Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko

Tuesday, April 2, 2024, 9:55 a.m. By the second-floor main entrance of the Chamber of the House of Councillors

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Ms. KAMIKAWA Yoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On January 28, Japan decided to temporarily suspend funding from the FY2021 Supplementary Budget to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) due to the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff in the October 7, 2023 terrorist attacks.

Since then, Japan has been communicating with the United Nations (UN), UNRWA, and relevant countries through various channels. I, myself, have held dialogues with Chair Colonna of the Independent Review Group and UN Secretary-General Guterres. Last week, I also had a meeting with UNRWA Commissioner General Lazzarini, who was visiting Japan. In addition, I have received proposals from the Liberal Democratic Party Research Commission on International Cooperation and the Komeito International Affairs Committee on the resumption of funding, as well as various opinions from the parties in the Diet.

Firstly, I would like to convey my strong sense of urgency over the increasingly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. According to reports from international organizations, famine is imminent, with about half of Gaza’s population, or about 1.1 million people, expected to enter the most severe phase. There is a crushing shortage of the bare essentials for human survival, including safe water, food, shelter, medicine, and necessities for women and children living in poor sanitary conditions.

“Human dignity,” to which Japan attaches importance, is under threat. There is a spreading risk of destabilization in neighboring countries that host Palestinian refugees. In response to this serious humanitarian crisis, the international community, under Japan’s presidency, adopted a UN Security Council resolution on March 25.

The resolution demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan and the unconditional and immediate release of all hostages. Japan also pointed out the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the urgent need for expanded humanitarian aid. As a co-penholder of the resolution, Japan stands at a critical juncture in its implementation.

It is widely recognized in the international community that UNRWA plays a vital role in providing such assistance. However, given the recent allegations, UNRWA must regain trust to fulfill its role.

As action to that end, Japan has approached UNRWA about 1) enhancing organizational due diligence to ensure neutrality, 2) ensuring the transparency and traceability of project fund flows, and 3) screening, education, and training for UNRWA staff to maintain their neutrality. The UNRWA’s action plan for all donors incorporates these measures, and we are receiving regular progress reports.

Furthermore, after I met Commissioner General Lazzarini during his visit to Japan, I confirmed a commitment to Japan of additional measures: the establishment of a Japan-UNRWA Project Management and Monitoring Mechanism as a new framework to ensure the propriety of the project, greater women’s participation in leadership positions, as well as training conducted from a Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) perspective.

Moving forward, through this monitoring mechanism, we will trace the progress and effectiveness of projects funded by Japan, ensure propriety, and receive periodic progress reports. I have also confirmed that Japan will take all necessary measures in the event of any misuse of funds.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation among the Palestinians is a pressing problem, and it is the responsibility of Japan, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, to respond to this crisis. UNRWA’s involvement in humanitarian aid is indispensable.

UNRWA has been implementing measures for improved governance and has begun new efforts to manage risk to Japan’s funding. In response, Japan will lift the suspension on UNRWA funding, and will provide support while confirming the proper use of Japan’s funds.

Specifically, the approximate $35 million we initially allocated will be provided once the funds are in place. For example, in the Gaza Strip, we will provide urgently needed supplies for those living in poor sanitary conditions and for women and infants. We also plan to provide medical services in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank.

Since October 7, Japan has launched a series of initiatives to provide the Palestinians with humanitarian aid. By resuming funding for UNRWA, Japan’s contribution will exceed $100 million.

At this time in Gaza, international partners are working together closely to deliver relief supplies, including food through the World Food Programme (WFP) and sanitation and hygiene supplies through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), while also making use of the shelters and health centers run by UNRWA. By leveraging the strengths of each of these diverse international partners, we will continue to focus on action to save the lives of Palestinian refugees.

In the future, we will engage in diplomacy that contributes to “human dignity” through our support for Palestinian refugees, while also emphasizing a WPS perspective.

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