Statement by H.E. Mr. Yoshiro Mori, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Japan
at the Head of State Summit, World Water Forum 5
(Monday, 16 March 2009, Istanbul, Turkey)
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to President Gul and the Turkish government for their dedication in realizing this Head of State Summit meeting today. I would also like to express my appreciation to the World Water Council and the Turkish organizers of the 5th World Water Forum for their tremendous work in organizing this Forum. I am truly honored to be provided with this opportunity to speak today as a representative of the Japanese government at this very important meeting.
(Significance of water and threats to water resource)
Water is the basis of all life and a resource indispensable not only for the maintenance of human life and health, but also for the conservation of the ecosystem as well as for economic and social activities. Water is also the basis for realizing human security. We cannot live a single day without it.
Currently, the earth's precious water resources are now facing threats on many different fronts. However, until we know what we are up against, we will not be able to take the first steps necessary to beat it. In that sense, discussing the threats to water resources at the summit level during this meeting is of considerable significance.
Increasing pressures on demand for water due to population growth and expansion of human activities is obviously one of those threats, and unplanned exploitation of water resources will further intensify it. Aggravation of water pollution due to improper treatment of used water is also a threat. Water goes through a purification process in the natural water cycle, but contamination can also be amplified through this cycle. The flow of water often transcends national boundaries. If neighboring countries quarrel amongst themselves over such scarce water resources, it will not bring about efficient and equitable use of water resources but will instead threaten the human security of individuals and regional communities. Climate change will severely impact water cycles and will result in further disparities in distribution of water resources leading to more water related disasters and droughts. Perhaps we can call the current global economic crisis another threat to water, in a sense that it makes it difficult for us to raise the financial resources required to confront the threats we face.
Humankind has no choice but to overcome these various threats and utilize precious water resources with care. Fortunately, water is naturally a cyclic resource and can be used in a sustainable manner if utilized wisely. Sustainable use of water resources can be realized through good water cycle management.
What prevents us then from using water resources in a sustainable manner? Each of the threats that I have discussed is indeed frightening, but it is my sincere belief that the real threat is the divide that we create within ourselves. Developed country versus developing country, upstream country versus downstream country, or the country rich in water resources versus the country that is not. Divisions are created in us due to the various differences in circumstances in which we find ourselves. However, in order to confront these threats we must bridge those divides and work together harmoniously.
(Japan's good traditions and efforts)
Japanese society maintains two exemplary traditions for standing up against the threats to water. First is the tradition of mutual cooperation based on the idea of sharing burdens among all individuals in a community and a participatory approach that involves all the stakeholders. Since early modern days, for example, the efficient and equitable use of water resources has been realized through thorough discussions among all stakeholders who reside in river basins in a cooperative manner. Second, is a strong sense of thrift represented by the "mottainai" spirit. Utilizing water in a cyclical manner through such measures as recycling of used water has been indeed practiced in Japan since the Edo era more than 300 years ago. We have accumulated expertise and technologies necessary for that purpose.
Japan, based on such good traditions, has contributed to the world by sharing its expertise and technologies. As a part of such an effort, Japan has been vigorously providing assistance in the water and sanitation sectors and since the 1990s has continuously been the top donor in the world. At the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) last May, which I chaired, we discussed water issues seriously with the African leaders gathered there. Prime Minister Fukuda at the time announced a plan to set up a "Water Security Action Team" to help African people realize sustainable water use by sharing our knowledge and technologies, and we have already dispatched these teams to some African countries. The G8 leaders addressed the water and sanitation issues at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit held last July for the first time in five years, and advocated the importance of "good water cycle management" as a comprehensive concept for utilizing water resources in a sustainable manner.
Water problems are so diverse that within one government there are typically multiple ministries in charge of water. They also involve highly diverse stakeholders and the differences in their stances can sometimes lead to complex conflicts of interests. Political will is essential for overcoming such difficulties and for all stakeholders to join hands. In Japan, for example, the "Team Water Japan for Global Water Security" was established and has recently initiated its activities with a view to bring together water stakeholders in the country to address water challenges. It was originally an initiative within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which eventually became a bipartisan movement extending across the walls which separate the ruling and opposition parties. It also drew in not only the government but also academia, businesses and industries and civil societies, to form a loose-knit cooperative framework. Political will is indeed crucial for such an effort. Without political leadership it is difficult for stakeholders to effectively combat these threats that I have mentioned. In that context, the fact that this meeting is being held to gather leaders at the highest level and various stakeholders under the theme of "Bridging Divides for Water" in the historic city of Istanbul where the cultures of East and West coalesce is indeed meaningful in itself.
To conclude my statement, I offer my heartfelt wish that this meeting will bear fruitful results.
I thank you for your attention.
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