H.E. Mr. Koichi Haraguchi
Permanent Representative of Japan
At the Open Debate of the Security Council in Connection with "Post-Conflict National Reconciliation: The Role of the United Nations"
26 January 2004
I would like to thank you for convening this open debate. The issue of national reconciliation following conflicts has not been much discussed in the United Nations. I must confess that Japan is still in the process of studying this issue and has not yet arrived at a firm position on it. However, I am sure that everyone will agree that reconciliation is indispensable for the consolidation of peace in unstable post-conflict societies. Consolidation of peace is one of the key elements of "human security," which the Government of Japan has been advocating. It is our hope that we will produce better ideas through the discussion in today's meeting, on such important issues as how to promote reconciliation successfully in a post-conflict society and the role of the international community and the United Nations in that undertaking.
Reconciliation has psychological aspects to it, and for this reason is not so easy to achieve. Unless the truth is fully disclosed, it is difficult to create a basis for reconciliation. On the other hand, hatred and bitterness do not always fade away so easily even when the truth has been exposed. There are cases in which the only effective remedy for rancor is the passage of a considerable amount of time. Especially as regards hatred and bitterness at the individual level, which results from so many, varied situations, I believe that it is not practical to discuss solutions in the United Nations. In this connection, you have made a very wise suggestion, Mr. President, in specifying "national reconciliation" as today's topic, because, as far as national reconciliation is concerned, we believe that there are several things that the international community and the United Nations can and must do in order to promote reconciliation in precarious post-conflict societies.
The first task is the restoration of justice. Punishing in accordance with the law those who have perpetrated serious crimes against humanity during conflicts will certainly contribute to national reconciliation. It is also important in deterring others from committing similar crimes in the future. At the same time, however, it is necessary to recognize as a problem the fact that reconciliation does not progress significantly while a trial is under way. This is particularly true when a trial takes a long time to be completed. It should be noted that there are a number of cases in which early national reconciliation is required for the prompt consolidation of peace, and that, in order to enable people to come to terms with the past and to establish relationships of trust within the community, there exist a variety of policy options ranging from strict punishment to total forgiveness. It is vital for a post-conflict society to choose the policy measures which it considers best suited to its unstable transitional situation. We should bear in mind that the strict application of "justice" as defined by a third party in post-conflict societies does not always contribute to national reconciliation.
It may be useful to consider this matter on the basis of actual examples. In South Africa, confessions of the truth about past criminal deeds, the granting of amnesty, and compensation for victims were pursued in combination and led to successful national reconciliation. In the case of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste, the combination of public apologies by the offenders and their engagement in activities contributing to the general welfare was suggested and eventually accepted as appropriate by the victims of the crimes. This solution is considered to have promoted the restoration of justice and reconciliation at the community level. Both cases show the wisdom of the people in the community concerned, in judging that the restoration of justice and promotion of national reconciliation can be effectively achieved by finding the hard truth.
Second, it is important to end discrimination and social injustice. In any society, if a portion of the population feel that they have been subjected to social inequity, that situation has the potential to develop into a conflict. As long as such conditions continue, it will be difficult to achieve and consolidate reconciliation. It is therefore critically important to eliminate, through promoting fundamental human rights of universal values, unfair discriminatory systems and practices among the people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, so as to establish a society where they can live together in peace. The international community can contribute here, but, again, it is not easy to define what will be accepted as "equitable" by two parties that have been involved in a conflict. Japan believes it is essential that the parties to the conflict themselves take time to talk to each other calmly and patiently, and to apply themselves to accumulating successful outcomes one by one. The international community, for its part, should support the creation of a framework to facilitate such discussion. For instance, we should take action to help initiate dialogue between the parties to a conflict. Much consideration has been given to the budget for the minority group in Kosovo by UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo. We welcome this as an effort that would reduce the social injustice as perceived by the minority group. We also welcome the effort to promote a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. It is a necessary and appropriate step toward coexistence.
Third, we wish to underscore the importance of economic and social development. Areas in which conflicts arise are often areas plagued by poverty. And the economic and social difficulties that people continue to experience in their daily lives make it more likely that they will be conscious of social injustice or feel rancor towards those that they perceive to be the source of social injustice. Japan believes that a most effective means of achieving reconciliation is to create conditions in which people are able to entertain the hope that their lives will be better in the future. The more confident people are that reconstruction will succeed, the more easily reconciliation will proceed.
The relationship among national reconciliation, justice, truth, and reconstruction in the transitional post-conflict phase is extremely complex, and the most effective and appropriate mix of policy measures is different for each specific case. Both the issue of justice and that of reconstruction have been taken up and discussed extensively in the United Nations, but if we are to address effectively all the important aspects relating to consolidation of peace in the precarious phase of a post-conflict society, it is necessary, in our view, to include the issue of national reconciliation in our deliberation as well.
Before concluding, I would like to propose that the United Nations study past success stories in the area of national reconciliation and identify the problems encountered along the way and the lessons learned. I believe this will certainly enhance the effectiveness of our deliberation on this important issue.
Thank you, Mr. President.