United Nations Reform: Priority Issues for Japan

January 2006

The international community has been facing new challenges such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions (WMDs), terrorism and infectious diseases, which were not anticipated at the time of the foundation of the United Nations (UN) sixty years ago. Furthermore, poverty remains the most serious issue that has to be overcome by humanity. These challenges of today's world, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated, are interconnected.

The role of the UN, the sole universal international organization, which conducts activities in a wide range of fields, has become increasingly more important in order for the international community to address these issues in an appropriate manner. Comprehensive reform is necessary to strengthen the UN's function. In particular, reform of the Security Council is a matter of special urgency for enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of the Organization as a whole.

Since its entry into the UN, Japan has made a constant and significant contribution to the Organization's activities, including heavy financial commitments to be met under the scales of assessments and voluntary contributions, as well as active contributions of human resources including participation in peacekeeping operations (PKOs). Japan, as a nation dedicated to peace, has also strived to strengthen the role of the UN in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation. Japan advocates the concept of "human security," stressing the importance of protection and empowerment of individuals against the various threats in the international community. "Consolidation of peace" is another concept that Japan has been promoting, which meant to help build a stable peace by ensuring seamless implementation of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in post-conflict regions and countries. This idea shares the same root with an initiative to establish a Peacebuilding Commission, which is discussed later in this paper.

The 2005 World Summit was held last year from September 14 to 16, and the Outcome Document encompassing a wide range of issues such as development, peace, human rights and strengthening of the UN was adopted. Though it is particularly regrettable that the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation of WMDs was not included in the Document, it is significant that on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the UN, world leaders including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi adopted the Document, which demonstrates the future direction on the issues of development and UN reform. Japan considers that the Document serves as a good foundation for concrete actions to be taken.

Japan will extend as much cooperation as possible, based on its achievements to date, for the efforts to strengthen the activities of the UN through its comprehensive reform, so that the Organization can better reflect the realities of the international community in the 21st century and address new threats and issues of poverty effectively. Taking into account the Outcome Document, Japan will make particular efforts in the following areas of priority.

1. Development

Japan had been the largest donor for a decade, shouldering over 20% of the total volume of worldwide official development assistance (ODA). In addition, as one of the largest donor countries in the world in the major areas of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such as education, health, water, and environment, Japan has been making a significant contribution to socio-economic development in developing countries based on the concept of "ownership of developing countries and their partnership with developed countries." Based on these achievements, Japan will fully cooperate in the efforts to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

  • Japan will continue its efforts towards achieving the goal of providing ODA of 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) in order to contribute to the MDGs. From this point of view, Japan will ensure a sufficient level of ODA commensurate with its national strength. Japan will strive to expand its ODA volume over the course of the next five years in the amount of ten billion dollars compared to the amount based on its net ODA disbursement in 2004.
  • Japan will promote the efforts of international organizations to provide debt relief for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs), in accordance with conclusions on development reached at the G8 Finance Ministers' meeting in June 2005.
  • Japan recently announced Japan's new "Development Initiative for Trade" in which it expressed its intent to provide duty-free, quota-free market access for essentially all products originating from all least developed countries (LDCs) and funds totaling ten billion dollars over the course of the next three years to developing countries, as well as dispatch experts and accept trainees, amounting to 10,000 people in total.
    Through these efforts, Japan will endeavor to promote the integration of developing countries into the multilateral trading system, and engage in efforts for the early conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations.
  • Japan will newly implement comprehensive cooperation through the "Health and Development" initiative, as part of the measure to contribute to the achievement of the health MDGs, in the amount of five billion dollars over the course of the next five years, and provide ten million long-lasting mosquito nets by 2007 as a countermeasure against malaria. Furthermore, Japan will increase its contribution amount to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), and provide 500 million dollars in the coming years. In addition, Japan will provide assistance to developing countries for measures against avian and pandemic influenza in cooperation with the UN.
  • In the light of Africa's special needs, Japan will steadily carry out commitments such as "doubling ODA to Africa in the next three years" and debt relief, in view of TICAD IV (the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development) to be held in 2008. Regarding its support to Africa, Japan will implement assistance to peace consolidation, agriculture and rural development, and the promotion of trade and investment based on the principle of TICAD, "ownership of Africa and partnership by the international community," together with adopting the concept of the promotion of the South-South Cooperation, and keeping in mind provision of assistance to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). In addition, as part of the above effort, Japan will enhance private sector development by the initiatives implemented in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB).

2. Security

(1) Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

Japan, as the only country ever to have experienced nuclear devastation, has been at the forefront in promoting disarmament and non-proliferation of WMDs including nuclear weapons. Japan has also played a leading role in the area of conventional weapons, for instance by promoting international efforts addressing the issue of small arms and light weapons. Japan is resolved to play an ever more active role in a functionally reinforced UN to promote these causes, and will continue to uphold its "Three Non-Nuclear Principles."

  • Although the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in May 2005 was not able to adopt a consensus document on substantive issues, nor was an agreement reached on the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation of WMDs in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document adopted in September, each State Party should exert efforts to overcome difficulties and strengthen the NPT regime.
  • The Draft Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament that Japan has submitted to the UN General Assembly since 1994 was submitted again last year and adopted with support from an overwhelming majority. Japan will continue to formulate a consensus among the international community on realistic and progressive measures for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Japan supports the universalization, promotion and full implementation of related treaties and norms on disarmament and non-proliferation, and will enhance the efforts of the international community to this end.

(2) Multilateral Efforts against Terrorism

Terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds. Based on that viewpoint, Japan has been contributing to the efforts of the international community to prevent and eradicate terrorism. In particular, Japan has been providing developing countries which require support in their fight against terrorism with counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance, while utilizing ODA. Such assistance includes acceptance of trainees, dispatch of experts and provision of relevant equipment.

  • In order for the international community to unite in the fight against terrorism, Japan believes it is important for every country to share the recognition that the targeting and deliberate killing of civilians and non-combatants cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance, and supports the conclusion of the negotiation of the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by June of this year.
  • Japan highly values the comprehensive strategy against terrorism presented in the report of the Secretary-General. Japan supports the strategy in which underlying causes of terrorism are addressed in parallel with the strengthening of counter-terrorism measures against actual threats. Japan has been actively promoting dialogue among civilizations such as by holding the World Civilization Forum 2005, based on the understanding that facilitating mutual understanding among people of different backgrounds is a vital method to this end. Japan will continue to provide support for the implementation of political and economic reforms of developing countries, resolution of educational and other issues, peaceful resolution of conflicts, consolidation of peace, sustainable growth in developing countries, poverty reduction, among others, in order to address the various issues that exist in the background that generate and encourage terrorism.

(3) Peacebuilding Commission

Japan welcomes the decision reached at the Security Council and the General Assembly on December 20 to establish a Peacebuilding Commission, which was agreed to be launched by the end of 2005 in the Outcome Document adopted in September. Japan will actively take part in the activities of the Commission and continue to play a constructive role in post-conflict peacebuilding, making full use of its own experiences and resources. Japan also supports the establishment of a Peacebuilding Fund, which is to be funded through voluntary contributions while taking due account of existing instruments.

(4) Disaster Reduction Efforts

Disaster reduction efforts are as indispensable for preventing natural disasters as emergency humanitarian assistance after the disaster. To this end, Japan is promoting the steady implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 adopted at the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in January 2005, while utilizing the full extent of Japan's knowledge on disaster reduction, and thus international cooperation. From this standpoint, Japan welcomes the resolution of the UN General Assembly "International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development."

3. Human Rights

(1) Reform in Human Rights Issues

  • Japan welcomes the establishment of a Human Rights Council agreed upon in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document adopted in September from the standpoint of strengthening the ability of the UN to effectively address human rights issues facing the world. Japan thus intends to actively take part in the discussions on the details of the Human Rights Council (mandate, structure, working methods, etc.) during the 60th session of the General Assembly.
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be strengthened. Japan welcomes the High Commissioner's Plan of Action from the perspective of further enhancing the assistance for national capacity-building in countries facing problems in its human rights situation.

