Speech by Mr. Keiichiro FUKUSHIMA, parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the Conference on "Good Governance for Development in the Arab Countries"
6 February 2005
Dead Sea - The Hachemite kingdom of Jordan
Your Majesty, King Abdullah
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Faisal
Mr. Johnston, Secretary General of the OECD,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great pleasure to attend this conference on "Good Governance for Development in the Arab Countries" and to have this opportunity to speak today. I personally have strong ties with the Arab region, and in Japan I am a member of eight parliamentarian associations that promote friendship with Arab countries, including one with Jordan. Just two months ago, I visited this region, including the Palestine autonomous region and Israel where I spoke out in favor of peace in the Middle East. In Libya, I exchanged views on weapons of mass destruction and the development of the market economy. Consequently I have a close affinity with the Middle East region.
I have long believed that improving public governance of this region will open the way to a friendly relation between Japan and the Arab countries. It has also been my opinion that political commitment from the highest levels is needed to ensure public governance reform, for it is a difficult challenge to institute these reforms that will result in broad changes of the social structure. I am pleased to note that the initiative to hold this conference demonstrates the strong determination of Arab countries regarding reform. I would like to refer to three issues today. The first one is Arabic Tradition and Governance, the second, Japan's Experience in Building Public Governance, and the third, Japan's Support for Building Governance.
2. Arabic Tradition and Governance
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Arab region has been rich in cultures, civilizations and traditions for long time. Historically, this region contributed to the European Renaissance, and has recently played an active geo-political role. Good governance rests on the development of trust and co-operation between the government and the citizen and among the citizen. Investment, which is an important activity of citizen including enterprises, is also dependent on the trust and co-operation between government and citizen.
Naturally, the MENA/OECD initiative for economic growth of the MENA region consists of two main pillars: Investment and Public Governance. As Japan is also a nation blessed with a rich culture, civilization and traditions, we have also been required to continuously study how to adapt to a world of increasing globalization. I should say that the very foundation of the Japanese nation-building lies in its citizen.
3. Public Governance
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me develop my argument a bit further. Improving public governance is not only an activity to fill the gap between people's expectations for public service and reality. It is also a challenging process, based on mutual trust among the members of society, to identify a new relationship among the government, business and civil society, through interaction on individual, organizational, regional and national levels, in order to create a dynamic society. Improving public governance consists of a wide-ranging efforts to enhance the transparency of policy decision-making process, to improve the quality and speed of administrative services, to establish law and order, and to strengthen disclosure including that of public enterprises. That is to say, public governance reform relates to almost all government activities. In addition, the range of public governance reform extends to education and human resource development in all three sectors. Overcoming these challenges would help societies with a rich history and cultural traditions to adopt to the international system of globalization.
Let me briefly touch upon our past experience. When Japan began to build a modern state after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, - its priorities were first, on governance, second, on education and human resource development, and third, on the development of an infrastructure. Japan also developed relevant laws in these prioritized areas to improve efficiency. After World War II, Japan gave top priority to social fairness, while maintaining these three areas as key factors in policy decisions.
Taking what I have said into account, you will not be surprised if I insist that each society should improve its own public governance in a suitable manner befitting that society, rather than adopting a uniformed model. The fact that Arab countries, which are so similar in many social respects, have decided to launch this forum, and been ready to make reforms in order to share their experiences and knowledge represents an historical step. I believe strongly that this initiative will become the engine of development in this region.
4. Japan's support
Japan declares its solidarity with both pillars of the MENA/OECD initiative, which is based on the strong ownership of MENA countries. For example, Japan has co-chaired the steering group of "the Investment for Development" project and has also supported it financially. It is because of our sympathy to the Arab region that Japan will also contribute about 100,000 USD to the Public Governance Project which is officially launched today. The contribution will be made through the UNDP Partnership Fund that Japan set up in UNDP.
In addition, regarding ODA, Japan will maintain various bilateral co-operation in the field of public governance. For instance, by hosting training programs in Japan for MENA countries on local governmental administration, accounting audits of public works, public human resource management, and traffic police administration, we have provided know-how and experience and have supported the development of human resources in the region. We also provide training courses implemented in the region such as the judicial and legal training for Palestinian judges in co-operation with Jordan.
5. In conclusion
The success of the MENA/OECD Initiative depends upon reform of the current system. While the process may encounter many difficulties, it is important to go steadily forward with this initiative, in the spirit of pioneers recreating their own country. If you do, when I visit the MENA region again in a few years, I am sure to find more vibrant and dynamic societies.
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