Opening Statement by Mr. Shigeo Uetake, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan at the 14th Post-Forum Dialogue

The Republic of the Fiji Islands
August 20, 2002

Ministerial Colleagues,

I am greatly honored to have this opportunity to make an opening statement on the occasion of the 14th Post-Forum Dialogue. First of all, on behalf of the Japanese delegation, I should like to offer my felicitations on the success of the 33rd Pacific Islands Forum Meeting. I should also like to express our sincere gratitude to the Government of the Republic of the Fiji Islands, Forum Secretariat and all others concerned for the excellent arrangements they made for the meetings between the PIF and its dialogue partners and for the hospitality they accorded to us.

Historically, Japan has been closely tied to Pacific island countries, and a number of Japanese descendants still live in those countries. Pacific island countries have kindly supported Japan on many issues in the international arena including the United Nations. In the economic aspect, Japan depends a large part of bonito and tuna imports on the Pacific region. The region is also important in terms of transportation routes of mineral and energy resources as well as the supply of lumber to Japan.

The Pacific island countries are still young nations which gained independence between the 1960s and the mid-1990s, and their nation building is, in a sense, still under way. Some countries are facing the threat of losing their land due to the sea-level rise which is said to be caused by global warming. Some countries have vulnerability to natural threats such as typhoons, cyclones and El Ninos. Japan is aware that the Pacific island countries are making strenuous efforts to achieve economic self-reliance, greatly welcomes such endeavors, and is determined to support them.

From this standpoint, Japan hosted so-called PALM 2000, the Second Japan-South Pacific Forum Summit Meeting, in April 2000. At this meeting, Japan proposed the "Pacific Common Frontiers Initiative", which is composed of three pillars: "Sustainable Development of the Pacific Islands Countries", "Regional and Global issues of Common Concerns", and "Strengthening of Japan-SPF (now PIF) Partnership". I would now like to explain how we have implemented these initiatives since the 13th Post-Forum Dialogue in Nauru last year.

The "Sustainable Development of the Pacific Islands Countries" is the first of the three pillars of "Pacific Common Frontiers Initiative." Japan hosted a JETRO/JICA/PIF International Symposium on "Human Resource Development Policies for Sustainable Development in the Pacific Islands Region" in September 2001 in Fiji. Former Prime Minister Mori of Japan, Prime Minister Qarase of Fiji, former President Nakamura of Palau attended the symposium among other distinguished participants. The participants had lively discussions about the importance of human resource development and the possibility of Japan's cooperation in this field.

As a part of the "Pacific IT Project," UNDP and JICA jointly held a seminar on the "Information Technology for Development in the Pacific" in January 2001 in Okinawa. As a second step, UNDP has initiated work for the formulation of the "National IT Strategies," by using Japan's financial assistance, from June 2002. We have expectation that this project will assist the Pacific island countries to eradicate digital divide.

"Regional and Global issues of Common Concerns," is the second pillar. To ensure the effectiveness of the measures against global warming, Japan considers it critically important to build a common rule in which all the countries including the United States and developing countries participate. Japan is determined to continue making all possible efforts and would like to ask for support of the Pacific island countries in this context.

Japan attaches a great deal of importance to WSSD Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, and wishes to work together with PIF countries. In this context, the head of the Japanese delegation (Foreign Minister KAWAGUCHI) would like to invite PIF delegates to an informal meeting in the fringe of WSSD. I would like to ask for your participation in this meeting.

With regard to waste management, Japan hopes that the SPREP (South Pacific Regional Environmental Program) Training Center, which has just been completed in February this year with Japan's grant aid, will provide wide-ranging cooperation projects which cover the whole region.

Regarding infectious diseases such as AIDS and refugees problems, Japan has spent approximately 1.59 million dollars from Japan's "Human Security Fund" in the UN for the projects designed for the peoples in the Pacific islands. For example, some fund is expected to be allocated to the rehabilitation of educational facilities in the Solomon Islands, where many refugees have suffered from the ethnic conflict.

The third pillar of the "Pacific Common Frontiers Initiative" is the "Strengthening of Japan-SPF Partnership." Japan has dispatched three "Pacific Intellectual Dialogue Missions" to Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia from November 2000 to June 2001. These missions produced recommendations on the promotion of mutual understanding, support for education, human resource development and the preservation of cultural heritage. The proposal of the "Pacific Intellectual Dialogue Missions" was submitted to Prime Minister Koizumi in November 2001.

In response to these recommendations, an international symposium, "Japan and the Pacific - Globalism and the Traditional Culture of Micronesia," was held in Ishikawa Prefecture in March this year. The symposium was attended by leaders and traditional chiefs, including Vice President Sandra S. Pierantozzi of Palau and Foreign Secretary Ieske K. Iehsi of the Federated States of Micronesia. In the symposium, participants actively took part in discussions and exchanged views on how to preserve traditional culture in the region in the globalisation age.

Japan highly appreciates the role of the PIF in promoting peace, prosperity and co-operation in the region and in strengthening ties with Japan. In this regard, Japan is committed to continue its support to the PIF. On the other hand, a serious situation in the Japanese economy has put heavy pressure on Japan's ODA budget, and I would like to ask for the understanding that Japan needs to convert its ODA policy from quantity-oriented approach to quality-oriented one. In this regard, it is highly desired that the Forum Secretariat make continuous efforts for efficient management of the projects with Japanese funds. Japan also appreciates self-help endeavours on the part of PIF members, which are required for the sustainable economic development in the region.

I was told that the first committee meeting of the Pacific Islands Development Cooperation Fund was held in July this year. I hope this fund will also be utilized effectively.

In the recent years, political stability, democratization, post-conflict peace building and development are at issue in this region. Japan considers the support for democratization as one of the main pillars of Japan's ODA towards Pacific island countries. From this point of view, Japan provided support for the general elections in Fiji and Solomon Islands last year, including the dispatch of election observers. As part of support for democratization, conflict prevention and peace building, Japan is planning to implement the rehabilitation program for ex-combatants through improvement of infrastructure in Solomon Islands, utilizing the "Human Security Fund."

Japan continues to promote the "Pacific Common Frontiers Initiative" and is working to prepare the third Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Summit Meeting (PALM 2003) some time between April and June next year. In this regard, we would like to start exploring an appropriate timing and agenda for PALM 2003 with the PIF members. Japan welcomes active participation and cooperation from PIF members. Thank you.

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