2003 Statement


H.E. Mr. Koichi Haraguchi

Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

On Item 40, "Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance"

21 October 2003

Mr. President,

Let me first of all express my deep respect to all UN personnel devoted to humanitarian assistance activities. They are making an admirable contribution to the effort to help people in need, even at the risks of losing their lives. Despite their sincere efforts, however, there are often cases where humanitarian assistance does not fully produce the expected results due to a lack of coordination among donors and UN agencies tackling the same crisis from different angles.

We are of the view that close coordination among donors and various humanitarian agencies and a seamless transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction are crucial to achieving effective and mutually reinforcing results, given the limited resources available. Japan once again calls on all donors and humanitarian agencies to work closely together, with OCHA playing a central role in coordinating them.

In this connection, the Government of Japan welcomes the report of the Commission on Human Security submitted to the Secretary-General last May, which very ably addresses this important issue of the need for UN agencies to deal with a crisis in a comprehensive and integrated manner among other subjects. Our delegation took the liberty of sending a copy of this report to all the missions in New York, and it is our hope that the delegates here will have a chance to read it.

The report says, "assistance is often compartmentalized for different categories of people -- refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons, demobilized combatants -- reflecting the mandates of agencies providing assistance, not overall needs." The areas of assistance are also divided by the mandates of agencies into food, education, medical care, and housing, just to name a few. In reality, however, all forms of activity aimed at helping people in need affect each other. In order to address the real needs of suffering people in an effective manner, UN agencies need to engage in their dedicated work in a more integrated and comprehensive manner.

It is also important to ensure a seamless transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction. Madam Sadako Ogata, Former High Commissioner for Refugees and Co-chair of the Commision on Human Security, has challenged the notion of "post-conflict" and urged us to rethink the current working arrangements, which has been formulated in accordance with a rather artificial and often misleading demarcation between activities for conflict situations and those to be implemented in post-conflict situations. Although the focus of activities may shift in time, humanitarian and development assistance needs to be implemented throughout the spectrum of the conflict and post-conflict stages of any humanitarian crisis. With a focus on assisting people rather than adhering to institutional mandates, we will be able to produce results that address the problems facing them in their entirety in the most effective manner.

Based on this idea, the Government of Japan has launched an innovative initiative to provide comprehensive regional development assistance to Afghanistan, under the name the "Ogata Initiative." This initiative aims at arranging and implementing specific, feasible projects emphasizing regional recovery and community empowerment in close cooperation with agencies including UNHCR, UNICEF, and WFP, under the ownership of the Afghan people. The projects cover a broad range of areas such as temporary housing and water-supply systems for the resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, and income-generation and food-for-work programs for comprehensive regional development. Through the experience we obtain from this initiative, I hope that we will be able to further develop a methodology for applying the conceptual framework of human security to concrete projects on the ground that reflect recipients' interests.

Mr. President,

It is also true that, no matter how efficiently the relevant UN agencies coordinate among themselves, humanitarian assistance activities cannot be carried out fully without adequate financial resources. Here lies the reason why efforts to ensure public understanding are important. Deeper and broader understanding and support for humanitarian needs among the public will make it easier for countries to make contributions to humanitarian crises. To this end, it is essential that UN agencies take special care to inform the general public of the tangible and positive results which their activities are expected to produce in the lives of people suffering through humanitarian crises. In order to realize broader support for humanitarian activities that reflect the diversity of the international community, it is also important to try to increase the number of new donors as well as to enhance geographical balance with respect to humanitarian personnel employed by UN organizations.

At the same time, it is important not to forget the price of our failure to act on what are sometimes called "forgotten crises." When CNN broadcasts news about a new crisis that includes shocking footage of people in distress, it immediately attracts world attention. On the other hand, even if a humanitarian tragedy continues for a long time, very few will know or be concerned about it unless there is press coverage. Japan hopes that OCHA and other agencies further improve the way, for example, through the Consolidated Appeal Process (CPA), to address forgotten crises more effectively. For its part, Japan continues to extend humanitarian assistance to regions less in the public eye, such as southern Africa, either through the United Nations or bilaterally.

Mr. President,

In the wake of the violent attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, the security of humanitarian personnel has come to the forefront of international concern. Humanitarian personnel are often dispatched to dangerous front lines even at very early stages of conflict in a spirit of humanity, neutrality, and impartiality. These are people who are most deeply committed to the noble cause of helping others who are helpless and suffering, and no attack on these people, whatever the reason, should ever be tolerated. We have to bear in mind that no effective humanitarian assistance is possible without their presence on the ground. It is indispensable to ensure the safety of personnel engaging in United Nations humanitarian operations. Japan welcomes Security Council resolution 1502 as an important step toward better protection of humanitarian personnel. It is necessary to conduct further discussion on this matter, including the question of expanding the scope of protection under the existing Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

Lastly, Mr. President, let me touch briefly upon the importance of disaster reduction. In addition to man-made conflict, natural disasters often cause grave humanitarian crises. Consequently, a significant portion of humanitarian assistance activities have as their goal providing relief to victims of natural disasters. But relief is only a part of the answer. A wider range of measures is required to this end, including those aimed at reduction of natural disasters, namely, mitigation, prevention, and preparedness. I have to stress that disaster reduction is also essential to the achievement of the overarching objectives of sustainable development. It is highly important as well in terms of carrying out the WSSD Plan of Implementation, as well as following up the Ministerial Conference of the Third World Water Forum. Japan has proposed that the General Assembly adopt a resolution enabling the United Nations to hold a World Conference on Disaster Reduction, in order to conclude the review of the Yokohama Strategy and upgrade it so that it will more fully reflect the guiding principles of the Plan of Implementation and identify specific policy measures to put it into effect. I would like to appeal to Member States to support this resolution. And if it is accepted, Japan would like to host the conference in Kobe, in Hyogo Prefecture, in January 2005, in close coordination and cooperation with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat.

Mr. President,

Let me conclude my remarks by assuring you that Japan, together with other donor countries, will continue to be an active supporter of OCHA and other UN agencies engaging in humanitarian assistance.

Thank you, Mr. President.