Policy Statement by H.E. Mr. Kiyohiro Araki,
Senior Vice- Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan at the 57th Commission Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
(Bangkok, 23 April 2001)

1. Introduction

Mr. Chairman,
Executive Secretary Dr. Kim,
Distinguished Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

   On behalf of the Government and the people of Japan, first of all, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Hon. Ismail Shafeeu, Minister of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment of the Maldives, for his unanimous election as chairman of the Session.

   I also would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Thailand for providing the venue for this year's Session. I am very pleased to be able to come to your country as a representative of the Japanese Government for this conference.

2. Emerging issues confronting the Asia-Pacific region and "human security"

Mr. Chairman,

   Although it is said that the ESCAP region has managed, by and large, to extricate itself from the effects of the 1997 Asian currency crisis and that the economies within the region are on a sound footing of recovery, it is still difficult to predict the future prospects of the region's economies, because of certain unstable factors such as the recent slowdown of the U.S. economy. Moreover, the growing economic disparities within the region and between various levels of society, environmental devastation, and expanding populations all threaten the health and daily lives of people in the region.

   In order to cope with this situation, today I would like to reiterate the importance of the concept of "human security," which the Japanese Government is advocating. "Human security" is the concept of strengthening efforts that place the central concern and focus on individuals, for ensuring the life, livelihood, and dignity of individual people, in dealing with the myriad problems that the international community is confronted with today, such as poverty, violations of human rights, poor healthcare, crime, environmental degradation, and so on.

   With the aim of supporting the efforts of international organizations to strengthen "human security," Japan established the U.N. Trust Fund for Human Security. To date, Japan has provided more than 80 million U.S. dollars (9 billion yen) to the Fund. Recently Phase I of the ESCAP's Human Dignity Initiative Project, which is to improve the living environment of slum areas on the outskirts of Bangkok and was approved as the fund's first project, has been completed successfully.

   In this way, Japan has regarded "human security" as a pillar of its assistance to developing countries and has built up a growing list of specific policies and measures in this area. Japan hopes that ESCAP, in collaboration with other relevant organizations, will carry out more projects in the future for economic and social development that reflect this human-centered way of thinking.

3. Balanced development of rural and urban areas and regions

Mr. Chairman,

   Within the ESCAP countries, in addition to the undesirable effects of past policies that placed predominant priority on urban and industrial development, the disparities between cities and rural areas are growing. The results are increasingly adverse effects on the health and daily lives of the people in those countries.

   Under these conditions, in order to realize the main theme of this year's Session, that is, to achieve "balanced development of urban and rural areas and regions," it is essential, first of all, for the relevant countries themselves to develop and set appropriate policies that meet their own particular needs and special characteristics regarding countermeasures against a number of problems, and then to carry out these policies in cooperation with donor countries, the United Nations, and other international organizations. Japan attaches particular importance to the alleviation of poverty and equitable growth in developing countries, environmental issues, countermeasures against infectious diseases, measures for disabled persons, and the narrowing of the digital divide. In the future as well, Japan intends to actively extend its cooperation focusing on these areas.

Mr. Chairman,

   I would like to touch upon these five points as follows:

   First, Japan believes that the developing countries' own efforts for the improvement of food production capability and sustainable agricultural development are essential keys to the reduction of poverty, especially in rural areas. In addition to extending support to countries in the Asian region in order to help them to diversify their agricultural production and strengthen their rural organizations and communities, Japan is providing assistance for rural financing to stimulate regional development and the creation of employment. In this connection, the CGPRT (Coarse Grains, Pulses, Roots, and Tuber Crops) Center is playing a very important role. Japan is supporting survey and research projects currently being conducted by the CGPRT Center that explore ways to deal with abnormal atmospheric phenomena, such as the El Nino phenomenon. From this year, Japan also will provide assistance to the Center for a new study on feed crops in South Asia.

