Address by H.E. Professor Akiko YAMANAKA
Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 on Science and Technology
Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro
3 September 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to be invited to this Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 on Science and Technology as a special guest speaker.
I would like to commend the G77 secretariat and the Government of the Federal Republic of Brazil for organizing this important meeting.
In the modern world we are witnessing a rapid progression of science and technology. Technology dreamed of today will soon turn out to be commonplace tomorrow. Two decades ago nobody would have had even the slightest idea of what e-mail was, and even a decade ago it was used by only a limited number of people. Now it would be rather hard to find anyone who does not know of it.
Thanks to internet technology, I can send a message from Brazil to my friend in Japan, located at the exact opposite point on the globe.
Since many countries have been frequently struck by natural disasters in recent years, the role of science and technology in the fields of preventing disasters and reconstructing has become more important.
Truly there is great benefit for us in the astonishing progress of science and technology, and there is a great need for it.
While admitting and appreciating the important role and the positive aspects of science and techonolgy, I would like to venture to say that we should not forget the negative aspects.
When used in a misguided way science and technology can bring about a variety of grave results for our lives. The issue of wide-spread computer viruses is considered an ironic example of the high technology that is enjoying its prime.
In this context, weapons are also among the products of science and technology.
On this occasion I would like to stress the point that we should make wise use of science and technology for the purpose of creating and keeping peace, not for war.
Now let me proceed to talk about globalization.
As exemplified by the advent of powerful and large-sized multinational corporations, economic activities have become less constrained by borders.
Science and technology such as IT and means of high-speed transportation have a decisive role in bringing forth the tide of globalization.
On the other hand, globalization has negative side-effects such as worldwide infectious diseases that have come to spread across borders more easily than before due to increased human mobility. This spiral is creating new issues for us that should be tackled through science and technology.
The so-called "digital divide" has become an important issue which refers to the disparity between people who have access to IT and those who do not.
Commercial goods that are in common use worldwide are sometimes found only in big cities and do not always respond to the needs of remote areas.
I once personally encountered a villager in the Middle East who said that he was in need of a rather primitive furnace, rather than a high-tech electric heater.
I remember his comment as an example which shows that people need appropriate technology that meets their lifestyle, which is not always high technology.
Now then, what is important in dealing with these matters?
The point is, I believe, that we need to have the bearing to carefully reflect both the positive and negative aspects of all events with introspective attitudes and accumulate what we have learned and achieved as common assets for human beings.
We need to further utilize these assets in seeking concrete means to secure the quality of life of human beings and to make peace. This is my belief.
From this viewpoint I would like to say with pride that Japan has been contributing to the world based on its own experiences of enhancing measures to secure human life.
Let me give just a few examples.
For the area of IT, in recognition of the importance of resolving the "digital divide" Japan has been actively advancing cooperation with developing countries.
As typical examples, Japan has conducted cooperation programs of dispatching experts to support the formulation of IT policies and has provided technical support for expanding internet use in local communities.
Japanese technology for drawing flood hazard maps which has been accumulated through the experiences of coping with typhoons and flooding is now being applied to the Caribbean region which also frequently suffers from serious damage from large hurricanes and floods.
Hideyo Noguchi Prize for Africa
Turning to the next topic, I would like to mention the "Hideyo Noguchi Prize for Africa."
This prize was established just this year with the aim of encouraging the fight against infectious diseases in Africa by honoring individuals with outstanding achievements in the field of medical research and services.
This prize was named after the famous Japanese medical scientist Dr. Noguchi who studied Yellow Fever and other diseases in Latin America and Africa before dying of a disease in the course of his research in Ghana around 90 years ago.
The name "Hideyo Noguchi" is very special to the Japanese not only for the reason of his great contributions to the development of medical research, but also for his earnest dedication to helping poor people infected with diseases.
This year I had an occasion to visit a research institute in Ecuador where Dr. Noguchi had once studied. I was moved anew, standing at the very site where he devoted himself to his research.
I hope that the fight against infectious diseases in Africa will be further enhanced by this prize.
Let me now introduce to you the activities of a relatively recent Japanese initiative, the Science and Technology in Society forum, or in short, the STS forum.
This forum was launched with the support of the Japanese Government and provides a new mechanism for discussing how to resolve the problems stemming from the application of science and technology as I am talking today.
This initiative has been successful as an open platform for discussion on this subject with a wide range of participants, including Nobel laureates from around the world.
This year, the third Annual Meeting of the forum will be held from the 10th through the 12th of September in Kyoto by the efforts of eager proponents led by Mr. Koji Omi, a former Minister for Science and Technology Policy.
I hope this forum will provide a good occasion for a fruitful exchange of views.
Finally, I would like to reiterate my belief that we need to make crosscutting examinations of various aspects of science and technology which interact with globalization, and find a way to utilize them in promoting the quality of life of mankind in a very real sense.
Now I would like to conclude my remarks by expressing my sincere hope that this G77 ministerial meeting will make significant achievements.
Thank you for your attention.
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