Statement by H.E. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
On the occasion of The International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza

January 18, 2006

H.E. Mr. Gao Qiang, Minister of Health of People's Republic of China,
Distinguished delegates of Governments and International Organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Today we are facing a truly serious situation: the epidemic of avian influenza in Asia; its further spread to other regions; and increasing number of cases of human infections and victims. There is a growing risk of an outbreak of a new strain of human influenza, which could cause grave damage to our economic and other basic human activities as in the case of Spanish flu in 1918. How to manage this threat is an urgent issue for all of us - whether we are in developed or developing countries, and regardless of difference of political, economic and social system. We should acknowledge that, today, we are equipped with a strong weapon to fight against the threat of pandemic influenza; that is the close cooperation and coordination among nations on the globe, as we are witnessing here today.

Ever since Japan established the Human Security Fund in the United Nations in 1999, we have been putting special emphasis on "Human Security", which seeks to establish a society where each person can fully enjoy human dignity through protection and empowerment of individuals and communities exposed to various menace - and this certainly includes the threat of infectious diseases such as avian and human pandemic influenza. Based on this concept, it is vital that we all work together to tackle the threat of avian and human pandemic influenza. I take this conference as being an integral part of our efforts to promote human security worldwide; and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Government of People's Republic of China, the European Commission, and the World Bank for taking the initiative to hold this conference.

In order to minimize the damage of avian and human pandemic influenza, it is imperative that we should try our best to prevent its outbreak and respond promptly and effectively when it occurs. The key phrases here are "ownership of each government", "public awareness", and "full-scale international solidarity".

Firstly, it is essential that each country demonstrate ownership in taking swift and appropriate measures to meet the individual needs of their country. Each government is primarily responsible for drawing up their national action plan aimed at deterring the further spread of avian influenza and enhancing their preparedness for a potential human influenza pandemic, asking for expertise and assistance from the international society including relevant international organizations if necessary. In any case, their work should be conducted in an internationally transparent manner. As for the donors, they must identify the gap between the real needs of each country and financial resources available to it, in order to assist the capacity building of the country while respecting their ownership.

Secondly, measures to deal with the threats of potential human pandemic influenza should help raise the awareness of individuals exposed to the threats, and ultimately enable them to protect themselves. Our foremost priority must be to enable all people - not only those in urban areas but also those in rural areas - to take preventive measures in their daily lives by disseminating accurate knowledge and promoting hygienic life habits. Such measures are prerequisites for detecting the emergence of a new human influenza strain at the earliest stage, and for effectively implementing containment measures with the full understanding and cooperation of the community. This approach is based on the concept of "human security" that I mentioned earlier.

The third key phrase, "full-scale international solidarity", probably does not require much elaboration. Influenza is an infectious disease that readily spreads across borders. Therefore, it is vital that we all cooperate to conduct effective surveillance on an international level, to share information, and to promptly mobilize the limited human and material resources to where they're needed to prevent and rapidly contain the disease. To this end, the roles of specialized international organizations such as WHO, FAO, and OIE are extremely important, and it is most effective for each country to work in close cooperation with them.

With these principles in mind, we must act immediately. Developing countries which have not taken sufficient measures as yet are in particular need of support from the international community, in terms of both expertise and material resources. The funds that will be pledged today are only effective when allocated and utilized efficiently upon deliberation based on specialized knowledge and expertise. For this reason, the Government of Japan and the WHO co-hosted a meeting of experts in Tokyo last week on early response to potential influenza pandemic in Asia. As a result, the specific measures that Asian countries, WHO and donors must each take were identified. I believe that the funds pledged by the donors today, combined with such practical expertise, will lead to truly effective measures to cope with avian and human pandemic influenza.

Today, we are privileged to enjoy the unprecedented advancements in medical knowledge and technology. Let us make the most of such wisdom with the collaboration of all international partners to fight the threat of avian and human pandemic influenza. Finally, I very much look forward to seeing all of the delegates of governments and international organizations here today making active contributions towards the success of this conference.

Thank you for your attention.

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