"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 H. E. Mr. Masahiko Koumura Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan at the Fifty-fourth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, "Issues in the Twenty-First Century and the Role of the United Nations"

[Date] September 21, 1999
[Source] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Delegates,

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to His Excellency Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Namibia, on his assumption of the office of President of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly.

I would also like to pay my respects to His Excellency Dr. Didier Opertti Badan, Foreign Minister of Uruguay, for all his efforts during his tenure as President of the fifty-third session of the General Assembly.

It is also my great pleasure to welcome the admission of the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, and the Kingdom of Tonga as new members to the United Nations.

Permit me on this occasion to extend my heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the people of the Republic of Turkey and to the people of Greece, who have suffered greatly as a result of the recent earthquakes in those countries. I also express my deep concern toward the grave damage caused by the earthquake which occurred in Taiwan on the early morning of 21 September, and extend my heartfelt condolences and sympathy to those who have suffered from the disaster.

Mr. President,

This is the last session of the General Assembly before the Millennium Assembly is convened next year. During the one year period to come, we must identify the issues such as conflicts and poverty, which the international community will face in the twenty-first century, and find an answer to what role the United Nations should play in addressing these issues.

Mr. President,

Since its founding in 1945, the United Nations has been dealing with issues of world peace and security, as well as economic and social issues including development. In the area of peace and security, during the Cold War era, the capability of the Security Council to cope with conflicts was severely restricted. Even under such circumstances, however, the United Nations made creative efforts, such as peace keeping operations (PKO), and achieved certain results in the Middle East and elsewhere. After the end of the Cold War, the number of PKOs that have been dispatched has increased dramatically, and their mandates have become diversified. Their activities bore fruit, for example, in Cambodia and Mozambique. On the issues of refugees and displaced persons arising out of conflicts, the humanitarian assistance activities by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others are highly appreciated.

In the economic and social area, the United Nations, along with its specialized agencies, has raised issues, set standards and implemented them in every field ranging from development, the environment, human rights, science and culture. In the area of development, in addition to efforts through its Programmes and Funds, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations has achieved certain results in coordinating the assistance activities of the international community. The United Nations has, furthermore, played a decisive role in assessing the public opinion of the global society.

We should highly regard such efforts of the United Nations. Fully recognizing the significance of the Organization, the people of Japan regarded its admittance to the membership of the United Nations as their country's reinstatement in the international society after the Second World War. They have been supporting and contributing to the activities of the United Nations ever since.

There is, however, still much to be done by the United Nations in such areas as the prevention and resolution of conflicts and poverty alleviation. It is also important to have fresh viewpoints, including that of "human security", in addressing such new issues as those relating to globalization and global issues. These are the issues that we will be passing along to the twenty-first century.

Mr. President,

One of the most important issues that the United Nations must continue to address is conflict. In Africa, conflicts continue in many regions. Although peace has been restored in Kosovo, the conflict there left deep scars on the local communities in the region and on the hearts of the people, demonstrating once again the importance of conflict prevention. Furthermore, numerous challenges exist on the path toward future reconstruction. There are persistent tensions in Asia. While various conflicts have been resolved in Latin America, there remain tasks to achieve stable post-conflict development, including the development and landmines clearance of the border region between Peru and Ecuador, which reached a peace agreement on the border dispute last year.

Regarding the efforts to deal with conflicts, I would like to emphasize the following three points. First, it is important to take a comprehensive approach, which includes conflict prevention and resolution, peace-keeping and peace-building, and the elimination of potential causes of conflict, such as poverty. Second, it is necessary to deal with conflicts in a manner that is suitable to the situation in each region. These two points were also pointed out in the "Report of the Secretary General on the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa" which was issued last year. Third, in the context of peace-building, it is necessary that international assistance, from post-conflict emergency humanitarian assistance to long-term development aid, be seamlessly implemented. On top of these, it has become an important issue to ensure the security of personnel who are engaged in humanitarian or development assistance activities.

