Mikiko Otani Voted First Japanese On U.n. Committee For Children's Rights

Mikiko Otani voted first Japanese on U.N. committee for children's rightsMikiko Otani will become the first Japanese to serve on the United Nations committee enforcing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) starting next March.
The 51-year-old Otani will serve on the United Nations committee charged with the task of surveying the compliance of countries that signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Otani is the first Japanese representative to be selected as a member of the committee. In March 2017, she will join 17 other members from various nations who will work together to recommend revisions under the convention.

For Otani, contributing to the international community as a member of the United Nations was her dream, studying international politics at university. At first, Otani pursued a career as a lawyer, but she was left unsatisfied by the limits of the judicial system, which could only provide justice after a crime had already been committed. "I wondered just how much pain we were really alleviating," she said. "I began to think about what we could do to really protect a person's rights."

Otani reached a turning point while studying international human rights law in the United States from 1997 to 1999. "I learned that in order to prevent human rights violations, we needed to increase the number of people who can understand the pain and respect the human rights of others," she recalled. After returning to Japan, she made human rights education through lectures her life's work.

Otani became a leading expert for the rights of children caught up in the collapse of international marriages. It was not uncommon for women to return to Japan and change their child's name, or refuse to receive child support payments from their husbands even at the risk of falling into poverty. Defending these women in court, Otani focused on what was best for the child caught in the middle. "I learned to look at the situation not from the eyes of the parents, but first from the perspective of the child," she explained.

United Nations committee members are selected through a vote by the representative 196 countries and regions. Out of the nine members selected for the committee this time, Otani ended up with the most votes. "The issues of poverty and infant mortality are different than in Japan, and I hope to start by learning more about these issues in the 196 countries and regions in the United Nations."