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Statement by Mr. Takashi Ashiki, Minister
Permanent mission of Japan to the United Nations
Agenda item 39: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Third Committee
Sixty third session of the General Assembly
4 November 2008

Mr. Chairman,

First of all, my delegation would like to express its appreciation to High Commissioner Antonio Guterres for his report.

In light of climate change and the global food crises, we must find a way to address the issues raised by the more complicated displacements that are taking place. The question is how, and what actions should we take? Clearly, to achieve durable solutions to protracted refugee situations, we must redouble our efforts. And we need to address without delay any new challenges that arise, such as the rapid growth that is taking place in the number of refugees in urban areas. To that end, Japan will continue to support the activities of the UNHCR. As a country that strives to foster peace and as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, we believe that a major investment is required in areas such as human resources. Japan attaches importance to enhancing the capability of aid workers responding to emergency humanitarian situations. And in this regard, we wish to commend the Office for its efforts, including those it has implemented through the eCentre in Tokyo. The eCentre supports a wide range of those entities that provide humanitarian assistance, including NGO partners, government agencies, regional institutions and international organizations, and Japan intends to strengthen cooperation with it for this reason as well.

In the area of resettlement, the Government of Japan set up an interagency study group on the subject last year that is now conducting an intensive study and engaging in discussions with a view to producing concrete results. We will maintain communication with the UNHCR about the progress we make.

On human security, Mr. Chairman, we believe that return and reintegration assistance is of utmost importance for achieving a durable solution to refugee issues. Tools such as vocational training and education for children that will aid returnees in reestablishing themselves thereby also empower them. And this empowerment of returnees and all other people is inherently linked to the concept of human security that Japan is promoting. It was a part of such efforts that Japan provided assistance to the UNHCR programme "Construction of educational facilities in South Sudan for integrating returnees and empowering the host communities" this March. This is a good example of how the notion of human security can be put into practice. Japan wishes to strengthen such a people-centered approach in the activities of the UNHCR. In this connection, we thank High Commissioner Guterres for the role he played in the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICADⅣ). His excellent leadership as co-chair at the breakout session on ensuring human security resulted in a most fruitful discussion.

On structural reform, Mr. Chairman, we welcome the various efforts undertaken by the Office, beginning with the successful establishment of the Global Service Center in Budapest. We particularly welcome the further review that is being conducted of the functions of the headquarters, field review, and decentralization and regionalization. We expect that the ongoing Global Needs Assessment and the introduction of a new budgetary structure will lead to the realization of results-based management. We therefore support further efforts by the Office in this area.

Reform activities in the Office of the UNHCR have to be in line with reform in the UN as a whole, including in particular the humanitarian area. The common purpose of such reform must be strengthening the humanitarian response to crises. The engagement of the Office in the Cluster Approach and the UN "Delivering as One" are beneficial for all. With regard to the Cluster Approach, as suggested by the UNHCR, there is still room for improvement in the concrete modus operandi. And we would welcome the frank opinion of the Office on how that approach, which is a part of Humanitarian Reform, might be improved. We would also like to underline the importance of the IDP issues currently addressed by UNHCR through the Cluster Approach.

Mr. Chairman,

Before concluding my statement, I wish to commend all the members of the UNHCR staff, who serve and discharge their responsibilities in what are often difficult and dangerous situations. We also would like to pay tribute to those staff members who lost their lives in past years. We share the concern expressed by High Commissioner Guterres at the fifty-ninth session of the Executive Committee in October when he said that ensuring humanitarian space and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel was of the utmost importance. It is vital in that connection to implement the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and its Premises Worldwide, and Japan would like to consult with Member States and relevant organizations on ways of ensuring the safety and security of all those who work to provide humanitarian aid.

Thank you for your attention.

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