Welcoming Remarks by Mr. Masatoshi Abe, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan at a Prime Mover Project in the Asia Cooperation Dialogue of Japan/Environmental Education

- Toward the Implementation of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development -
(Tokyo, June 8, 2004)

Check against delivery

Distinguished participants, dear friends,

At the outset, it is my great pleasure to have this opportunity to make an opening remark for the Cooperation Dialogue of Japan/Environmental Education. On behalf of host country, I would like to welcome all of you. We have here with us today so many representatives from governments, NGOs, embassies and international organizations.

Distinguished participants,

We, the twenty-two Asian countries, established Asia Cooperation Dialogue two years ago under the initiative of Thailand. Within the following two years, we have conducted many Cooperation Dialogue projects on important current issues such as trade, finance, business management, poverty reduction, biotechnology and legal system.

Like other regions in the world, in Asia, people have strong wish to continue their socio-economic development, and through that, to realize a more healthy, comfortable, safer and cultural life. Those issues so far discussed in the Cooperation Dialogue projects are all important in the process for achieving our common goals.

Japan proposed environmental education as a topic for dialogue this time. As you may be well aware, we cannot sustain our production, consumption and development into the future generations, if we fail to protect environment, where we live as a family member of all living creatures. In this regard, environmental protection is among priority agenda items for Asia's future development, just like other issues discussed so far in this Cooperation Dialogue. In our twenty-two countries, a number of people and governments have already been making various efforts on environmental education. I strongly hope that today's dialogue will be an occasion for us all to share experiences, exchange views and learn from each other. I suppose this is the first time for some of you to meet each other, and hope you will spend two days together and form a partnership and a network. I would be delighted if such network will be of any help for your future works.

Distinguished participants,

Asia is a region where we observe rich diversity. There are inland states, coastal states, mountainous, moist and dry states and else. However, one thing we have in common might be the way we view the nature. In our traditional cultures, we see the nature as father or mother, and we feel awe and respect before the nature. Our ancestors had the wisdom to continue their life in harmony with nature in their respective communities. They knew very well that the nature gave them valuable gifts for their life, but sometime hit them with great disasters.

In many parts of Asia, people are getting better off through industrial development, technological innovation, urbanization and modernization of agriculture. We should never lose sight of its great achievement. However, the rapid development of economy and society often brings about negative effects on people's life and environment. The period when Japan marked a rapid progress of industrialization was also the period when air, land and water pollutions posed a serious threat to the health and safety of people. We would be pleased if countries now taking off for development could learn from Japan's past failure.

On the part of industrialized countries, what will happen if people do not change their mind and continue to seek convenience and comfort in life, with the same thinking and speed as they did in the past rapid growth period? It will eventually kill the nature's recovering power and reproducing potential of natural resource and energy. To avoid this, people in the industrialized countries including Japan must change their lifestyle. A lifestyle that makes human activities in harmony and conformity with natural environment.

Distinguished participants,

Change of lifestyle needs change of thinking. And education will make the change of thinking. Needless to say, school education is an important tool for environmental education. However, only teaching children and youths at school is not enough for environmental protection. In order to bring changes into lifestyle of people so as to further harmonize with environment, even more important is the change of thinking and behavior of us adults. Adults are the ones who created the current lifestyle. People must become aware in their local communities that environmental issues are their own, and must tackle with the issues by themselves. In my view, these efforts are no less important than international efforts by governments and other stakeholders. Think globally and act locally. Why don't we start with what we can do in our neighbors? Your views may be different from mine. I hope active discussion will take place in today's dialogue.

Distinguished participants,

Lastly, let me remind you that the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development will start from next year. The United Nations, led by UNESCO, is currently developing an international action plan for education. For its rich diversity, Asia is a miniature of the world. I believe message from Asia will surely contribute to the future of the world. I strongly hope we will have a good discussion today and make up an important input from Asia to the Decade of Education.

Thank you very much.

Back to Index