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Statement by H.E. Takahiro Shinyo
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

Humanitarian Affairs Segment, Substantive session, Economic and Social Council
United Nations, New York
15 July 2008

Mr. President,

We commend Under-Secretary-General Holmes and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the work they have done, together with other humanitarian partners, to strengthen the coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. Massive natural disasters have struck Asia over the past few months, including Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, an earthquake in China and a typhoon in the Philippines. A violent earthquake also occurred in the northern part of Japan, killing ten people. With the calamities caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan still fresh in our minds, we are naturally concerned about the frequency with which these vast natural disasters have taken place. Is the international community responding effectively? Is the United Nations addressing all of the issues these disasters raise? We need always to ask ourselves, how might we best reform the UN system and allocate our resources to this end? In light of the urgency of these questions, we welcome the agreement that was reached on the humanitarian cluster of the mandate review process. We need vigorously to promote humanitarian reform, which consists of the strengthening of the Humanitarian Coordinator system and improvement of the cluster approach and the CERF. But our reform agenda should not be limited to these areas.

Mr. President,

Japan has long stressed the importance of disaster preparedness and risk reduction. We can not prevent natural hazards themselves, but their consequences can be substantially mitigated if we are properly prepared and take appropriate disaster reduction measures.

We commend ASEAN for playing a leading role, together with the United Nations, in responding to the humanitarian emergency caused by the cyclone in Myanmar. It is beneficial for the region that regional organizations are promoting measures that contribute to the humanitarian response to the disaster, but it would be of even greater benefit if they also promoted preventative measures before future disasters struck. Regarding Asia, in May this year, Prime Minister Fukuda announced that Japan intended to promote, together with other Asian countries, cooperation in the area of disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and create what might be most appropriately called the "Disaster Management and Infectious Disease Control Network in Asia," in consideration of the preparations against avian influenza already underway. And an agreement was reached on the promotion of cooperation for disaster preparedness and risk reduction last month at the meeting of the foreign ministers of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. Furthermore, at the Japan-U.S.-Australia Ministerial Trilateral Strategic Dialogue held last month, an agreement was also reached on strengthening cooperation for disaster preparedness and risk reduction and enhancing emergency response capacity in the Asia-Pacific region. Regional cooperation contributes to the response to massive natural disasters. The cooperation that the United Nations can provide gives it added value, and we hope there is an appropriate role for the Organization in this area.

For its part, Japan has experienced every type of natural hazard, and has centuries of experience addressing them. The result is that although we still suffer substantial damage when a calamity befalls us, we have accumulated extensive knowledge and developed technology that helps us to reduce risk. We would like to draw on these knowledge and technology, which have been collected in Kobe, the location of a major earthquake in 1995, to strengthen the response capacity of the international community. The newly opened UN/ISDR Hyogo Office there could also utilize them. The target the international community must strive to achieve is clearly described in the Hyogo Framework of Action adopted at the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction that was held there in January 2005, and we wish to contribute to its effective implementation. The IDRL guidelines adopted in November last year can also be quite useful, and we therefore welcome their adoption.

Mr. President,

As pointed out in the report of the Secretary-General, during the past year the largest driver of disasters was the increased incidence and severity of extreme weather events, mostly associated with climate change. We therefore need to promote adaptation to the effects of climate change and strengthen early warning mechanisms so as to minimize the humanitarian implications of this phenomenon. Under the Cool Earth Promotion Programme, Japan will provide approximately USD10 billion in aggregate as assistance for adaptation and access to clean energy and mitigation. We have already initiated cooperation with more than twenty countries in this area.

This morning, together with ISDR and the Mission of Ecuador, Japan co-hosted an ECOSOC side event on "Disaster risk reduction as an essential element for climate change adaptation." This is an important challenge the Council should address, and we are pleased that it is properly reflected in the resolution to be adopted at the humanitarian affairs segment this year. At the Toyako Summit last week, G8 leaders issued an outcome document on environment and climate change that expressed our determination to "seek to share with all Parties to the UNFCCC the vision of, and together with them to consider and adopt in the UNFCCC negotiations, the goal of achieving at least 50 percent reduction of global emissions by 2050." We also "welcome[d] decisions taken in Bali as the foundation for reaching a global agreement in the UNFCCC process by 2009." We are committed to achieving its successful conclusion.

Mr. President,

The issue of rising food prices was also taken up at the Toyako Summit. In the G8 Leaders' Statement on Global Food Security, we announced that "[i]n the short term, we are addressing urgent needs of the most vulnerable people." We also affirmed that it was "imperative to remove export restrictions and expedite the current negotiations at the World Trade Organization aimed at introducing stricter discipline on these trade actions which prolong and aggravate the situation, and hinder humanitarian purchases of food commodities....We will explore options on a coordinated approach on stock management, including the pros and cons of building a 'virtual' internationally coordinated reserve system for humanitarian purposes." On this and other purposes, we have established a G8 task force. In its statement, the G8 also "commend[ed] the leadership of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions in convening the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crises to establish the 'Comprehensive Framework for Action.'" We urge the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions to further improve this plan to achieve a coordinated assistance among donors and relevant organizations in responding to this issue.

Mr. President,

It should be emphasized that there are other important issues on the agenda with regard to addressing humanitarian issues. Effective use of military assets is one challenge we face, and we welcome the outcome of the study commissioned by OCHA on the matter. We have taken note of the conclusions and recommendations it contains, and we will duly consider them. Before concluding my statement today, I wish to commend all humanitarian personnel for their selflessness and dedication in carrying out their difficult responsibilities under often severe crisis conditions. I also wish to offer Japan's condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives or suffered grievous harm in the course of humanitarian operations. We welcome the report of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Premises Worldwide, and we ask the Secretary-General to reflect upon it and implement its recommendations.

Thank you for your attention.

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