Opening Remarks by Prof. Akiko Yamanaka
Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

at the Seminar on Community Building in the Multi-ethnic Societies of the Western Balkans - from the Human Security point of view

March 22, 2006

1. Introduction

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to this Seminar.

This seminar aims at exploring how we can promote further stability in the Western Balkans, by focusing on community building in the multi-ethnic societies. The seminar also intends to examine how the concept of human security applies to community building in the Western Balkans.

2. Situation in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans has made great progress toward stability in recent years. The integration into the EU as its goal has definitely served as a driving force. Croatia has started its accession negotiation with the EU and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) acquired a candidate status last year.

However, challenges remain. Kosovo's future status is unsolved. Its future course could have significant ramifications for regional stability. People of Montenegro will decide whether or not to remain in the State Union. Its secession may complicate the situation in Serbia. Bosnia and Herzegovina must strengthen the competence of its central government through constitutional reform. Throughout the region, high unemployment rate continues to stimulate parochial nationalism. This may hinder a growing tendency toward reconciliation. All these factors are attributed mainly to the region's multi-ethnic nature.

3. Community building as a tool to achieve stability

In the multi-ethnic environment in the Western Balkans, successful community building is the key to its stability. However, community building is not an easy process. It requires strenuous efforts to create trust and tolerance. We need to analyze the impediments and identify measures for effective community building. We then need to implement them, taking into full account specific feature of each society.

4. Human security perspective for community building

The concept of human security can provide a useful perspective for community building. Japan launched the concept as one of its core foreign policies. Human security focuses on individual people and community. It envisages protecting individuals from actual or potential threats, such as conflict, human-rights violation, displacement and poverty, and empowering them so that they can take action against these threats. Since community building can be better promoted where individuals are properly protected and empowered, human security concept can be a useful tool to identify necessary measures for effective community building.

5. Japan's assistance in the Western Balkans

Japan has extended economic cooperation to the Western Balkans while reflecting the concept of human security. As a part of these efforts, Japan hosted with Ireland, then EU Presidency, "the Ministerial Conference on Peace Consolidation and Economic Development of the Western Balkans" in Tokyo in 2004. Japan at the conference defined "consolidation of peace," "economic development" and "regional cooperation" as main pillars of our policy toward the region. Today's seminar is one of the follow-ups to the conference.

6. Concrete measures for community building

Measures for community building have both political and economic aspects. On political front, capacity building of local authorities is one of the important key elements of the community building. Protection of minority rights as well as the return and settlement of refugees and internally displaced persons could be facilitated if local capacities were properly enhanced. Education also plays particularly an important role in order to promote reconciliation. The application of unified standards for academic programs and the use of the same textbooks are its effective measures. Media is also important for reconciliation. Multilingual broadcasting and ethnically unbiased programs are viable tools to promote mutual understanding.

I would also like to stress the importance of the economic aspect. If people from different ethnic background work together in a same company, they will be bound by a common business interest. Such common interest enables people to overcome differences and nurture a sense of solidarity. Job creation particularly in local industries can be an effective measure to create a common interest in the communities where introduction of foreign investment is considered to be difficult. By focusing on local industries, we are able to expect relatively quick results with small-scale investment. Job creation can be also effectively promoted by capacity building of individuals. Especially, training in the areas of various local industries at the community level is an effective means for job creation.

Over the past ten years, people in the region have gradually learned ways to coexist, but have yet to gain enough experience for reconciliation. Economically, while having graduated from the reconstruction phase, the region has not yet been on a sustainable development path. For successful community building, both political and economic measures must be applied in parallel.

7. Proceedings

Lastly let me explain how the entire seminar will proceed. First, I would like to ask representatives from the Stability Pact and OSCE Presidency to give overall assessments. It will be followed by session I, in which representatives from the Western Balkans and Japan deliver reports. Speakers from the region are expected to address problems for community building in the multi-ethnic societies and identify means which would lead to successful community building by sharing some of the best practices and lessons learnt. Japanese speakers are expected to introduce human security concept and its application to community building, as well as related activities in the region.

In session II, we will have two round table discussions. In the first round table, I would like to ask a UNHCR representative and Prof. Nakamitsu of Hitotsubashi University to make introductory statements, followed by discussions focusing on measures to strengthen capacities of local authorities and promote reconciliation through media and education. In the second round table, we would like to ask representatives from UNDP and JETRO to make introductory statements, followed by discussions focusing on means to stimulate job creation in a multi-ethnic environment especially in small and medium-sized business.

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