In Africa, the United Nations is cooperating in efforts for peace in conflicts, such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Japan will consider extending assistance to the efforts of the United Nations as well as to the reconstruction efforts of the countries concerned. We think that efforts to tackle poverty in Africa also contribute to the prevention of conflicts in the region.

With regard to Kosovo, Japan has provided the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) with personnel, and is actively extending financial support in such areas as humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. It recently dispatched a study mission to explore possible concrete assistance projects.

Turning our attention to Asia, we hope that security in East Timor will be restored at the earliest possible date, through the activities of the multinational force now starting to be deployed based upon the Security Council Resolution adopted on 15 September, in coordination with the Government of Indonesia and Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI). Japan has already announced that it will extend a substantial financial contribution to the multinational force. It is making this contribution with the intention of facilitating the participation of developing countries in that effort. Japan will decide the amount of its contribution, after the whole picture of the multinational force becomes clear. The situation of refugees and displaced persons in and outside East Timor causes serious concern. Japan has announced the contribution of two million dollars in total to the activities of UNHCR and World Food Programme (WFP). In addition, it intends to positively consider further assistance, after taking into consideration a report from the Government mission now in the region and other factors. Furthermore, Japan, in the mid- and long- term, also intends to provide appropriate assistance for reconstruction and development of East Timor.

As a part of conflict prevention, I wish to commend the Organization of African Unity (OAU) for already launching efforts to establish an early warning system, and in Asia the Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum for its decision last July to discuss concretely how preventive diplomacy might be dealt with.

Next, I would like to touch upon three issues that are commonly observed in regions in conflict, namely, small arms, anti-personnel landmines, and refugees and displaced persons. In its efforts to cope with small arms issue, Japan strongly hopes that the General Assembly will adopt a resolution during this session, promoting the recommendations of the report of the Secretary General drafted by the Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms. Japan looks forward to working with other countries for the implementation of those recommendations. Japan will also actively contribute to the successful convening of the "International Conference on the Issue of Small Arms" to be held by the end of 2001. On the issue of anti-personnel landmines, with the entry into force last March of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, it is now necessary to achieve a universal and effective ban on anti-personnel landmines and to clear the mine areas, while extending assistance to mine victims, among whom are many children. Japan has so far contributed financial assistance of more than 40 million dollars to international organizations and non-governmental organizations, and will continue further to strive to achieve the goal of "zero victims" at an early date. With regard to the issue of refugees and displaced persons, Japan highly commends the activities of UNHCR and others, and intends to continue to actively cooperate with them.

Mr. President,

Since the end of the Cold War, international efforts have achieved certain results with respect to non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and their delivery vehicles, namely missiles, as well as arms reduction. Yet the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) regime has been challenged by the nuclear testing or secret development of weapons of mass destruction conducted by some states.

Japan calls upon both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states to take constructive actions to ensure the successful convening of the Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT next spring. Japan also calls upon the states that have not yet done so, to promptly sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, so that it can enter into force as soon as possible, and appeals to every country to respect the moratorium on nuclear testing. Further, it is also important to reactivate the START process, and to promptly commence the negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Japan has consistently called for realistic measures for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and every year since 1994, has submitted to the General Assembly a resolution of "nuclear disarmament with a view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons". At the end of last July, "The Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament" which was established at Japan's initiative, issued its report which, we think, provides a realistic guideline for progress in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Japan would like to actively consult with other countries, with a view to implementing the meaningful recommendations contained in the report.

The importance of dealing with the issue of weapons of mass destruction other than nuclear weapons, such as biological and chemical weapons, as well as the issue of delivery vehicles including missiles, is beyond discussion. In particular, Japan will make efforts for early conclusion of negotiations on the Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention.

With regard to the North Korean missile issue, Japan appreciates and welcomes the important progress achieved in the recent U.S.- North Korea talks. Japan strongly hopes that the moratorium on missile launching by North Korea is further assured.