   Second, the problem of poverty is closely linked to environmental problems. It is a very important task for us to faithfully carry out the recommendations resulting from the ESCAP Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific 2000, which was held last autumn in Japan. In particular, the Kitakyushu Initiative for a Clean Environment is a unique plan that picks up on the latent capability local governments have for coping with environmental problems. For the actual execution of this Initiative, Japan will provide financial assistance, as well as host the First Meeting of the Kitakyushu Initiative Network this autumn in Kitakyushu City. In addition to this assistance, I would like to announce here today that Japan will make a fresh contribution of 100,000 U.S. dollars to the core fund to support the activities of ESCAP's North-East Asian Subregional Programme of Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC).

   Third, for developing countries, such infectious diseases as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are not only a threat to the health of each individual citizen but also a great impediment to the social and economic development of entire countries, and this problem has become one of the central issues for the eradication of poverty. As part of the follow-up to the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, Japan hosted the Okinawa International Conference on Infectious Diseases last December. The conference produced a concrete plan of action for combating infectious diseases.

   Making use of its own postwar experience and knowledge, Japan will provide development cooperation in the amount of three billion U.S. dollars as the Okinawa Infectious Diseases Initiative. In Asia and the Pacific region, Japan will implement the Initiative effectively.

   Fourth, the Asian economic crisis was not only a problem limited to economic and financial aspects; it created problems impacting on the social security of the socially vulnerable-the poor, the disabled, the aged, and infants. Japan has been providing cooperation for the efforts undertaken by ESCAP as part of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons so that disabled persons are able to have access to basic infrastructure and services and participate in societal activities and development programs. In 2002, the final year of this Decade for Disabled Persons, Japan intends to host various international conferences to promote measures for assisting disabled persons. Japan also would like to propose the High-Level Meeting to Conclude the Decade of Disabled Persons to be held in Shiga Prefecture in Japan in 2002.

   Fifth, the benefits of this IT revolution still have not reached all peoples around the world. On the contrary, there is increasing concern over the emergence of a serious new gap-the digital divide. In order to achieve a balanced development of urban and rural areas and regions, we should strive to eliminate this digital divide.

   With this understanding, at last year's G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, Japan announced a comprehensive cooperation package totalling around 15 billion U.S. dollars over a course of five years for IT-related cooperation. This cooperation is related to policy-making and system-building leading to the utilization of IT by developing countries, the preparation of basic IT infrastructure, human resources development, and the use of IT in development. This package is now being implemented. Japan is cooperating actively in this field, for example, supporting, through the Japan-ESCAP Cooperation Fund, ESCAP's IT-related human resources development projects to be implemented from this year in the Greater Mekong Subregion and the Pacific island countries.

   Through this kind of cooperation, Japan would like to move forward with its assistance so that the Asian countries can bridge the digital divide and create their own new IT community that is rooted in the cultural diversity of the region. In this regard, as Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori announced at the ASEAN + 3 Summit in Singapore last November, Japan will host the Joint Conference of Government Officials, Prominent Academics and Business Leaders for IT Cooperation in East Asia this autumn. We would like to ask for the active participation of interested parties in this conference.

4. Conclusion

Mr. Chairman,

   Although ESCAP has long been contributing to the promotion of regional cooperation for social and economic development in the Asia-Pacific region, recently there have been voices claiming that ESCAP's presence, or its "face," is not so visible in the region. Amid the trend for promoting overall reform of the U.N. system, there have been strong calls for revamping ESCAP's organization, for the more efficient and effective implementation of its activities, and for the enhanced visibility of these activities. In this respect, the Government of Japan would like to express its highest regards to Executive Secretary Dr. Kim for his active initiatives for the promotion of these reforms of ESCAP since he assumed office last July.

   Finally, I would like to conclude my speech by once again affirming Japan's commitment to fulfilling its responsibilities and role in helping to make the twenty-first century one of greater peace and sustainable prosperity for all member countries and regions of ESCAP.

   Thank you very much.

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