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Statement by Isao Matsumiya
Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan

Opening Statement

60th Session of the Commission on Human Rights
Geneva, 16 March 2004
Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva

Mr. Chairperson
The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I begin, let me express Japan's strong condemnation of the despicable acts of terrorism committed last week in Madrid, and express our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the victims and their families.

Mr. Chairperson,

It is my pleasure to address the 60th Session of the CHR on behalf of the Government of Japan. At the outset, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Ambassador Mike Smith of Australia on your assumption of the office of chairperson. We look forward to cooperating with you to make this a successful session.

The past year has been, perhaps, the most trying in the history of the OHCHR. I would like to again convey our condolences on the tragic death of High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello, among the other UN officials and people of various nationalities in Iraq. We lost a champion of human rights and a dear friend. He should be remembered for his unwavering determination in the face of danger and his unflagging commitment to the cause of humanity.

I would like to express our appreciation to Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan, the Acting High Commissioner since early last year, for his leadership in guiding the OHCHR in a difficult time.

The Government of Japan congratulates the Honorable Madame Louise Arbour on her appointment as the new High Commissioner. Japan looks forward to working with the OHCHR under her leadership.

Mr. Chairperson,

Let me now reiterate Japan's policy on human rights. We believe that all human rights and fundamental freedoms have universal value and must be brought to every individual in the world - both man and woman, young and old. The realization of human rights is the responsibility of the international community. This is not to challenge "the primary responsibility of government" as stipulated in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; no single government can avoid it. However, the international community cannot stand indifferent to the suffering of fellow human beings. If a government fails in its duty to protect human rights, the international community needs to address it. The Commission on Human Rights has a key role here. We must voice our common concern, or the CHR loses its raison d'être.

The Vienna Declaration highlights the interplay of universality with national and regional particularities. Our task now is, on the one hand, to respect particularity and, on the other, to develop universal values. To this end, Japan emphasizes the importance of dialogue. To those states that are making efforts to improve their human rights situations, our basic position is to encourage those efforts rather than condemn the shortcomings. Through dialogue, we can learn from each other and overcome our differences. Over the years many human rights instruments and documents have been developed as a result of tireless dialogue, providing standards of human rights to the international community. This process should continue; it is the solidification of the universality of human rights that underpins the important role of the CHR.

Globalization has added a new dimension to the identification of universally valued human rights, making the process more dynamic than has been acknowledged in previous decades. Globalization has also impacted our policy priorities. Cross-boarder threats such as terrorism and disease require a departure from the traditional notion of "security within borders." As my Minister stated last September before the UN General Assembly in New York, in the 21st century, we cannot address the dangers and threats now confronting the world with military and political measures alone. Our responses must be well thought of, detailed and steady, addressing every facet of the issues we face, including the social aspect, humanitarian and human rights concerns and the matter of economic reconstruction. Furthermore, we must strive to guarantee human rights, democracy, and good governance by creating a social environment that enables each and every human being to realize his or her maximum potential.

Acting on this realization, Japan places "Consolidation of Peace and Human-centered Nation Building" as one of the pillars of its diplomacy and international cooperation, and is contributing actively in a variety of areas. Each individual must be allowed a life of dignity. In order to empower the individual and enhance the resilience of the community, in accordance with the principle of "Human Security," Japan has been developing concrete assistance internationally. Japan will continue to work for the promotion of human security in cooperation with the United Nations, member states, and NGOs, through its diplomatic measures such as Official Development Assistance. One example of such effort is the Third Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD III, held last autumn. Furthermore, in order to promote state and community resistance to disaster as a basis of nation building, the UN decided to host the UN World Conference on Disaster Prevention in Kobe in January next year in response to a Japanese proposal. Japan will cooperate actively to achieve successful results.

Mr. Chairperson,

I will now turn to some other issues that have been of importance to Japan.

Japan believes that a "gender-equal society," where both women and men are equal participants in every sector, is an essential element which bolsters "human security" by providing opportunities for people to express their unique character and maximize their potential. A gender-equal society should promote the well-being of both women and men. In addition to our efforts in our own country, Japan has been acting internationally with a view to the improvement of the status of women and the elimination of violence against women at the global level. In various projects for conflict prevention, management, and post-conflict peace-building, Japan has continuously attached importance to the empowerment of women in cooperation with the United Nations, international organizations, and other countries and NGOs.

Japan also recognizes that people with disabilities require protection against discrimination and deserve full equal enjoyment of human rights. Japan looks forward to continuing to participate actively in the discussions in the Ad Hoc Committee to draft a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

Mr. Chairperson,

Last year the CHR for the first time adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The resolution specifically calls upon the DPRK to respond to questions concerning the abduction of foreign nationals, and the Government of Japan has also been striving to resolve the issue. Yet, the issue remains unresolved. Japan regrets that the DPRK has not been cooperating positively with the relevant international human rights institutions. Japan once again urges North Korea to rectify immediately the current inhumane situation in which abduction returnees have been separated from their families who still remain in North Korea, and to conduct a full fact-finding investigation for the other victims, thereby resolving this abduction issue as soon as possible. In this regard, Japan also calls upon North Korea to cooperate fully without restriction with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the OHCHR.

Mr. Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Clearly, we have much work ahead of us. Current global challenges have tremendously complicated our task at hand, that is, the promotion and protection of human rights. We need to mobilize all the means at our disposal to fulfill our mandate. Only through open dialogue and untiring efforts to promote "human security," in cooperation with all relevant actors, can we achieve our common goals. Japan, for its part, is determined to work shoulder to shoulder with the United Nations and all states and partners in our common endeavor for human rights. I believe that there is no other way.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

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