Mr. President,

Poverty continues to be a serious issue in many regions of the world. There is a vicious circle in which the frequent occurrence of regional conflicts exacerbates poverty problem, while poverty in turn constitutes a cause of occurrence and recurrence of regional conflicts. Indeed, poverty should be recognized as the primary issue of the twenty-first century, and it is incumbent upon various players such as the United Nations, other international organizations, states and civil society to cooperate toward its eradication.

At the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICADII), which was co-organized by Japan, the United Nations and others last October, the "Tokyo Agenda for Action" was adopted, which encourages African countries to take initiatives on their own, calls for the strengthening of cooperation between African countries and developed countries as well as international organizations, and calls for the promotion of cooperation between Asia and Africa. Japan will remain actively engaged with the issue of poverty in Africa through follow-up efforts for the implementation of this action agenda, such as the debt management seminar which Japan co-organized with the United Nations and others last month in Kenya.

Japan has been the world's largest donor of official development assistance (ODA) since 1991. Despite the severity of its domestic budgetary situation, it will continue to extend effective, efficient and high-quality ODA, and will tackle poverty problems through a further promotion of cooperation with the related organizations of the United Nations.

Debt problems are making it extremely difficult for debtor nations, especially the poorest countries, to achieve development. Japan has provided assistance through debt rescheduling and grant aid for debt relief, and will take comprehensive measures to deal with the debt problem, including the steady implementation of the commitment made at the G8 Summit meeting in Cologne.

Mr. President,

Important conferences, such as Special Sessions of the General Assembly are being held successively in the areas of economic and social development and human rights. The UN General Assembly Special Session on Population and Development was held this June, at which meaningful "proposals" for future "action" were adopted. Sustainable development of small island states which are susceptible to the effects of climate change and are also geographically vulnerable is a very important issue of the "22nd Special Session on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States" starting from the 27th of this month. The development of landlocked states which are also geographically disadvantaged is important as well. The promotion of the implementation of the "Copenhagen Declaration" and the "Action Plan", which were adopted at the "World Summit for Social Development" in 1995, will be discussed next year at a follow-up Special Session. The General Assembly Special Session entitled "Women 2000" will also be held next year in order to further promote the results of the World Conference on Women in 1995. Building upon the achievements of these Special Sessions, Japan intends to contribute actively to international cooperative endeavors in these areas.

Mr. President,

This is the final year of the "International Decade for National Disaster Reduction". The international community must take a prompt and concerted action in responding to large-scale natural disasters, as clearly underscored by our experience with the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Greece, last year's hurricanes in Latin America and tsunami in Papua New Guinea. The United Nations is required to play a more active role in this endeavor. Moreover, efforts in the area of natural disaster reduction needs to be strengthened. Recognizing the importance of natural disaster reduction in the context of development policy and environmental issues, Japan will promote efforts in this field.

Mr. President,

With regard to the advancement of globalization, while taking advantage of the new opportunities it provides for the vitalization of the world economy, the improvement in living standards, the creation of jobs, and development, we must also address its negative effects such as the growing instability in international finance and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Japan is steadily carrying out the financial assistance measures totaling approximately 80 billion dollars, including the New Miyazawa Initiative, which is by far the largest package of assistance provided by one country, for the East Asian countries which were hard hit by the economic crisis. We strongly expect that the economic recovery of the region will be placed upon track, and that a sound and sustainable development of the world economy will be achieved.

We are also concerned that globalization may aggravate such problems as environmental destruction, international organized crime, drug, terrorism, and the spread of infectious diseases. These global issues, which transcend national borders and pose direct threats to each and every person, need to be dealt with by the international community as a whole. It is necessary that we adopt policies that give consideration to women, children and others, who are most susceptible to the effect of these global issues.

Although globalization also engenders creativity by facilitating interaction among various cultures and different value systems, due consideration also needs to be paid to the cultural diversity of the world. From this standpoint, we consider that UNESCO will play an even more important role in the coming century.

