"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Statement by Koken Nosaka, Head of Delegation of the Government of Japan at the Fourth World Conference on Women: Equality, Development and Peace

[Place] Beijing
[Date] September 5, 1995
[Source] Digital Museum: Comfort Women Issue and Asian Women's Fund
[Full text]

Madam President,

First of all, on behalf of the Government of Japan I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to you on the assumption of your important role at this historic Conference.

I also would like to express my most sincere appreciation to the Government and people of the People's Republic of China, the host country, for all their efforts to ensure the success of this Conference. It is indeed significant and opportune that the Fourth World Conference on Women should be held in China, a country that has achieved remarkable economic progress, and a country where "women hold up half the sky." I also would like to pay special tribute to the Secretary-General, H.E. Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and the Secretary-General of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Mrs. Gertrude Mongella.

Madam President,

Last month, I was appointed Minister for Women's Affairs. It is the goal of Japan to create a society in which there is an equal partnership between women and men, and it was to realize this important goal that the post of Minister for Women's Affairs, to be held concurrently by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, was created three years ago. While I may be one of the few male representatives attending this Conference, I believe that a society in which there is an equal partnership between women and men can be realized only if serious efforts are made by men in cooperation with women. This Conference has drawn great attention in both the private and public sectors in Japan. In addition to six thousand participants in the NGO Forum, twenty-four Diet members, including four male members, are attending this Conference.

Since the First World Conference on Women, the international community, with the United Nations playing a central role, has been making continuous efforts for the advancement of women; considerable progress has been made. However, when witnessing feminization of poverty, civil wars and regional conflicts in which the human rights of women are violated, I am profoundly aware of the enormity of the problems facing the international community.

At this Conference, we must identify the problems to be overcome, and show the world the course of action it must take to achieve international peace and prosperity. Japan has always regarded the activities of the United nations, such as the convening of the World Conferences on Women and the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as providing valuable opportunities for the further promotion of national domestic policies concerning women. I think it is imperative that individual countries and the international community take actions for the advancement of the status of women, in accordance with the course shown in the Platform for Action that is to be adopted at this Conference.

Madam President,

In the view of Japan, the course of action should comprise three principal pillars: first, empowerment of women, second, respect for the human rights of women, and third, partnership between women and men, partnership between NGOs and governments, and partnership across international borders.

Madam President,

The goal of actions undertaken under the first pillar, empowerment of women, is to fully develop the potential of women and enable them to choose from various possibilities. One key to the empowerment of women is education. As a result of the efforts that have been made in Japan to create a better educational environment, the enrolment of women in higher secondary education has been higher than that of men since 1989. Nevertheless, further measures must be taken to enhance educational opportunities for women throughout their lives.

Participation in the work place and in decision-making processes is another key to empowerment. Although Japan, having passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, has certainly made progress in ensuring equality in employment, many women still find a thick "wall" in front of the them. The Government of Japan therefore intends to promote an environment in which women can fully realize their potential abilities. It will do so by making greater efforts to employ and promote women in public service; by encouraging private enterprises, political parties, and other organizations to do the same; by supporting entrepreneurial activity by women; and by promoting the participation of women in decision-making in agricultural communities and in management.

In the global context as well, it is essential that women participate in economic and social development on equal terms with men and thus fully benefit from the process in order to ensure that balanced, sustainable development is achieved. To that end, in implementing development assistance, donors need to enhance cooperation in order to empower women and remove gender inequality in all aspects of women's lives. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that my country will pursue the "Initiative on Women in Development (WID)." This initiative attaches special importance to the three priority areas of improving educational standards, women's health, and economic and social participation for women. Japan intends to promote this initiative through a comprehensive approach, bearing in mind the interconnections between these three areas. I would like to call upon the international community and its citizens to work together to realize the goals agreed upon in these three areas. While assistance my Government provides in the field of women in development already substantially exceeds the level of $600 million a year, I will make efforts to expand the development assistance in this field for the implementation of this "Initiative on Women in Development."

