Investment Strategy & Government Relations
I was born in Paraguay and grew up in Honduras, Colombia, and Japan. I attended local schools, international schools, and Japanese schools, and as a result, I had the opportunity to interact with people from many different backgrounds from a young age. Moreover, by living in all of these countries throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was able to develop my language skills – Japanese, Spanish, and English – which have become key strengths.
Living in Honduras and Colombia exposed me to these countries’ various aspects of inequality. Every time I went back to Japan, I noticed the differences between Honduras/Colombia and Japan, especially in areas such as infrastructure and education. As a child, I questioned why these differences exist and what could be done to address them, but these were just thoughts and I was not sure what I could do. It was not until middle school during a history course that I first learned about the existence of international organizations that address global issues. I remember thinking that if I could work at this type of organization in the future, I would be able to address inequalities.
After completing high school, I moved back to Japan to study international relations at Waseda University. During my first year of university, I had the opportunity to read former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction in 2003, this book explores responses from the United States and international community to genocides that occurred throughout the 20th century.
Reading this book not only made me think about the “right to life”, but also about our responsibility as humans in moments of crimes against humanity. While reading books about human rights, I thought about what the term “human rights” meant and how if human rights are promoted and protected, inequalities could be addressed. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights for my professional career.
As I was also interested in languages during college, I decided to apply for a study abroad program at Paris Sorbonne University (Paris IV). While in Paris, I was not only able to improve my French skills, but also had the opportunity to discuss human rights from various perspectives - political, economic, social, as well as philosophical - with professors and classmates, making my time in Paris an intellectually rewarding experience.
When I returned to Tokyo from Paris, I began to think about possible career paths. Considering that people like Nicholas Kristof from The New York Times raised awareness about human rights issues as a journalist, I thought about gaining some work experience in the field of journalism. After interning at The New York Times and The Economist, I decided to apply for a master's degree in international affairs at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva to further acquire knowledge on human rights and global issues.
My two years at the Graduate Institute were academically and personally rewarding. The Graduate Institute hosts renown professors and brings together a diverse student body, which led to academically rewarding discussions about human rights and global issues. Furthermore, the Graduate Institute is located in the city of Geneva, which hosts many international organizations. This location allowed me to intern at a United Nations agency and at NGOs, where I was able to apply the knowledge I gained at the Graduate Institute into a professional environment.
My plan in Geneva was to focus on my research during my first year and start looking for jobs from year two as I completed my dissertation. I looked into various organizations considering that there has been an increasing number of public-private partnerships to promote and protect human rights. While I was looking for organizations that promote and protect human rights and have potential career development, there were two other things I took into account - a strong organizational leadership, and a mentor.
It was then that I found out about the public-private partnership funded by the Government of Japan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and companies from the private sector called the GHIT Fund. Furthermore, as I was researching the GHIT Fund, I was impressed by its governance structure, as well as Dr. Slingsby's strong leadership since the GHIT Fund's inception and Dr. Katsuno's academic and professional experiences, which led to my decision to apply for a position here.
I joined the Investment Strategy and Government Relations team of the GHIT Fund, where I work on building relationships with our project’s product development partners and government-related organizations. Working at the GHIT Fund is exciting because there is a new challenge every day, which leads to new learnings.
One of the appealing aspects of working at the GHIT Fund is that anyone can suggest new projects/initiatives. For example, I suggested that we form an internship program to provide new opportunities for young professionals like myself. Moreover, there is a project called the “GHIT Values Promotion Program”, which was established by members of the GHIT Fund Management Team themselves and has been fundamental to building a strong team-minded culture. Being able to contribute to the organization’s culture through this program is very rewarding.
Health is a right, not an option. This is a quote written on the GHIT Fund’s office wall, which I remember reading during my first day of work. The GHIT Fund's investments aim for a healthier world, meaning that it contributes to the promotion and protection of health, a fundamental human right. The GHIT Fund entered its Phase II (2018-2022) this year, and the Strategic Plan for the next five years was published. As one of the members of the GHIT Fund Management Team, I would like to keep cooperating with every stakeholder to accomplish the Strategic Plan and continue contributing to the promotion and protection of health, a fundamental human right.
*This interview was conducted in August 2018.
Investment Strategy & Government Relations
Hironobu Itabashi is Associate Manager of Investment Strategy & Government Relations at the GHIT Fund. He has worked as an intern at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), IRIN Association, The Economist, The New York Times and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ). Mr. Itabashi holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva. Prior to his graduate studies, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the School of International Liberal Studies at Waseda University and attended Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV) as an exchange student. He is a native speaker of Japanese and Spanish and fluent in English and French.