A 31-year-old conflict resolution expert risks his life in a foreign land, Somalia. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A 31-year-old conflict resolution expert risks his life in a foreign land, Somalia.

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The contrast of support felt at the site of the Great East Japan Earthquake

I couldn’t believe that conflict zones, where so many people had died and been abandoned, were just fires on the other side of the world, so I thought, ‘If there are lives I can save, I will save them.

So says Yosuke Nagai, 31, president of Accept International, an international NGO that works to resolve terrorism and conflict. He is involved in the de-radicalization and reintegration of surrendered soldiers and prisoners of terrorist organizations in conflict zones, particularly in Somalia, located in East Africa.

Yosuke Nagai, 31, is the president of the NGO “Accept International” (photo by Shinji Hamasaki).

Somalia has been in a state of civil war for more than 30 years and is sometimes called “the most dangerous place on earth. Compared to countries such as Ukraine and Syria, Somalia is effectively regarded as a “low priority by the international community,” and international organizations and humanitarian aid have barely reached the country. What was the impetus for starting activities to resolve the conflict in such a place where no one wants to set foot?

What was it that led him to begin working to resolve the conflict in a place where no one had ever set foot? What was it that led you to start working for conflict resolution in such a place? When I had just entered Waseda University in April 2011, I went to Kesennuma and Rikuzentakata, which had been hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, as a volunteer to remove rubble and debris. Witnessing the activities of people from all over the region and the support that came from all over the world for the Tohoku region, I felt that Somalia, where 260,000 people died annually in the same year of 2011, is a place where people are still struggling to rebuild their lives. I felt that no one was paying attention to Somalia, where 260,000 people died annually in 2011. Contrast.” I immediately began to work in Somalia to support humanitarian activities.”

I immediately went to Somalia to talk to people who actually work for NGO’s related to humanitarian aid in order to gain wisdom from adults in order to conduct humanitarian aid activities in Somalia. I went to talk to people who actually work for humanitarian NGOs in Somalia to ask them for their wisdom. But all they could say was, “Don’t go to Somalia, it’s too dangerous. There are people suffering on the planet right now, and there is no good reason …… to just help people in areas where it is easier to help them. My disappointment and anger toward adults became the source of my energy, and I said to myself, ‘I don’t know what I can do, but I know what needs to be done. I don’t know what I can do, but I know what needs to be done. I’m going to save lives.

Mr. Nagai with members of the local government forces. Mr. Nagai and members of the local government forces are working together with the government forces.

Nagai founded the NGO “Japan Somali Youth Organization” while still in college. In the spring of 2005, the organization became a non-profit organization and changed its name to the current “Accept International. After assuming the position of Representative Director, he has been engaged in the current activities.

All the guards died instantly… “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.”

As mentioned above, Somalia is a very insecure country, and lives can be lost at any time. In fact, I have seen many times the deaths of people I was working with and people in the military with whom I was collaborating on business.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. I don’t know when I will die. In fact, there was a time when explosives were planted in the street and all five of my bodyguards were killed instantly. I was in a different car and I was passing on the same road. I was in a different vehicle and I was passing on the same road, and it just so happened that my car did not come in contact with the explosives, so I survived.

There is tension in the air all the time at the scene, and you never get used to the fear. But it is not my job alone; I am working with the thoughts and intentions of many people, so I cannot stand still.

An armored car is used to move around the site. Inside an armored car (right: Mr. Nagai)

There are things we can do because we are neither a member of a terrorist organization nor a local.

The name of the NGO, “Accept International,” comes from Mr. Nagai’s philosophy of “accepting and embracing. No matter how many people he has killed or terrorized in the past, he first “accepts” them. This attitude has been a pillar in the de-radicalization of terrorists in conflict zones where no one wants to intervene.

I believe that this attitude, which is possible only from a third-party perspective, is a necessary element in conflict resolution. When someone close to them is killed, many people’s emotions come to the fore, and they tend to blame the perpetrator ( terrorist organization or gang) ), and they will not be able to forgive the perpetrators (terrorist organizations and gangs). Supporting them is a no-brainer. That is natural, isn’t it?

That’s why third parties like myself are so important in resolving conflicts. Ultimately, I am an outsider. I am not a member of a terrorist organization, nor am I a local. That is why I can consciously push aside my complex emotions and calmly pursue the best option as a professional conflict resolver. And we strive to do so. As a result, we are advancing the difficult work of encouraging members who want to leave the armed forces to surrender and disarm, and helping them to reintegrate into society.”

A surrendered soldier is being welcomed from a terrorist organization. After surrender, they can undergo reintegration programs

Mr. Nagai has risked his life to save many young people, but there are lives he could not save and there have been setbacks. However, he says he will continue to run for “a goal” that will change the world.

I will continue to increase my activities on the front lines, which most people cannot do. However, we cannot achieve a world without terrorism and conflict if we only focus on what is happening on the frontlines. To fundamentally change the situation, we aim to create an international norm. I think it will take years and it will be very difficult to change the framework of international law. But terrorism and armed conflict will not end unless someone does it. If no one is doing what someone else has to do, then I will just do it myself.”

Mr. Nagai talks about the path toward the creation of an international norm (Shinji Hamasaki/Photo)

He puts his own life on the line to save others’ lives. Today, Mr. Nagai continues to work to resolve conflicts in foreign lands.

Surrendered soldiers undergoing a classroom program to reintegrate into society.
In addition to classroom lectures, there are also specific reskilling programs.
A local meal. Pasta with meat sauce and bananas is a common meal.

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