H.E. Ambassador Koichi Haraguchi
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
On the Role of Civil Society in Post-Conflict Peace-Building
22 June 2004
Before I speak on today's topic, I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family as well as the government and people of the Republic of Korea for the brutal killing of its countryman. The news was so sad and shocking. I join you, Madame President, in condemning the barbaric act of terrorism.
I would like to commend you for your leadership in convening this open debate on the role of civil society in post-conflict peace building in the Security Council. It is particularly timely in the light of the fact that the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations Relations with Civil Society was just released yesterday.
The report states that governments alone cannot resolve today’s global challenges. This is also true with regard to post-conflict peace building. It is not realistic to expect that governments and international organizations alone can respond fully and effectively to everything the process of peace-building requires in such broad and varied fields as repatriation and resettlement of refugees, restoration of public security based on the rule of law, economic reconstruction, rehabilitation of local communities, national reconciliation, and so on. Civil society organizations which have been engaging for a long time and with strong commitments in those fields of activities have an important complementary role to play in the peace-building process. They are not only precious additional assistance forces but oftentimes have intimate knowledge and valuable experience which can be useful for effectively carrying out aid activity. I believe that cooperative interaction between those civil society organizations and humanitarian and resident coordinators of the UN agencies makes it easier to achieve our common objective: to create an environment where the people in a post-conflict country can have a hope that they will be able to enjoy better lives tomorrow.
When we speak of the role of civil society organizations in the post-conflict peace-building process, I wish to emphasize two additional points which I consider important. The first point is that civil society organizations can serve as educational fora for the members to deepen understanding of their relations to the international community. Through participation in the activities of such civil society organizations, ordinary people come to realize how deeply they are connected to the international community, and develop stronger commitment to international cooperation. Thus, civil society organizations can be reliable supporters and valuable partners to the governments which are promoting peace-building in a post-conflict society. Where there is not much history of civil society organizations, therefore, it is sometimes appropriate to nurture and strengthen their local civil society organizations, while respecting their status as non-governmental organizations.
As an example, I would like to mention our experience with the Japan Platform, a system to provide more efficient and quick emergency relief, in which NGOs, business, and the government participate in an equal partnership. In 1999, some Japanese NGOs began considering assistance to Kosovo refugees. However, they soon realized that they lacked sufficient financial resources and personnel with experience on the ground. Therefore, the four NGOs planned a joint project to construct refugee camps, searching for ways to overcome their weak points through cooperation with the Japanese government. In the process, it became widely recognized that it is better to broaden the cooperation not only between NGOs and government but also with other actors such as business, media and academia. This recognition led to the creation of the Japan Platform, through which the parties concerned coordinate and cooperate for quick and effective implementation of emergency relief, making full use in an equal partnership of the strengths and resources of each. In this new system, the government makes financial contributions; business and individuals make donations; the business circle provides technology, equipment, personnel, and information; and relevant actors in the media, private foundations, and academia participate and cooperate in order to enhance accountability. The NGOs participating in the Japan Platform are engaging vigorously in humanitarian assistance activities aimed at post-conflict peace-building in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Liberia, and other countries.
The second point I wish to mention is the unique and important role that the local civil society organizations can play. Peace-building cannot succeed without the ownership of the people in a post-conflict country and the activities of the civil society organizations of that country are nothing but an eloquent expression of their ownership. They are often very effective in the peace-building process too, because they know their local situation best. For example, a group of traditionally respected figures in a society may be able to persuade perpetrators of human right abuses to admit and to apologize in public to the victims for their past wrongdoings. This can be a direct contribution to national reconciliation. I understand that the Bashingantahe of Burundi used to play such function effectively. Another example is a case where child soldiers gradually accepted disarmament in response to repeated appeals from a women’s association in the community. The promotion of local civil society organizations also enhances the sense of ownership of the people in a country by providing them with a means of rebuilding their society by themselves. Fostering a sense of ownership is also essential for the empowerment of individuals and local communities and, in turn, for the promotion of human security. It is thus important that local civil society organizations develop their activities in post-conflict countries, and I believe that the United Nations and the international community should provide assistance to that end. For its part, Japan intends to work together with local civil society organizations in the implementation of projects through the Human Security Trust Fund as well as grass-roots human security grant aid.
In establishing the panel on UN relations with civil society, the Secretary-General pointed out that there was less participation in UN affairs by NGOs from developing countries, as compared to those from the North. The difference in participation may be a reflection of different appreciation among countries toward the role of civil society organizations. I hope, however, that today’s open debate will contribute to the creation of a common recognition of the important role that civil society organizations can play in post-conflict peace-building process.
Thank you very much.