"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 Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi at the 52nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

[Date] September 23, 1997
[Source] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Delegates,

I should like at the outset to extend my warmest compliments to H.E. Mr. Hennadiy Udovenko, Foreign Minister of Ukraine, on his assumption last week of the presidency of the fifty-second session of the General Assembly. Japan will cooperate closely with him for the success of this session.

I should also like to pay sincere tribute to H.E. Mr. Ismail Razali, who, as President of the fifty-first session of the General Assembly, demonstrated active initiative for strengthening the functions of the United Nations through reform. Japan earnestly hopes that Ambassador Razali will continue to contribute his views for the advancement of United Nations reform.

Mr. President,

This session of the General Assembly will be an "assembly for reform." I say this because the current session is of unprecedented importance in terms of realizing the reform of the United Nations.

I should like to recall for you what the purpose of United Nations reform is. The purpose of reforming the United Nations is, I believe, to strengthen its functions to further enable it to fully accomplish its tasks. As a member of the Security Council, Japan is deeply aware that since the end of the Cold War, grave problems of conflicts and poverty have emerged, most frequently and acutely in Africa. By reforming the United Nations, the international community will be better able to solve the problems of peoples in all parts of the world who are suffering due to conflicts and poverty, problems which are especially glaring in Africa. We must begin immediately to strengthen the United Nations in this respect and continue our efforts into the future. Japan intends to play the role which is expected of it in the strengthened United Nations.

I regard highly the strong initiatives of the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, in promoting reform. In particular, his proposals for U.N. reform, announced in March and July of this year, are intended to enhance the coherence and effectiveness of U.N. activities by strengthening the leadership of the Secretary-General as well as the coordination function in each field, including development and humanitarian affairs; as such, they have Japan's basic support. We earnestly hope that the reform of the United Nations as a whole will gather momentum through these proposals.

If the United Nations is unable to reform itself to meet the demands of the coming era, but simply engages in an aimless repetition of detailed arguments in which each Member State pursues its own interests, the confidence of the international community in the Organization will be severely undermined. We must be aware that at this moment we are standing at a crucial crossroads. It is the very moment at which we must summon the political will to decide on the outlines of U.N. reform.

Japan believes that each Member State should, in a spirit of statesmanship, engage in substantive negotiations, not from the viewpoint of pursuing its own parochial interests but from the genuinely broad perspective of maximizing benefits to the international community as a whole.

Mr. President,

Japan believes that reforms relating to the Security Council, finance and development are the three pillars of United Nations reform. Today, the Security Council is attentive to the economic and social aspects of the conflicts it seeks to resolve. Moreover, in order to establish a sound financial basis, it is necessary that all the activities of the United Nations, including those in the fields of development and peace-keeping, be rendered more effective. Serious efforts in the area of development are also important for ensuring international peace and security. It is essential therefore that reform in these three areas be achieved as a whole in a balanced manner in order for the United Nations, the sole universal organization, to respond appropriately to the dramatically changing context of the international community and to be better able to discharge its functions.

Mr. President,

Now I would like to reiterate Japan's views on some of the most important points regarding the United Nations reform effort.

First, the reform of the Security Council. Needless to say, the international community is vastly different today from what it was fifty-one years ago when the United Nations was founded. Broadly speaking, this is reflected in the following two ways. First, in addition to those States that were originally expected to assume primary responsibility for international peace and security, other States have newly emerged with the capacity and the willingness to play a global role. Second, many States have in the meantime become independent, and today they represent a majority in the international community in which they have become important players. Particularly in the wake of the Cold War, the Security Council is expected to play an even greater role in the area of international peace and security. To meet such expectations, it is essential that it be reorganized to adapt to these two changes, thereby enhancing its legitimacy and effectiveness. This is the very essence of Security Council reform. It is with such a reformed and strengthened Security Council that effective measures, for example for the resolution of frequent conflicts in regions such as Africa, become possible. It is from this perspective that many States, including my own, are advocating the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent membership. If the reform resulted in an expansion of only the non-permanent membership, the Council's legitimacy and effectiveness would not be enhanced, and genuine reform to adapt to the changing times would not have been accomplished.

This year, under the leadership of former General Assembly President Razali, discussions on Security Council reform have gained greater momentum than ever before. Japan strongly urges that we seize this opportunity to decide on at least a framework of Security Council reform and reach an agreement on an outline for the realization of concrete reform by the end of the year. I would like to state again that Japan, with the endorsement of many countries, is prepared to discharge its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council in accordance with its basic philosophy of the non-resort to the use of force prohibited by its Constitution.

