa's Cabinet and representatives of more than 25 civil society organizations based in Japan that are addressing issues related to peace, economic justice, and biodiversity and the environment attended the meeting, which was held during the Ecuadorean President's first visit to Japan.
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Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño (third from right), discusses Ecuador's new peace constitution
“The heart of this meeting today is the will that we express to work together to create systems that are just, fair, full of peace, and reflect solidarity,” said Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador's Minister of Foreign Affairs. He pointed out that Ecuador's new constitution, which received tremendous input from civil society organizations before being adopted in 2008, designates the country as a territory of peace and prohibits the production and distribution of weapons of mass destruction. Ecuador received a Peace Boat delegation of survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki last year at the National Palace in Quito, and this, he noted, reflects the country's rejection of war and its respect for those victimized by it.
Mr. Patiño receives a gift from a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima
Minister Patiño also stressed that Ecuador has perhaps the “greenest”
constitution in the world, as evidenced by its groundbreaking recognition of the legal rights of nature. Ecuador's Minister of Culture and Heritage, Maria Espinosa, explained that Ecuador is introducing the novel concept of compensation for no contamination, and is pledging to refrain from exploiting its oil reserves in Yasuni ITT, an Amazon region abounding with biodiversity, in exchange for compensation amounting to half the value of the oil revenue. Minister Patiño expressed hope that civil society organizations would support this proposal, which aims to reward non-polluters rather than polluters.

Sloth Club representative Ami Fujioka expresses hope for Ecuador's unswerving commitment to peace and environmental sustainability

Ami Fujioka, a member of the Sloth Club, a Japanese environmental NGO that promotes exchange between Japan and Ecuador, said that although Japan is a highly developed country, it suffers from low food security, environmental destruction, and one of the highest suicide rates in the world. She applauded Ecuador's environmental leadership, and noted that her organization sends people to communities in Ecuador that are practicing organic farming, zero garbage production, fair trade and eco-tourism to learn more about these practices. "I hope President Correa will continue to take strong leadership on issues related to the environment, peace and the economy," she concluded.
Richard Gomez, leader of an electrical worker's union in Ecuador, represented the country's civil society sector at the meeting
Tadashi Koga of Pal System, a cooperative organization with a membership of one million people in Japan that allows consumers in Japan to buy fair trade products directly from producers in other countries, noted that Japan commits many funds to bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, but Japanese citizens themselves play no role in this process, nor do they form relationships with others as a result. Pal System, said Mr. Koga, strives to create face-to-face relationships between producers and consumers that are mutually beneficial and promote holistic abundance rather than simply carrying out commercial transactions. Ecuador, he felt, was an ideal partner for achieving this goal, said Mr. Koga. Pal System already imports organic cacao from Ecuador, he noted, and the co-op is hoping to expand their range of imports and connections with the country.

Richard Gomez, a labor union leader and representative of Ecuador's Civil Society, noted that even though civil society organizations in Japan and Ecuador have different languages, they share the same motive: the struggle for peace and the environment. Both could learn much from one another, he said, pointing out that Ecuador's removal of a U.S. military base from its territory can provide lessons for Okinawa, which is still struggling to reclaim much of its territory from U.S. military facilities. And Ecuador's civil society has much to learn from Japan's example of creating effective structures that bring various individuals and organizations together to work for common goals, he said. It's important that more young people get involved in this new initiative, he added. Mr. Gomez concluded by noting that Peace Boat is planning to organize a conference in Ecuador focusing on the themes of military and foreign military base abolition, and suggested that Yasuni be included as a third theme. The idea welcomed by Peace Boat, which plans to hold the conference in December in Montecristi, Ecuado at Ciudad Alfaro, the Civic Center where Ecuador's new constitution was adopted in 2008.

Yoshioka Tatsuya, director of Peace Boat, says the creation of a Japan-Ecuador Civil Society Forum is an important step toward fostering greater Latin America-Asian coperation

Ecuador's new constitution is extraordinarily groundbreaking and is an important achievement not just for the country, said Yoshioka Tatsuya, director of Peace Boat, but for the international society—especially in the areas of prohibition of foreign military bases and weapons of mass destruction. He expressed great respect for the Ecuadorean government's efforts to create an alternative direction for the world, and said now is the opportune time to start cooperation between Japanese and Ecuadorean civil societies toward the creation of a sustainable and peaceful world. This cooperation could be an important start for much broader cooperation between Latin American and Asian civil societies, said Yoshioka, adding that he was confident that solidarity between the two regions could would have enormous positive impact on the future course of the world, and he hoped the Ecuadorean government would continue to support the new initiative.

Organizations interested in helping to launch a Japan-Ecuador Civil Society Forum can contact Oaku Yuko at yukooaku[at]peaceboat.gr.jp.