In April, a commemorative event was held in Kyoto, Japan, to honor the late Atsuhito Nakata, a former Japanese UN Volunteer killed while serving in Cambodia. The event was organized by the Peacebuilding Centre of Kyoto University of the Arts, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan Parliamentary Committee of the Diet of Japan for World Federalism and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme. Distinguished guests delivered speeches to the 60 former UN Volunteers and experts in peacebuilding and development in attendance, which were followed by working group discussions.
Atsuhito Nakata was deployed as a UN Volunteer Electoral Supervisor with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and supported the first general elections in the country. On 8 April 1993, Atsuhito was tragically ambushed and killed, together with his Khmer interpreter, Lek Sophiep, in the province of Kampong Thom.
After Atsuhito's death, his father, Mr Takehito Nakata, became an Honorary Ambassador of UNV and was a driving force in advocating volunteerism worldwide. Takehito played an important role in the proclamation of 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers. Even after he retired from the position, he continued engaging with UNV to promote the value of volunteerism. He passed away peacefully in 2016, at the age of 78 years.
UNV Deputy Executive Coordinator, Ms Kyoko Yokosuka, attended the commemoration on behalf of Executive Coordinator Mr Toily Kurbanov. She delivered his speech to the gathering, in which Mr Kurbanov expressed sincere gratitude to Atsuhito and Takehito Nakata.
Former Deputy Executive Coordinator Mr Sukehiro Hasegawa coordinated the event. He managed the electoral supervisors at the time of Atsuhito's death and is the current Director and Executive Committee Chair at the Kyoto Peacebuilding Centre. Additionally, Mr Yasushi Akashi, the former Special Representative on Cambodia, paid tribute to the late Takehito Nakata for elevating the significance of his son's contributions to the democratic transition in his country of assignment.
UN Volunteers deployed to UNTAC in the same cohort as Atsuhito shared their thoughts marking 30 years since the death of their late colleague. Former Member of Parliament Naoto Sakaguchi was Atsuhito's roommate during Khmer language training during their volunteer assignments. He shared his memories and emphasized the importance of realizing free and fair elections, which Atsuhito risked his life to achieve. Stephen Kinloch Pichat and Renata Tardioli also shared their reflections as part of the commemoration event.
Atsuhito and Takehito Nakata made significant contributions to strengthening the partnership between UNV and the government of Japan. In recent years, approximately 100 UN volunteers have been deployed from Japan, the majority of them fully funded by the government or other donors in Japan.
For the event, a video message from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was delivered, along with a speech from Mr Hideo Ishizuka, Deputy Assistant Minister and Ambassador in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Mr Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan.