Japan and the United Nations

October 31, 2014
On October 29th in Tokyo Mr. Minoru Kiuchi, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, attended the special session on water cycle policy with focus on water and disaster of the 23rd meeting of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on water and sanitation (UNSGAB). He made a statement after the address by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, Honorary President of the UNSGAB, the remarks by Mr. Akihiro Ohta, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and the remarks by Dr. Uschi Eid, Chair of the UNSGAB. Mr. Kiuchi explained an overview of Japan's international cooperation in the field of water and sanitation, and Japan's views on and efforts to tackle the issue of water-related disasters.

1 Water and sanitation

(1) Water is essential for life; it is a foundation of social development and a vital element in ensuring human security. Working from this conviction, Japan places great emphasis on water and sanitation in its ODA policy, and has been the largest donor in this field since the 1990s. In various international fora, including the World Water Forum, which has been held every three years since 1997, Japan strongly promotes water-related policies to further support high-quality development such as integrated water resources management.
(2) Japan also provides a significant amount of development assistance in water-related fields, on the order of approximately 2.5 billion dollars per year on average in recent years. This amounts to nearly 15% of Japan's total ODA. Based on the needs of people in developing countries, our assistance is allocated to the following three specific areas:
  • First, the development of large scale water-related infrastructure to provide safe drinking water to urban populations in order to help countries cope with rapid urbanization; 
  • Second, the provision of local water supply facilities such as wells dug throughout rural areas, which local people can maintain and manage without special skills; and
  • Third, the dissemination of methods and best practices for good water resources management and good water governance, which take local situations fully into account.
(3) Just like other environmental issues, such as climate change, massive natural disasters, and infectious disease, the issue of water is a global challenge that no single country can solve on its own and that requires collective action from the international community. The Government of Japan is now in the process of revising its ODA Charter: the basic document underlying our development policy. The new draft Charter, which was released for public comment today, specifies that Japan will continue to promote sound water cycle policy in order to build sustainable and resilient societies.
(4) Turning our eyes to Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water was achieved in 2010. Nevertheless, 748 million people around the world, including 325 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, remain without access to safe water today. Another target under MDG 7, namely, to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation facilities, is unlikely to be achieved by 2015, with 2.5 billion people worldwide, including 644 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, lacking access to improved sanitation facilities. 
(5) In order to tackle these remaining challenges, Japan pledged, at the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) held in June last year, to contribute to the improvement of access to safe drinking water and sanitary facilities for 10 million people, and to assist in the training of 1,750 water supply engineers over the coming five years. These assistance programmes are being steadily implemented.
(6) Ensuring access to safe water and basic sanitation facilities is of particular and essential importance for women. Such access liberates women and girls in developing regions from the burden of spending long hours drawing and carrying water; opens the door to social participation for women and increased school enrolment for girls; and ultimately lays the foundation for women's empowerment. Further support in these areas will contribute to the achievement of Japan's policy priority, which is to create "a society where all women shine". We will continue to provide our assistance with an emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment.
(7) Japan is also actively involved in the ongoing international discussions on the post-2015 development agenda. The report of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, which was completed in July, proposes as its Goal 6, to "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all". The proposed goal includes as a target, to "implement integrated water resources management at all levels" by 2030. Japan will continue its advocacy for strengthened international efforts in this area.

2 Water-related disasters

(1) Water and disaster is also one of the major topics in UNSGAB's Hashimoto Action Plan. While water is an indispensable natural resource for our daily lives and economic activities, too much water in the form of heavy rains, storms, or flooding, or too little water in the form of drought, are disasters that can have dire consequences. The World Water Development Report says that water-related hazards account for 90% of all natural hazards. Water-related disasters such as tsunami and floods can wipe out long-term development achievements in an instant. Japan, therefore, supports efforts toward flood prevention and control, and river management.
(2) Japan, as a disaster-prone country, has played a leading role in promoting the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction (DRR). In this context, we will host the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction next March in the city of Sendai, one of the regions severely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. The response to water-related disasters will be one of the important agenda items of this Conference. 
(3) My home town, Hamamatsu, is located along the Nankai Trough off the Pacific Ocean, which is at great risk of major earthquakes. For this reason, Hamamatsu has always been very aware of the need to prepare itself against possible future earthquakes and tsunami. At the forthcoming World Conference, participating countries will be invited to share information about their efforts on DRR, including water-related disasters, with each other, and to promote the mainstreaming of DRR throughout international society. As UN-Water has already suggested, the discussion at the World Conference should provide valuable input with a view to incorporating DRR, including water-related disasters, into the post-2015 development agenda.
(4) High-level political commitment is of utmost importance in promoting our DRR efforts. I would highly appreciate it if the distinguished members of UNSGAB and other participants in today's meeting could encourage their governments to participate at the highest level possible in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March next year.

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