Mr. President,

I shall touch next on financial reform. Today a further retrenchment by the United Nations in the area of finance is required, and Japan regards highly the Secretary-General's efforts toward this end. The Government of Japan is itself currently pursuing drastic reform of its financial structure, with the aim of bringing its financial deficit below 3 percent of GDP by the year 2003. It is also essential for the United Nations to secure a solid financial basis for itself. In this regard, I would emphasize again that it is the obligation of Member States to pay their assessed contributions in full, and that Member States in arrears should make every effort to eliminate them. It goes without saying that the expenses of the Organization must be apportioned more equitably. As regards the basis for calculating the scale of assessments, Japan has advocated adopting the concept of "responsibility to pay" to complement the present method, which is based on the principle of "capacity to pay." Japan's assessment is about to reach that of the United States, and it is already almost as great as the assessments of the other four permanent members combined. If Japan's assessment were to increase further out of proportion, with reform of the Security Council not yet realized, I must say there would be a problem with respect to the fairness of such a situation. Japan strongly hopes that the financial reform of the United Nations will proceed together with reforms in other areas as a whole in a balanced manner and that agreement on an equitable scale of assessments can be achieved.

The third point relates to reform in the area of development. Development and peace are, so to speak, two sides of a coin. Without development, the causes of conflicts will not be eliminated, and without peace the conditions for development will not be met. Under its present Constitution, Japan has continued to attach great importance to contributing to international peace through its active involvement in development issues and humanitarian assistance efforts. Involvement in development issues is a matter of priority for my country, and its commitment to the development of developing countries remains unchanged.

Japan has been insisting that a "new development strategy," based on genuine partnership between developed and developing countries, is particularly necessary in this post-Cold War era. The consideration of the Agenda for Development has concluded recently. We believe it is important that the new philosophy, based on the ownership of developing countries and on genuine partnership, be widely shared in the United Nations. Toward this end, in July of this year Japan held the Okinawa Conference on Development, and this month co-hosted with the Kingdom of the Netherlands the Conference on OECD/DAC Strategy "Shaping the Twenty-first Century: The Contribution of Development Cooperation". We are thus exploring ways of promoting and realizing this strategy. Through such efforts by Japan, it is becoming widely recognized that South-South cooperation, fortified with the new dimension of triangular cooperation, is an important means of promoting this strategy.

We regard the Secretary-General's proposals to establish a United Nations Development Group and to consolidate U.N. offices at the country level to be very worthwhile in terms of increasing efficiency. U.N. reform must not be a euphemism for budget cutting. From this point of view, Japan, with the support of many States, has been advocating the idea of reinvesting in development programmes the savings that accrue from reforms. We urge that this proposal, which is reflected in the Secretary-General's reform plan, be quickly implemented. In addition, Japan hopes that the year 2001 will be designated as the International Year of Volunteers in order to encourage more active participation in U.N. activities at the grass-roots level.

Setting development on track and eradicating poverty in Africa are necessary for the fundamental solution of the conflicts that frequently occur in that region. Bearing this in mind, Japan has been focusing its efforts on African development issues. At Japan's initiative, plans are under way to hold the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II) at the ministerial level next year in Tokyo, following a preparatory meeting, also in Tokyo, at the senior officials level in November of this year. We would like to ask the States concerned to cooperate for the success of these conferences and for the achievement of substantive progress in promoting African development.

Mr. President,

Ever since becoming a member in 1956, Japan has consistently pursued a foreign policy that attached importance to the United Nations. Since January of this year, thanks to the support of many countries, Japan has been serving its eighth term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. It has been actively cooperating in U.N. peace-keeping operations and efforts for the prevention and settlement of regional conflicts. Next January, Japan will convene the International Conference on Preventive Strategy, which Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto proposed at the fifty-first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. We anticipate that concrete proposals will be made at that conference as to how cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity and the strengthening of the functions of the United Nations through such measures as reform of the Security Council can contribute to the prevention and early resolution of conflicts in Africa. I am also pleased to announce that next March Japan plans to convene in Tokyo an international conference on the present situation and future prospects of U.N. peace-keeping operations.

Japan is also hosting the third session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP III) in Kyoto this December to decide on international measures to prevent global warming to be taken after the year 2000. Global warming is a critical issue, with implications for the future of humankind, and its solution will require the efforts of every country, including developing countries. Japan is sparing no effort to ensure the success of this conference and its adoption of a protocol that is meaningful, realistic, and equitable, and I would earnestly ask for the cooperation of all participating countries.

Next year we shall observe the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. I expect the United Nations to further strengthen its role in the areas of human rights and refugee and humanitarian assistance, and Japan also will continue to contribute actively in these areas.

In addition, disarmament efforts as well as the regime for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction must be further strengthened for the sake of world peace and stability. In this session, too, Japan will emphasize the importance of steady and cumulative efforts to take realistic nuclear disarmament measures aiming for a world free of nuclear weapons. We will also participate actively in discussions on anti-personnel land mines, the review of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, and the question of small arms.

Mr. President,

The twenty-first century will arrive in less than four years. In order to make the next century brighter, the United Nations should reform itself to be ready for the new era. If it is to do so, an agreement on the outline of U.N. reform must be reached within this year. Let us join forces to ensure that the world in the twenty-first century is stable and prosperous. This will require that we greet the twenty-first century with United Nations reforms achieved.

I should like to conclude my statement by stressing the profound importance of strengthening the United Nations -- the only universal international organization.