General Overview-The International Community and Japan's Foreign Policy in 1997
C. Global efforts and the role of Japan
During the Cold War era, the confrontation between East and West was reflected in the United Nations, and as a result, the United Nations was not always able to fully achieve its most important purpose-maintaining international peace and security. However, with the end of the Cold War, the United Nations is now expected to play a much greater role in tackling such issues as the development of developing countries, the environment, population and refugees.
Since Japan's admission to the United Nations in 1956, Japan has faithfully upheld the purposes and principles of the United Nations, and has always actively contributed across the spectrum of United Nations activities, defining commitment to the United Nations as one of the main pillars of its foreign policy.
a) United Nations reforms
The functions of the United Nations must be strengthened in order to enable it to fulfill its purposes, as well as to respond to the challenges that it faces in the 21st century. Reforms are therefore needed in various areas, including the Security Council, financial aspects, development and the United Nations Secretariat.
Discussion on United Nations reform issues has been underway in the various working groups established under the General Assembly. The year 1997 saw progress with these reforms; for example, the reform proposals announced by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in March and July have been generally approved by United Nations members; President of the Fifty-First Session of the General Assembly Razali Izmail announced a draft General Assembly resolution on the reform of the Security Council; and members adopted "An Agenda for Development."
If the United Nations simply engages in repetitious debate and proves incapable of reforming itself to adapt to the changing times, the credibility of the organization in the eyes of the international community could be severely undermined. Recognizing this as well as the need for work on the three central and interlinked core elements of United Nations reform-Security Council reform, financial reform and reforms in the area of development-to be carried forward in a balanced and comprehensive manner, Japan has been taking an active part in debate toward United Nations reform.
i) Security Council reform
In the post-Cold War international community, the United Nations Security Council has become an important actor, not just in the traditional area of security, but also in areas such as humanitarian activities and human rights. At the same time, there is also an increasingly large role to be played by countries which are able to contribute not just with regard to military aspects but also in social and economic areas. To adapt to these new circumstances, new members able to make a global contribution must be added to the Security Council, and its functions must be strengthened by improving its working methods.
The issues of Security Council reform have been under consideration since January 1994 at such fora as the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform. Important progress was seen in 1997. For example, General Assembly President Razali Izmail's aforementioned proposal was submitted in March, and the United States expressed its new position in July, recognizing the admission of developing countries to the permanent seats on the Security Council, etc. The United States also indicated its determination to seek early realization of reform.
Through discussions to date, most of the Member States agree that the number of permanent and non-permanent seats in the Security Council needs to be increased to improve the Council's effectiveness and legitimacy, and wide support has been acquired for the admission of Japan and Germany as new permanent members. However, there is strong opposition, particularly among the developing countries, to giving permanent seats only to Japan and Germany, and, assuming that developing countries will be given permanent seats, discussion goes on to search for a way to select new permanent members among developing countries. Discussion also continues concerning to what extent the total number of seats on the Security Council should be expanded from the current 15 and how the veto should be handled.
Japan is participating actively in discussions on Security Council reform, arguing that: (1) the representativeness of the Security Council should be improved through the addition of a limited number of countries with the capacity and the willingness to assume global responsibilities as permanent members; (2) the functioning of the Security Council should be strengthened through an appropriate increase in the number of non-permanent seats on the Council; and (3) the inequitable geographical distribution of Security Council seats should be redressed. Moreover, with regard to Japan's attaining permanent membership, at the General Assembly in September, Foreign Minister Obuchi expressed Japan's readiness to discharge its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council, with the endorsement of many countries, in accordance with its basic philosophy of not resorting to the use of force prohibited by its Constitution.
ii) Financial reform
The United Nations has been facing a severe financial crisis in recent years, primarily because of late payments from the United States and a number of other members. Consideration has consequently been underway in fora such as the Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Financial Situation of the United Nations concerning issues such as the payment of contributions in arrears, measures to promote payment and the scale of assessments. Discussion in 1997 focused on the scale of assessments issue, this being the year in which the scale of assessments for the contributions of each Member State to the regular budget of the United Nations was to be decided for the period of 1998-2000. Japan asserted that rather than simply relying on the current concept of the capacity to pay, thought should also be given to the concept of responsibility to pay; i.e., payment in line with responsibility, bearing in mind the special responsibility of permanent members of the Security Council. The scale of assessments for the contributions of Member States to the regular budget of the United Nations was decided at the United Nations General Assembly on 22 December, with Japan's scale of assessments for 1998 set at 17.981 percent, rising to 19.984 percent in 1999 and to 20.573 percent in 2000, reflecting past increases in share of GNP.
iii) Development reform
Based on its "New Development Strategy," Japan has been advocating reform of the various United Nations institutions to ensure that these function effectively in the area of development. This would allow developed and developing countries to work together on development in line with the international situation in the post-Cold War era, sharing responsibility among them. In July 1997, Japan held the Okinawa Conference on Development in Ginowan City, Okinawa. Many of Japan's ideas have been incorporated into Secretary-General Annan's reform packages.
iv) Secretary-General Annan's reform packages
Secretary-General Annan has engaged actively in reform of the United Nations since his appointment in January 1998, submitting comprehensive United Nations reform packages in March and July.