Madam President,

The second important pillar of the Conference is ensuring the human rights of women. It has been reaffirmed in international forums that the human rights of women are universal and must not be violated. Japan, for its part, has made constructive efforts to enhance respect for the human rights of women. Moreover, Japan highly evaluates the fact that there is now agreement on the importance of reproductive health and reproductive rights, and on the need for generic approaches to ensure these rights. On the other hand, problems such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment remain serious. The human rights of women and their fundamental freedoms must not be violated; my Government accordingly intends to take strong action so that women will no longer be victims of prostitution, sexual crimes, or sexual exploitation. Moreover, many women in different parts of the world are still facing, threats to their honor and dignity, such as violence and inhuman treatment. The Government of Japan regards these problems as matters of grave concern and will therefore vigorously launch new initiatives to tackle them.

For example, in cooperation with the "Asian Women's Fund," which was established in July, the Government will support activities in a thoughtful and effective manner for the protection of women's human rights, conducted at the grass-roots level by Japanese and foreign NGOs. These include activities to care for women who have suffered violence, research on the prevention of violence against women, and activities to raise public awareness.

Furthermore, with a view to supporting efforts undertaken in various parts of world to eliminate such problems, the Government of Japan welcomes the strengthening of the UN activities in this field and is determined to actively cooperate with them. In addition to tackling these contemporary problems relating to women's human rights, the aforementioned "Asian Women's Fund" is also meant to express Japanese people's atonement to former wartime "comfort women," reflecting Japan's sincere remorse for its past history. The Government of Japan intends to extend the greatest possible cooperation to the Fund, so that its objectives may be fully attained.

Madam President,

The third pillar of this Conference is the enhancement of partnership. I think it is important to establish not only equal partnership between women and men, but also partnership between NGOs and Government, and partnership across international borders. Last summer, in an effort to further strengthen the national machinery, my Government set up the "Headquarters for Gender Equality" whose president is the Prime Minister and whose members are members of the cabinet. I serve as vice president. This Headquarters is at the center of efforts to promote comprehensive measures, suggesting the blueprint of gender equality in the twenty-first century.

Looking ahead to the twenty-first century, the first fundamental principle is the equal partnership between women and men. Japan has made efforts to promote measures, including the enactment of a law concerning nursing care for the aged and child-care leave and the enhancement of day-care services, in order to make working life compatible with the family life. This year the Government of Japan has ratified ILO Convention No. 156. It is also considering a review of the legal system pertaining to marriage, for example by introducing a legal measure that permits a couple to retain their respective surnames after their marriage. Further constructive measures are also necessary in various fields particularly education to promote de facto equality between women and men, mutual understanding and cooperation.

Second, my Government attaches importance to partnership between NGOs and the Government. It intends to involve all the people in the effort to accomplish gender equality, reinforcing the cooperative relationship between NGOs and the Government that was established in the cause of preparing for this Conference.

Third, partnership across international borders is also necessary. The connections among the fifty thousand people who are gathered in Beijing for this Conference will open the door to the twenty-first century. My Government suggests that information on women's issues be transmitted all over the world, for example through the Internet. In addition, it proposes that opportunities be created to strengthen Japan's relations with other national machineries, especially in the neighboring Asian region, on order to exchange views on policies for resolving women's issues.

Madam President,

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the realization of women's suffrage in Japan. Ms. Fusae Ichikawa, who was a leading advocate of women's suffrage, stressed that without peace, there can be no equality, and that without equality there can be no peace. Each is indispensable for the realization of the other.

Having learned the lessons from the past, Japan has made the objective of securing world peace and prosperity the foundation of its foreign policy. As the only country to have experienced the horror of nuclear weapons, Japan finds nuclear tests by some nuclear weapon countries extremely regrettable. Japan strongly urges those countries to exercise self-restraint, and sincerely hopes that all nuclear weapon countries will earnestly strive for nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons. In wars, it is always women and children who suffer first. it is for this reason that the World Conferences on Women have consistently expressed a strong with for peace. Women must no longer remain helpless victims of war, it is time they became active participants in the creation of a peaceful world.

It is our responsibility to the girls of today, who will be tomorrow's women, to ensure the success of this Conference. Let all of us gathered here strive to make this a successful Conference, one that future generations will look back upon as a genuine milestone on the path to gender equality.

Thank you.