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Statement by H.E. Norihiro Okuda
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
Agenda item 65: Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations
10 November 2008
We commend the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other humanitarian agencies for the work they have done in responding to humanitarian emergencies caused by natural disasters and complex emergencies.
We welcome the progress that has been made in effecting humanitarian reform. The Government of Japan supports the Central Emergency Response Fund, which has been facilitating the initial response of UN agencies to humanitarian crises and strengthening responses to chronically under-funded crises. We also are pleased to see that the independent review found that the Fund has proven itself a valuable and impartial tool. I would just note that a Japanese national was recently appointed to the CERF advisory board, and Japan intends to contribute to the improvement of the Fund through this increased engagement. The further roll-out of the Cluster Approach is another sign of progress, but as fault has been found in a number of areas - such as that excessive time is spent on coordination and that the system lacks priorities --, additional improvements are needed.
I would like to make three points today. First, we are concerned about the serious impact the current global food crises are having on the implementation of emergency humanitarian assistance. The international community must address this issue in order to achieve human security. At the G8 Toyako Summit this year, leaders called on the international community to expand emergency assistance for everyone who is still suffering from hunger and malnutrition; remove export restrictions on agricultural products; and increase aid to and investment in the agricultural sector of developing countries. We hope that every Member State will respond positively to this initiative. For its part, Japan has provided approximately 1.5 billion dollars in food aid and other agricultural assistance since January this year. We are committed to implementing the pledge we made at the Summit as quickly as possible and intend to strengthen the measures we have already taken. In addressing the food crises, it is vital for each actor to implement its own measures steadily under the global partnership with all the relevant entities such as developing countries, the private sector, civil society, donors and international organizations.
The extensive damage caused by the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China remind us of the importance of disaster preparedness and risk reduction. Were further evidence needed, it would only be necessary to look to Cuba, which without a doubt, by carrying out a range of measures before the hurricanes struck that country recently, saved the lives of a great number of people. For its part, Japan has experienced every type of natural calamity, and has centuries of experience addressing them. With our extensive experience and knowledge and the technology we have developed, we are determined to contribute to international cooperation in this area. Thus, for example, we made a contribution to the formulation of the Hyogo Framework for Action and development of the Tsunami Warning System coordinated by the IOC of UNESCO and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery in the World Bank. In May this year, the Government of Japan announced that it intended to promote cooperation in the area of disaster risk reduction and preparedness, and create the Disaster Management and Infectious Disease Control Network in Asia. Agreement on the same subject was reached when the foreign ministers of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea met in June. Looking to the future, Japan intends to strengthen cooperation through interaction with the Asia Disaster Risk Center, the newly opened ISDR office and other institutions based in Kobe.
We commend humanitarian personnel for carrying out their heavy responsibilities under conditions that are often extremely difficult, and we are concerned about the deterioration in ensuring their safety and security. The Secretary-General needs to carefully consider the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and its Premises Worldwide, and implement them. And we are proposing, together with Brazil and Switzerland, the establishment of a World Humanitarian Day to honor and pay tribute to all humanitarian personnel who have lost their lives in the fulfillment of their duties, and to raise awareness of the importance of humanitarian assistance. We wish to urge all parties to conflicts around the world to respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence and strengthen cooperation with humanitarian activities. We also call upon the international community to support this initiative.
There are other vital issues that we confront as we strive to strengthen coordination of humanitarian assistance. Effective use of military assets is a challenge, for example, and we therefore welcome the results of the study commissioned by OCHA. Before concluding my statement, I wish to underline the importance of assuring a smooth transition from relief to development assistance. This is particularly true in post-conflict countries where peacebuilding efforts contribute to the prevention of further conflict by providing sustainable reconstruction assistance along with humanitarian assistance. The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) will provide input for the report of the Secretary-General on early recovery and peacebuilding that is to be issued next year. As chair of the PBC and as a Member State, Japan will do its utmost to move the discussion on the issue of transition forward.
Thank you for your attention.
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