Secretary-General Annan's reform proposals have been a main topic of discussion at the Fifty-Second Session of the General Assembly, which opened in September. Two related resolutions were adopted before the year's deliberations were brought to a close.
As a result, members have decided to implement most of Secretary-General Annan's proposals, including rationalization of the United Nations Secretariat and creation of the post of Deputy Secretary-General, as well as establishment of a special development account to channel savings through budgetary efficiencies to programmes benefiting the developing countries. The latter is a measure which Japan has emphasized at Summits and other occasions. However, consideration will continue on some parts of the proposals, such as the establishment of a revolving fund aimed at stabilizing the United Nations' financial basis.
a) Efforts by the international community on global environment issues
Global environmental problems threaten the very survival of the human race. To solve these problems, in addition to individual countries' efforts, global and regional efforts are also vital. Although it may not be readily apparent at the present time, the destruction of the global environment will, unless dealt with from a long-term perspective, pose a tangible threat in several decades, or at least within several hundred years. At the same time, because environmental issues are inextricably interlinked with economic and social development, it is not easy for countries at different stages of development and with different economic situations to take coordinated action. For this reason, diplomatic efforts are needed to rectify differences in awareness and conflicts of interest between countries and consequently to take appropriate steps from a long-term and global perspective.
The international community has been engaging in various efforts and discussion in this regard, starting with the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21, both fruits of the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development (UNCED), or the so-called Earth Summit. With regard to Agenda 21, regular reviews and exchanges of views are being conducted at the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which has been established under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In particular, in June 1997, five years after the Earth Summit, representatives from around 180 countries-among them Heads of State from around 60 countries-as well as representatives from around 200 international institutions and other participants gathered in New York for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) on Environment and Development. At this meeting, participants conducted a comprehensive review of the various efforts which have been made since the Earth Summit and adopted the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 as an action plan for the years to come.
Turning to specific efforts by the international community, with regard to the global warming issue, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted after difficult negotiations, stipulating the legal framework for efforts toward the prevention of global warming after the year 2000. As to the prevention of desertification, the Convention to Combat Desertification went into effect in December 1996, with efforts in this area getting underway from the end of September, including the First Conference of Parties to the Convention. With regard to the Convention on Biological Diversity, parties are considering a protocol on biosafety which would stipulate procedures for the safe transport, handling and usage of living organisms altered through biotechnology, and country-specific reports are being drawn up. Further, at the September Conference of Parties to the Montreal Protocol it was decided to strengthen regulations on methyl bromide, one of the substances damaging the ozone layer. Protection of the Antarctic environment in particular attracted world attention because of the Antarctic's regional characteristics, and in December Japan signed the Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection.
b) Japan's cooperation
As efforts by the international community in these various areas have moved ahead, Japan has made the issue of the global environment a top priority in its foreign policy and has dedicated its fullest efforts to this matter, as demonstrated below.
The first example is the Third Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-III, or the Kyoto Conference on Global Warming) which was held in Japan. This conference was held 1-11 December in Kyoto with the aim of establishing an international framework on efforts toward the prevention of global warming from the year 2000 onwards, which was undecided under the existing Convention. The plenary meeting was chaired by Director-General Hiroshi Oki of the Environment Agency of Japan, with around 10,000 participants from around 160 countries, including government representatives, international institutions, the mass media and NGOs.
Through discussion at the Denver Summit and UNGASS, etc., Japan worked toward the adoption of a protocol which contained meaningful, feasible and equitable quantitative targets. Because measures for the prevention of global warming are linked in a complex fashion with countries' respective economic interests, negotiations were extremely difficult, but after eight preparatory meetings and 11 days of intense negotiations, the meeting agreed to adopt the Kyoto Protocol. This was an historic result in terms of international efforts to combat global warming, as well as an important first step toward conservation of the global environment in the 21st century.
Secondly, Japan has been engaging actively in assistance to developing countries in the area of the environment. At the Earth Summit in June 1992, Japan announced that it would significantly expand and enhance its environmental ODA, looking to increase this from 900 billion yen to one trillion yen for the five-year period beginning in FY1992. The cumulative amount disbursed over the five years from FY1992 to FY1996 was around 1.44 trillion yen, a sum considerably above the target amount announced at the Earth Summit.
In addition, at the June 1997 UNGASS meeting, Japan announced its Initiatives for Sustainable Development Toward the 21st Century (ISD) as a comprehensive effort utilizing Japan's environmental ODA; and during Prime Minister Hashimoto's September visit to China, agreement was reached with Premier Li Peng on Japan-China Environmental Cooperation Toward the 21st Century, entailing bilateral promotion of an environmental model-city initiative and an environmental information network. Furthermore, at the December COP-III, Prime Minister Hashimoto announced the Kyoto Initiative on support for developing countries on measures to counter global warming under the ISD initiative.
Thirdly, Japan also emphasizes cooperative relations with international institutions. Taking Japan's relationship with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as an example, the Government of Japan invited the UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (UNEP/IETC) to Japan (Osaka and Shiga), and contribute to the UNEP budget for projects, etc. Japan also held a forum in Toyama in July on the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) which is being promoted by the UNEP; this plan aims to conserve the ocean and coastal areas of the Japan Sea and the Yellow Sea. At the meeting in Toyama in June 1997, information was exchanged among countries bordering these oceans in order to respond to oil-caused pollution.
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