On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, Ritsumeikan University was honored with the presence of Mr Dirk Hebecker, from UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency* in Japan. Mr Hebecker gave a 90 minute special lecture on the current global refugee crisis in the Yoyokan Hall building, Kinugasa Campus. The talk also covered an introduction to the general activities of the UNHCR and advice on job opportunities in the organization.
Engaging and thought-provoking from the beginning, the lecture was attended by a multinational audience of some 70 attendees from over 15 different countries, half of whom were from the International Migration course offered by Kinugasa’s College of International Relations, with other participants from courses within the department and further afield.
Mr Hebecker asked probing questions of his audience throughout and challenged assumptions with regards to the role of the UNHCR and scope of its activities. Of particular note was that the organization’s activities also extend to ‘Internally Displaced People’ (IDPs), defined as: ‘a person who has been forced to flee his / her home as a result of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or human made disasters…within their own country’; contrary to the popular idea that the organization exclusively helps those that have crossed an internationally recognized border and are officially internationally recognized and defined as refugees.
Mr Hebecker spoke of the role of UNHCR in Japan as having two branches: raising awareness and funding from government, and providing advocacy and support to refugee protection efforts; before finally moving on to talk about job opportunities and ‘ways in’ to the organization, recommending students to ‘link whatever (they are) studying to one of the global (refugee) issues’.
Don Yugiang, a first year masters student at the Graduate School of International Relations commented that Mr Hebecker’s seminar was:
“Informative and heartwarming. I am interested in working in international organizations. It was nice to talk, to have a personal conversation with someone who works for the UN. I could ask him his opinion on the best 3rd language for me to learn (as a native Chinese speaker with English as a second language) to enter the organization.”
Mr Hebecker had been invited to attend by Assistant Professor Sumio Nishizaki of the College of International Relations.
UNHCR is an acronym for: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees