"UNRWA @ 60" High Level Event
Statement by His Excellency Mr. Katsuya OKADA
Foreign Minister of Japan
September 24, 2009
Mr. Store, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. AbuZaued, Commissioner-General of UNRWA and distinguished guests,
It is my great honor to take this opportunity today to speak as the chairman of the Asia Group at the event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of UNRWA. On this memorable occasion, I would like to express my sincere respect for the longtime effort dedicated by UNRWA. I would also like to highly value the assistance which has been provided by the governments of the host countries to the activities of UNRWA. With recent positive developments toward the realization of the Middle East peace, the roles of UNRWA are becoming even more significant.
It is the responsibility of the entire international community to guarantee the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian refugees, who have been in a difficult situation for a long time, as well as to ensure that each of them have chances to develop his/her ability. This is exactly the implementation of "human security," one of the guiding principles of Japanese diplomacy.
The issue of the Palestinian refugees has ever been my concern, and I took every opportunity to discuss it when I saw the leaders of the region. About four years ago, I had an opportunity to visit Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan run by UNRWA and closely saw their hardship. I was deeply touched by this experience and recognized that it is the grave responsibility of the international society to extend its hands to these people.
Japan has continuously provided assistance with Palestinian refugees through UNRWA, which has played such an important but difficult role, and has built cooperative partnership with UNRWA as a major donor country. In fact, Japan started its assistance to the Palestinians through UNRWA in 1953, even before its accession to the UN. More than 550 million USD in total have been provided to many fields of activities including education and health care by 2009. As a member of the Advisory Commission of UNRWA, Japan has contributed to the improvement of the function and to the strengthening of management of UNRWA, such as through the provision of various advises to the Commissioner-General.
More than half of Palestinian refugees are young, below 25 years old. UNRWA puts emphasis on assistance in the fields of education and vocational training, in order to build a society where young people, who will bear the future of Palestine, can have hopes for their future. Japan appreciates this policy and continues its assistance. More than 900 students graduated from universities with the scholarship jointly established by UNRWA and Japan, and we hope that they will become leaders of the Palestinian community and build an affluent society.
Japan has contributed to the improvement of health of mothers and children by distributing of Maternal and Child health handbooks in the Palestinian territories in cooperation with international organizations including UNRWA, the Ministry of Health and the Palestinian Authority. Japan is currently preparing for the distribution of the Maternal and Child health handbooks in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, as well. Japan intends to continuously work to expand the use of the Maternal and Child heath handbooks in all areas where the Palestinian refugees are living, in order to improve education and awareness on health of pregnant women and mothers.
In addition to the assistance through UNRWA, Japan has actively provided wide range of assistance in order to build more self-reliant Palestinian economy in a sustainable way through the implementation of "Corridor of Peace and Prosperity" initiative for the future establishment of a Palestinian State. Japan's assistance to the Palestinians has been provided in a variety of areas, including Basic Human Needs (BHN) such as the humanitarian assistance and medical health, and economic infrastructure development for the nation-building, the total amount of which since 1993 when the Oslo Accords was made is more than one billion USD.
At the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza held in Egypt this March, Japan announced 200 million USD in the coming years to provide assistance for the future establishment of a Palestinian State. As part of this, Japan has decided to extend grant aid of about 10 million USD on July this year, for food aid through UNRWA and WFP and for "the Project for Infectious Diseases Prevention" of UNICEF.
As I have briefly mentioned now, Japan has strived to assist Palestinian refugees in various dimensions, but the ultimate goal for the entire international community is to eliminate the need for such assistance. In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to realize a comprehensive peace in the Middle East including refugee issues based upon two-state solution. Japan will continue to make efforts centering on three pillars; reaching out to Israelis and Palestinians, assistance for Palestinians and support for confidence-building between the two parties.
Lastly, as the chairman of the Asia Group, I would like to express my appreciation for the leadership of Ms. AbuZayd, Commissioner-General, as well as the activities of UNRWA staff members. I would like to conclude my statement by confirming once again our determination to provide upmost support, so that Palestinian refugees can live their lives with human dignity.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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