General Overview- The International Community and Japan's Foreign Policy in 1996
D. The United Nations and the Role of Japan
During the Cold War era, East-West confrontation was reflected in the United Nations. As a result, the United Nations was not always capable of fully achieving its most important purpose-maintenance of international peace and security. The United Nations is now in a position to play a more effective role for the maintenance of international peace and security due to structural changes in the international community, and it is being expected to play a much greater role in promoting the progress of developing nations and in resolving problems related to the environment, population and refugees, among other issues.
1996 marked the 40th anniversary of Japan's admission to the United Nations, and a ceremony attended by Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Prime Minister Hashimoto and other guests was held on 18 December to commemorate this anniversary. Since being admitted to the United Nations in 1956, Japan has faithfully upheld the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and has always actively participated in the activities of the organization, defining its commitment to the United Nations as one of the main pillars of its foreign policy. On 24 September, during the General Debate at the Fifty-first Session of the General Assembly, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto reaffirmed Japan's resolve to play a more active role toward achieving world peace and prosperity by further strengthening the cooperation it extends to the organization.
In the 21 October election for non-permanent membership of the Security Council, Japan gained a seat by garnering 142 votes (180 valid votes, with 120 votes required for a seat on the Council). Japan will serve as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for two years, from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 1998. This will be the eighth term for Japan, which is the record among the UN members.
Japan has engaged actively in a wide range of UN activities in recent years by providing major financial support, participating in UN Peace-keeping Operations (PKO), proposing initiatives in such fields as disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and development, taking part in humanitarian activities, etc. Japan's election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council can be seen as the manifestation of the fact that the international community looks positively upon Japan's active stance and has come to expect Japan to play an increasingly important role in the international arena. The Security Council will play an important role over the next two years by providing a basic framework for international peace and security in the 21st century and Japan, for its part, must participate even more actively and with greater initiative in the activities of the Security Council as a non-permanent member in areas such as the strengthening of the functions of the United Nations and the resolution of regional conflicts, thereby meeting the expectations of the member states.
The functions of the United Nations must be strengthened in order to enable it to fulfill the purposes for which it was established as well as to cope with the challenges that it faces in the 21st century. Discussions have been conducted in the five working groups which have been established under the General Assembly to deal with the following areas of the UN reforms: namely, Security Council reform, the financial situation, "An Agenda for Development," "An Agenda for Peace" and strengthening of the United Nations system.
If the United Nations, in spite of an increase in the momentum for reform provided by its 50th anniversary, should fail to take advantage of this historic opportunity and simply engage in repetitious debate and prove incapable of reforming itself to adapt to the changing times, the credibility of the organization could be severely undermined. The entire UN membership should, therefore, redouble their efforts in realizing genuine reforms. In the aforementioned speech during the General Debate at the General Assembly, Prime Minister Hashimoto emphasized that during the Fifty-first Session of the General Assembly (through September 1997), UN members should work toward generating agreement on the main aspects of the reforms. In addition, Japan emphasized the importance of carrying out all three core elements of the UN reforms, which are Security Council reform; administrative and financial reform; and reform in economic and social fields, in a balanced and integrated manner.
The Open-ended High-level Working Group on Security Council Reform has been meeting since December 1993 to discuss Security Council reform, including the issue of a permanent Security Council seat for Japan. There is a convergence of views among the UN membership regarding the need to expand the Security Council in such a way as to enhance its capabilities and effectiveness and improve its representativeness, working methods and transparency. However, when it comes to concrete issues, such as an increase in the number of permanent members and the question of the veto, a convergence of views among member states is yet to emerge. Japan has participated actively in discussions on Security Council reform, arguing that (1) the functioning of the Security Council should be strengthened through the addition of a limited number of countries with the capacity and the willingness to assume global responsibilities as permanent members; (2) in order to improve the representativeness of the Security Council, the number of non-permanent seats should be increased appropriately; (3) the inequitable geographical distribution of Security Council seats should be redressed. In his statement at the Fifty-first Session of the General Assembly, Prime Minister Hashimoto stated that Japan, with the endorsement of many countries, was prepared to discharge its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council in accordance with its basic philosophy of non-resort to the use of force prohibited by its Constitution.
The Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Financial Situation of the United Nations is discussing the overall financial system of the United Nations. In order to strengthen the functions of the United Nations, Japan, as the second-largest contributor (after the United States), places great emphasis on achieving reform as a whole in a balanced manner together with reform of the Security Council and also reform in the area of development. Japan argues that the issue of the UN cash flow and that of systemic financial reforms, including a review of the scales of assessment, are two distinct issues and should be discussed separately. Japan has asserted that it would be useful to introduce into the current system, which is based on the principle of capacity to pay, a concept that might be called "the responsibility to pay," bearing in mind the special responsibility of the permanent members of the Security Council.
Based on the report entitled "An Agenda for Development," issued by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in May 1994, the Ad Hoc Working Group on An Agenda for Development has been discussing how to address development issues. Japan, in submitting proposals in the working group, has taken active initiatives to promote discussions. Japan has emphasized that, with the end of the Cold War, it is important for developed and developing countries to be freed from the old North-South confrontation and to work together to tackle development issues based on "a new global partnership."
The Informal Open-ended Working Group on An Agenda for Peace has established four subgroups to discuss the issues (preventive diplomacy/peacemaking, post-conflict peace-building, coordination and imposed sanctions) brought up by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in his report of June 1992 entitled "An Agenda for Peace" and the "Supplement to An Agenda for Peace" of January 1995. Japan has taken an active part in the discussions concerning the strengthening of UN preventive diplomacy.
The Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations Systems, which is engaged in discussions, for instance, on reforms of the General Assembly and Secretariat, is scheduled to address specific streamlining measures (reorganization of agendas and meetings of the General Assembly, simplification of the budget process, rationalization of procedures in Secretariat operations, etc.).
In view of the important role played by the United Nations Peace-keeping Operations (PKO) in maintaining international peace and security, Japan dispatches its personnel to peacekeeping efforts and, as Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Peace-keeping Operations, is actively involved in the efforts to address a number of issues related to PKO reform, including financial problems and strengthening of rapid deployment capabilities. (For more information on PKO, see Chapter II, Part A, Section 3.a.)
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