(2) Reform of Humanitarian Mechanism (including CERF)

  • Japan is in favor of constantly reviewing the humanitarian assistance system of the UN and improving it in order to carry out prompt and efficient assistance in times of emergency, and has actively been involved in the said reform. From this point of view, Japan welcomes the establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) at the UN General Assembly meeting in December 2005.
  • Japan intends to take part in the discussions to consider the details of the CERF, including the locus of administrative responsibility and contribution procedures, which are scheduled to be held, as well as pay close attention to those of other donor countries.

(3) Democracy Fund

  • Japan supports the establishment of a "Democracy Fund." Japan expects that the Fund will be used effectively to offer UN assistance for capacity-building, based on requests from recipient countries.

(4) Human Security

Individuals face a wide range of threats including violence and conflicts, to denial of basic human rights, poverty, infectious diseases and lack of education. In order to ensure the dignity of individuals, Japan views that there is a need to address these various threats in a comprehensive manner which focuses on the people.

  • Japan, in line with this view, has actively contributed to the establishment of the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, which has funded a total of 144 projects in 87 countries to date.
  • Japan strongly hopes that the concept of human security, which was recognized in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document adopted in last September, will be further embraced at UN forums as a universal value.

4. Institutional Reform

(1) Revitalization of the General Assembly

Japan supports the initiatives of the President of the General Assembly to revitalize the Assembly, which, with all Member States participating, is the most representative organ of the UN.

  • Japan considers that the General Assembly should aim to conduct more focused and timely debate on the problems of highest priority at any given time through rationalization of its agenda, which suffers from a certain degree of inflexibility.
  • Japan will strive, in cooperation with other Member States, to reach an agreement on concrete measures for revitalization of the General Assembly during its 60th session.

(2) Reform of the Security Council

Reform of the UN would not be completed without reform of the Security Council. Security Council reform has been fully discussed over the past 10 years, and thus, based on the momentum which has been built up to date, early decision must be taken during the 60th session of the General Assembly. While consensus would be preferable, it should not be an excuse to delay the reform.

In this context, the President of the General Assembly issued a letter on December 19, 2005, in response to the request made in the Outcome Document to review progress on the reform by the end of the year. In the letter, the President has stated that there is a broad agreement on the need to expand the membership of the Security Council and that discussions on Security Council reform should resume in 2006. Japan regards the President's letter as a positive motion exemplifying the determination to address this issue building upon the actions taken to date. Japan will provide further cooperation to realize Security Council reform building upon the following basic concepts;

  • In order to effectively address today's challenges, the Security Council needs to better reflect in its composition the realities of the international community in the 21st century. The Council must expand its membership, including both developed and developing countries, so as to enhance its representativeness, effectiveness and credibility.
  • Japan deems that the working methods of the Security Council must be improved in terms of transparency and inclusiveness, and will make efforts to this end.

(3) Administrative, Financial and Management Reforms

  • There is a serious and urgent need for the UN management and Secretariat reform in order to enable the UN to function more effectively and efficiently. Japan will pursue to reflect the achievements of the reforms to the maximum extent possible in the UN budget for the biennium 2006-2007, which was approved with limited expenditure authority of the Secretary-General equivalent to six months requirements, at the end of last year. Japan will be actively engaged in the consultation of the UN management reform, particularly the review of the mandates, in accordance with the agenda and timeframe as already agreed in the World Summit Outcome Document of the September 2005.
  • The scale of assessments for the contributions to the UN for each Member State is calculated by a set methodology that uses the share of each country's GNI as a base. However, Japan considers its current scale of assessments (19.468%) to be too large when considering the actual economic situation of Japan and its proportion in comparison to the scales of assessments of the permanent members of the Security Council. On the occasion of reviewing the methodology of the scale of assessments scheduled by the end of this year, the Government of Japan intends to actively take part in the negotiations with a view to reforming the methodology for a more equitable and fair scale of assessments which reflects the actual economic situation of the Member States and duly takes into account the status and responsibilities of the Member States, so that Japan will shoulder an appropriate level of burden.

(4) Enemy State Clauses

  • Japan strongly calls for the deletion of the so-called "enemy state" clauses from the provisions of articles 53, 77 and 107 of the Charter, as decided by the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document adopted in September 2005 and the General Assembly resolution 50/52.

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