Speech by Mr. Shintaro Ito, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
At the Opening of Asia Cooperation Dialogue
The Third Dialogue on Environmental Education

June 14, 2006

Distinguished Participants, ladies and gentleman,

I am Shintaro Ito, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am honoured and I am gratified to be in my political constituency in Miyagi today.

On behalf of the host Government, I would like to make brief remarks in opening the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, the Third Dialogue on Environmental Education. It is my great pleasure to have this meeting here in Sendai, one of the few Regional Centers of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. Here activities on the theme of this meeting, Education for Sustainable Development, are rich and diverse.

I am grateful for having such a large attendance from governments participating in Asia Cooperation Dialogue, NGOs, international organizations, local authorities, industries, educational institutions and citizens of Sendai. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would also like to express my gratitude to the co-hosts of this Dialogue, namely, ESD Japan and regional center of expertise of the greater Sendai, as well as representatives from the Miyagi Prefecture and the City of Sendai, and all other participants who rendered their kind cooperation in materializing this Dialogue.

At the outset, I would like to express, as a friend in Asia, my deepest condolences for those who have lost their lives in the recent Earthquake Disaster in Central Java, Republic of Indonesia. Japan is carrying out humanitarian assistance in the affected area to the extent possible, and it is my sincere hope that recovery and restoration will be achieved as soon as possible.

Distinguished participants,

As we witness such an immense natural disaster, we cannot but reconsider how important it is for mankind to prepare itself in the face of nature's fierce power and to find means to coexist and coprosper with mother earth. This, in fact, is the key notion of sustainable development. A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme points out that the economic and public health costs associated with damage to ecosystem services can be substantial. Development that neglects sustainability has resulted in serious damages to the atmosphere, water and forests. This trend goes on and on. How can we utilize natural resources without sacrifising the environment; how can the environment integrate social aspects such as peace and stability, human rights and gender? These are vitally important issues for all of mankind, we will have to strive to find answers to these issues.

When we tackle these crucial issues, we have to do it both nationally and globally, uniting the wisdom of our entire generation, men and women. This is where education plays a role. We have to find what the real issue is, and we need to be enlightened from experiences and learning processes to find out where the real problem lies. Further, we have to take a proactive approach by thinking and taking action to find solutions in a forward-looking manner. We need to nurture persons who can take this proactive and independent approach. This kind of human resources development is necessary to secure long-term sustainability of the earth and needs to be done urgently. In this regard, we made a significant step by launching the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, or DESD, last year, also starting its implementation in each country.

Distinguished participants,

Also in Asia, various dialogues to promote DESD have been steadily underway. One of such dialogues is the Third Dialogue on Environmental Education under the framework of Asia Cooperation Dialogue.

Asia Cooperation Dialogue is an informal forum through which Asian Foreign Ministers regularly engage in exchange of opinions on issues of their interest. So far, with the objective of enhancing Asian markets and augmenting the negotiation power of Asia, promotion of dialogue and cooperative projects has been carried out. Japan has chosen environmental education as a concrete theme of the dialogue. It hosts annual dialogues in which stakeholders both from the government and private sectors engage in candid exchange of views. Our meeting today marks the third of such dialogues.

Distinguished participants,

It has been almost a year since DESD was launched. Meanwhile, Japan's Action Plan for DESD was drawn up at the end of this March. Furthermore, the greater Sendai area, including the Sendai City where we are now, as well as cities of Okayama and Yokohama have been authorized by the UN University as regional centers of expertise for promoting DESD. Thus, this year's dialogue involves announcement of Japan's said Action Plan and introduction of activities of regional centers of expertise such as the one in Sendai. In the same manner, representatives of other Asian countries and international organizations are expected to introduce their activities. After sharing all these experiences, views will be exchanged about future challenges and solutions in the implementation so that participants can take advantage of such discussions in their national activities.

Although time is limited, I sincerely hope that this dialogue today will open new horizons and spark action for the future.

Thank you.

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