Japan has been stressing the importance of addressing the various issues I have just mentioned, by focusing efforts on "human security", that is, the protection of dignity and life of every person against numerous threats posed, for example, by poverty, the outflow of refugees, environmental issues, infectious diseases like AIDS, human rights violations, international organized crime including human and drug trafficking, conflicts, anti-personnel landmines and small arms, and terrorism. Last June, Japan hosted the "International Symposium on Development", at which the issue of how to encourage the self-reliance of individuals to escape from poverty was discussed. At the initiative of Prime Minister Obuchi, Japan established the "Human Security Fund" within the United Nations to support the activities of international organizations to promote "human security". Japan recently announced its contribution of 100 million dollars for reconstruction and assistance for the return of refugees in Kosovo, and, will implement that assistance through the "Human Security Fund" and other sources.

Mr. President,

It cannot be said that the efforts of the United Nations to address the issues that will confront the international community in the twenty-first century are sufficient.

Nevertheless, it is not right to claim that the United Nations is incapable of addressing those issues adequately, and therefore disregard it. Neither is it right to simply deplore any attempt to disregard the Organization. In as much as many issues today require efforts of the international community as a whole, and as there is no other universal and comprehensive institution that can replace the United Nations, our only recourse is to reform and strengthen the United Nations, so that it will be capable of dealing with the issues adequately. From this viewpoint, I would like in particular to make the following three points:

The first is the need for the Security Council reform. During the fifty or so years since the end of the Second World War, the international situation has undergone dramatic changes. Given those changes, the functions of the Security Council, as the organization primarily responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, need to be strengthened. Toward that end, it is essential that the Security Council be re-created to reflect the present international situation, with a reform in the composition of both its permanent and non-permanent memberships. Japan would like to assume greater responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council.

Second, there is an urgent need for reforms to place the United Nations on a sound financial base. It is necessary for Member States to fulfill their obligation to pay their assessed contributions, and for the United Nations to work to further control its budget. Despite the severe economic and financial situations, Japan has been faithfully fulfilling its obligation to pay its assessed contribution and has been making substantial contributions to the United Nations and related organizations. However, as the Security Council reform has not been realized, and as the necessary budgetary reforms have yet to be carried out, one cannot but question the fairness of a situation in which Japan is expected to pay an assessed contribution that exceeds the sum of the contributions made by the four permanent members of the Security Council, not including the United States.

Third, it is necessary for the United Nations to strengthen its efforts in the economic and social area including development. The Organization is expected to obtain an active participation of various actors in addressing problems in the economic and social area, and effectively coordinate their efforts. Japan attaches importance to the role that the United Nations, especially the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), plays in this area, and is determined, if it is elected this year, to work as a member of the Council toward strengthening the activities of the United Nations in such areas as coordination among the UN agencies, promotion of dialogue with Bretton Woods institutions, and the broad participation by civil society in activities in this area and coordination of these activities.

Mr. President,

We have already devoted a significant amount of time to the discussion of UN reform. Today, there is a common recognition throughout the international community that the reform of the United Nations is necessary. Indeed, there is not a single country that is opposed to reform per se. Nevertheless, progress toward reform is far from satisfactory. The amount of time that has been expended in discussions so far tells of the difficulty that lies in the way of reforming an organization.

We must recognize at the very core of our being that if we fail to strengthen the United Nations through reforms, international trust in the Organizations will be undermined. This would not only destroy the United Nations but would be suicidal to all the Member States and the international community as a whole.

The Millennium Assembly and the Millennium Summit scheduled for next year will provide an occasion on which the United Nations can demonstrate to the world that it is capable of effectively tackling the issues that the international community will face in the twenty-first century. The efforts which Member States make during the one year period to come, could very well determine the viability of the United Nations in the coming century. I would like, therefore, to conclude my remarks by calling upon all the Member States to cooperate with each other in pursuing the common interests of the international community as a whole.

Thank you, Mr. President.