High Commissioner to visit Japan and India

Briefing Notes, 1 December 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 December 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner António Guterres is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Monday for a three-day visit during which he will meet Foreign Minister Taro Aso, senior government officials, parliamentarians, NGOs and others. He will also deliver a keynote speech to a Human Security Symposium.

During his visit, Guterres is expected to meet former High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, now president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA. UNHCR and JICA work closely in several countries. Japan is a key strategic partner in our work for refugees around the world. It is UNHCR's fifth largest donor, contributing US$63.1 million so far this year.

After Japan, Guterres will head to India for a two-day visit. He is expected to meet senior Indian government officials, heads of international organisations, diplomats, members of civil society, including the national Human Rights Commission, and UNHCR partners.

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2006 Nansen Refugee Award

All photos courtesy of Fuji Optical Co. Ltd.

The UN refugee agency has named Japanese optometrist Dr. Akio Kanai as the winner of the 2006 Nansen Refugee Award. Dr. Kanai has worked for more than two decades to improve the quality of life of over 100,000 uprooted people around the world by testing their eyes and providing them with spectacles.

Dr. Kanai, himself forcibly displaced from the northern Pacific island of Sakhalin at the end of World War Two, started his humanitarian work in 1983 in Thailand with Indochinese refugees. In 1984, he first worked with UNHCR and has conducted more than 24 missions to help uprooted people in Nepal, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Armenia. He has donated optometry equipment and more than 108,200 pairs of spectacles, made cash grants and trained local medical staff.

Dr Kanai, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of Fuji Optical, has also rallied his family and staff to participate in Fuji Optical's Vision Aid missions. Some 70 employees have taken part, working in refugee camps during their holidays.

2006 Nansen Refugee Award