TOKYO, Oct. 23, 2014 / PRNewswire — The International Bar Association, the world’s leading body of legal professionals, bar associations and law societies, has presented its Rule of Law Award to Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, for his efforts to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy.
The award, which is conferred in recognition of outstanding contributions by an individual toward international justice, human rights and the rule of law, was presented to Sasakawa in Tokyo on October 23 during the 2014 IBA Annual Conference.
Sasakawa, who is also the WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and the Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy, has made eliminating leprosy and upholding the human rights of those affected by the disease his life’s work.
Under his leadership, the Nippon Foundation funded free treatment of leprosy worldwide for five years from 1995 – a role since assumed by Novartis. From 2003, he took up leprosy as a human rights issue with the United Nations. With the support of the Japanese government, he helped pave the way for the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution for Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and their Family Members in 2010.
Commenting on the choice of recipient, IBA President Michael Reynolds said, “It is a privilege to both celebrate and honor Mr. Sasakawa’s dedication to world justice with this award.” Sasakawa said he received the award “together with men and women affected by leprosy, who are, as we speak, taking a stand to end the stigma and discrimination against them and reclaim their rightful place in society.”
Leprosy is treated with multidrug therapy (MDT). Some 16 million people have been cured since MDT was introduced in the 1980s.
Although leprosy is curable, the age-old stigma attached to it continues to result in social discrimination. People can find their access to education, employment and public services severely curtailed because they have, or once had, the disease.
In 2013, 215,656 new cases of leprosy were reported worldwide. Most cases of leprosy are detected in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Three countries – India, Brazil and Indonesia – account for over 80% of the total.
The Nippon Foundation