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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Toshiro Ozawa
Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations

Agenda Item 73(a), (c) and (d): Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance

Plenary Meeting
General Assembly
14 November 2005
New York

Mr. President,

Japan believes that a holistic and comprehensive approach is necessary in our efforts to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations. Funding arrangements are an important part of the issue, but we should put this matter into perspective in the overall picture.

We congratulate the Secretary-General for his bold report on the improvement of the CERF. We also commend USG Jan Egeland for his efforts to elaborate the details of the proposal in his discussion with all the regional groups. The proposal, in essence, argues for a drastic transformation of the existing CERF. We are not ready to make pledges to the reformed CERF, but we do understand the good intentions behind the ideas and see some merits in the proposal. Japan will continue to participate seriously in the coming discussions on this matter.

Japan believes that reform is also necessary in the areas of needs assessment and common strategy for humanitarian assistance. Without progress on these two fronts, effective response is not really possible even if there were sufficient financial resources and adequate capacity for assistance. The Niger food crisis is a case in point. In addition to the problem of insufficient funding, the problem has been aggravated by the tension between the goals of development policy on the one hand and the requirements of humanitarian assistance on the other. This tension hampered free food distribution out of fear of distorting the local economy. We have often discussed the gap between emergency relief and development. We think that this may not be a linear sequence of events. Even in a situation where efforts are focused on longer-term development, emergency relief may sometimes be needed, as we saw in the case of the Horn of Africa. We welcome intensified dialogue between humanitarian and development actors on ensuring timely needs assessment and achieving a common strategy for humanitarian assistance. In addition, in order to assess the needs accurately, it is necessary to ensure the participation of all stakeholders, including NGOs.

Japan also attaches great importance to the improvement of the coordination mechanism, in particular, to the ongoing discussion on the cluster lead and the strengthening of the role of humanitarian coordinators. We welcome the recommendations of the Humanitarian Response Review on filling in those gaps in the existing arrangements where responsibility for certain vital sectors for humanitarian assistance and protection remains unclear. At the same time, the proposed cluster lead would require thorough discussion among humanitarian actors including NGOs, as well as in the governing board of each humanitarian entity especially in terms of its impact on its core mandate. We hope that the Member States are kept updated through consultations in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. We believe it is also important to strengthen the role of humanitarian coordinators while at the same time reflecting fully the views of humanitarian workers, especially those on the ground.

Japan believes that the engagement with emerging donors as well as the private sector needs to be further promoted with a view to expanding the financial resources available for humanitarian assistance. We need to consolidate the positive trend observed in the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan by promoting even closer dialogue with those contributors who used to be outside the humanitarian circle. In this regard, it might be worth considering setting up a briefing session in a format open to all Member States, possibly using the framework of ECOSOC, once a major humanitarian crisis occurs.

Lastly but not least, Japan wishes to emphasize the importance of prevention and preparedness, especially in the context of natural disasters. The Hyogo Declaration and the Hyogo Framework of Action adopted in January of this year urges us that risk reduction should be integrated into post-disaster recovery and development strategies. Small amounts of resources allocated to prevention and preparedness can lead to tremendous savings of human lives and property.

Mr. President,

I wish to conclude by expressing my government's deep appreciation to all humanitarian workers, especially those on the ground helping people in need under difficult conditions.

Thank you very much.

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