Opening Remarks by Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
Masahiko Shibayama
At The 7th Seminar on Inter-Civilization Dialogue
between Japan and the Islamic World

Kuwait, 11 March, 2009

Your Excellency, Hussein Nasser Al-Huraiti, Minister of Justice and Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affaris
Your Excellency, Sheikha Amthal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,
Esteemed participants,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to congratulate and express my heartfelt gratitude to the Government of Kuwait for successfully hosting the Seventh Seminar on Inter-Civilization Dialogue between Japan and the Islamic World.

This seminar constitutes one of the pillars of the initiative called "Toward Multi-layered Relations with the Gulf Countries" announced by the then Foreign Minister and current Speaker of the House of Representative of Japan, Mr. Yohei Kono, during his visit to the Gulf region in 2001.
Hence, owing much to the efforts of intellectuals of Japan and Islamic countries, we are now in the 7th successful year since the 1st seminar was kindly hosted by Bahrain in March 2002.
As we all know, the theme of this year is "Harmonization of Civilization with Environments".

With regard to sensitivity towards preserving our environment, the last couple of years have been a significant turning point.

Many of us here today may have seen the film "An Inconvenient Truth", or have read the Fourth Assessment report on climate change released in February 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel in Climate Change, which declares that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

As a result, there are now few who question the real crisis the global environment is facing.

The question at hand now, is "How"-"How" we, as a global community, are to deal with this global threat despite our vast cultural and economic diversity.

We are already moving towards an overall goal. At the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in Japan last year, the leaders agreed to seek to share with all the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change the vision of the goal of achieving at last 50% reduction of global emissions of warming gas by 2050. I strongly believe that all countries concerned should make their utmost efforts to advance the current negotiation towards Copenhagen.

There lies, however, an even greater task ahead.

Each country will have to come to face with their own economic and social priorities and attain some sort of compromise for the preservation of the environment.

Oil producing nations rely heavily on oil and gas export for their budget. Japanese energy, on the other hand relies on those countries.

We are in the same boat, in view of the risk we face from depletion of fossil fuel or environmental destruction. In this regard, we acknowledge the important investment and contribution Gulf countries have made to developing new energy. Today, Japan and Kuwait enjoy friendly cooperative relationship in all fields, and especially in the environmental field.

For example, Japan External Trade Organization or JETRO has cooperated with Kuwait in implementing a model project of research study on the Rehabilitation of the Kuwait Bay suffering from spilt oil. And environmental education system developed by a Japanese NPO ArTech, International Art & Technology Cooperation Organization, has been adopted by public schools in Kuwait with major achievements.

This is a vivid example of how we should proceed.

I am pleased to know that this time, we have among the Japanese intellectuals, experts of various fields apart from the students of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies in their personal capacity: staff from international organization working toward practical use of nuclear fusion reactor, which is said to be the ultimate clean energy; an editor of a book based on the renowned chain e-mail "If the world were a village of 100 people"; and others involved in unique activities.

Diversity of culture and knowledge is a positive factor for the continued existence and progress of all human beings, just as biodiversity is. Civilization evolves into a new phase stimulated by different values.

I understand that the participants from Japan are prepared to propose an idea of launching a creative intellectual network named "Wisdom bridging Japan and the Islamic World". I expect that this dialogue will facilitate collaborative studies and workshop as well as intellectual exchange with researchers, scholars and citizens from other cultural areas.

In this seminar, a youth exchange session will also be held, as the previous Riyadh session. This will be a prime opportunity for the young people who will lead the next generation, to exchange views on various issues together with the intellectuals of both sides, and to realize that there are people who have different views and consider why they do so. This reminds us of the special meeting of UN General Assembly on dialogues among cultures and religions last November launched by the initiative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. At the meeting, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah emphasized that we should focus our efforts on consolidating the true religious and moral values, and on the common just principles which all religions call for and, from which all cultures advance, to become a meeting point for us, putting importance on the education of youth.

So Japan is happy to maintain its commitment to advance this dialogue with the Islamic World. I hope that the various discussions at this seminar will provide energy and food for further activities of all the participants in their own field.

This seminar of intellectual dialogue which has continues up to this seventh in a rapidly changing world today deserves high praise. I would like to express my profound respect to the intellectuals who have put a great deal of efforts toward continuing and developing this seminar.

Again, may I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of the State of Kuwait represented by H.E. Hussein Nasser Al-Huraiti, Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affaris, which plays a major role as a host country for its great deal of effort.

Finally, allow me to conclude with a heartfelt wish that this two-day seminar will be a resounding success.

Thank you very much.

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