Symposium "Building Peace - Japan and UN" (Summary)

January 28, 2008

(photo) Foreign Minister Koumura

On January 24 (Thursday), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan convened a symposium entitled "Building Peace - Japan and UN" at a hotel in Tokyo. The objective of the symposium was to introduce and discuss Japan's efforts in peacebuilding, taking into account the facts that Japan is currently fulfilling the duties of Chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and that in the year 2008 it will host major diplomatic events related to peacebuilding such as the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in May and the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July.

At the end of the symposium, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Mr. Masahiko Koumura delivered a speech entitled "Japan: A Builder of Peace" outlining Japan's policy on peacebuilding. (The text can be found at: Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sierra Leone Ms. Zainab Bangura, Minister of Interior and Communal Development of the Republic of Burundi Mr. Venant Kamana, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia Mr. Conmany Wesseh, as well as PBC Chair Mr. Yukio Takasu and UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) Chief Ms. Carolyn McAskie attended the event and served as panelists. There was a lively discussion, with the participation of an audience of approximately one hundred fifty.

1. Summary of the Sessions

(1) Session I "What is the PBC? - Understanding the Work of the Commission: Overview from Its Establishment to Recent Activities"

  • In this opening session, PBC Chair Takasu and PBSO Chief McAskie provided explanations concerning the establishment and organization of the PBC and Japan's role as its Chair. In the Q&A section, discussions were held regarding the relationship and coordination between peacekeeping operations and the PBC and the application of the concept of human security to the work of the PBC.

(2) Session II "What Are Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Gaps and How Should We Address Them? - The PBC's Country-Specific Activities and Japan's Contributions"

Minister Bangura, Minister Kamana, and Deputy Minister Wesseh (left to right)
  • Foreign Minister Bangura pointed out that in Sierra Leone the issue of electricity supply is a matter of urgency for the country's peacebuilding. She expressed strong determination to make every effort to address, together with the international community, the five priority areas specified in the PBC, which included the questions of electricity and youth employment. In addition, she offered deep appreciation to the people of Japan for their assistance for her country and expressed her hope for further cooperation.
  • Interior and Communal Development Minister Kamana emphasized that in Burundi the return of refugees and internally displaced persons is a major challenge for the country's peacebuilding. He also stressed the need to address the issues identified through the PBC such as governance, security sector reform, human rights and infrastructure development. Like Foreign Minister Bangura, he expressed appreciation for Japan's assistance and the hope for its continuation.
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Wesseh discussed Liberia's efforts in the areas of security, revitalization of the economy, governance and basic services under the leadership of President Johnson-Sirleaf. In line with the remarks of the previous ministerial speakers, he also expressed gratitude and continued expectations regarding Japan's support.
  • PBC Chair Takasu mentioned Japan's efforts in relation to country-specific activities of the organ. JICA's Senior Vice-President Oshima made remarks on the Agency's work and his recent visit to Sierra Leone.
  • In the Q&A segment, which was conducted as part of the third session, discussions were held regarding the effect of reintegration of ex-combatants on peacebuilding in Sierra Leone, the impact of the return of refugees on that in Burundi, roles of regional organizations and the prospects of the PBC's activities concerning Guinea-Bissau.

(3) "What Can and Must the International Community including the PBC Do? How Can Peacebuilding Efforts Be Made More Effective?"

  • Professor Richard Caplan of the University of Oxford and Advisor Howard Mollett of CARE International UK underlined the need to address such challenges in peacebuilding as coordination among various actors, effective use of knowledge and lessons learned, and monitoring mechanisms and evaluation.
  • Professor Yukio Sato of the University of Toyama and Professor Mitsugi Endo of the University of Tokyo discussed the international trends in the development of the concept of peacebuilding since the 1990s and measures to address peacebuilding needs in fragile states in Africa.
  • NGO JEN Secretary General Keiko Kiyama and Asahi Shimbun Editorial Writer Noriyuki Wakisaka stressed the necessity of an approach to deal with peacebuilding issues that takes into account the point of view from the field in conflict areas and that of the general public.
  • In the Q&A section, discussions were held regarding measures to fill the gaps between knowledge and practice as well as the relationship between the idea of peacebuilding and that of reconstruction and stabilization.

(4) Session IV "Wrap-up Discussion - Japan's Role and Contributions in Peacebuilding"

(photo) "Wrap-up Discussion - Japan's Role and Contributions in Peacebuilding"
  • In this wrap-up session, Japanese and international panelists made remarks on Japan's strengths, weaknesses and challenges in peacebuilding, the importance for ordinary citizens to have an interest in the matter, development of human resources and the need to ensure opportunities for those trainees to play active roles, and the enhancement of Japan's international responsibilities in peacebuilding.
  • PBSO Chief McAskie expressed her hope that Japan, in addition to its leading role in the PBC, would expand the scope of its newly launched program in human resource development for peacebuilding as well as demonstrate leadership in the G8 in this area. PBC Chair Takasu emphasized the importance for the PBC to make tangible achievements in the future and work diligently on its consideration of the countries newly added to its agenda. He also asserted that Japan must make efforts in five areas: political leadership, intellectual contribution, financial aid, strengthening of bilateral relations and human resource development.
  • In the Q&A segment, discussions were held regarding structural arrangements for peacebuilding in comparison with those for a peacekeeping mission, the importance of the engagement of major powers and the question of justice in peacebuilding.
  • At the end of the discussion, Mr. Yoshitaka Akimoto, Ambassador in Charge of UN Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, affirmed the need for Japan to continue to demonstrate its leadership in the PBC, strengthen its efforts for Africa and reflect the discussion in the PBC in its bilateral assistance. He closed the session by stating that he would draw upon the discussions in the symposium for the implementation of Japan's future policy in peacebuilding.

2. Concluding Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Masahiko Koumura "Japan: A Builder of Peace"

Foreign Minister Koumura, in his speech to conclude the symposium, expressed Japan's determination to make enhanced efforts in the area of peacebuilding. (The text of the speech can be found at:

3. Reception hosted by Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Itsunori Onodera

(photo) Senior Vice-Minister Onodera

Following the symposium, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Onodera hosted a reception to which he invited the panelists, practitioners, scholars, ambassadors in Tokyo and others. He and Foreign Minister Bangura of Sierra Leone made remarks at the reception on behalf of the host of the symposium, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and of the panelists for the event, respectively. The reception was quite successful, with the attendance of a large number of guests.

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