2005 Statement


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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Shinichi Kitaoka

Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

Humanitarian Affairs Segment

Substantive Session

Economic and Social Council

15 July 2005

New York

Mr. Vice-President,
Let me begin by congratulating you on chairing extraordinary meetings of the ECOSOC humanitarian segment this year, which attracted an unprecedented level of interest. As USG Jan Egeland pointed out several times, one good thing that came out of the painful experience of the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean was the enhanced awareness of the need for international cooperation with solidarity and concerted international response that followed. We need to make full use of that to usher in a new era of mutual cooperation in humanitarian emergencies. This segment has an important role to play in strengthening our efforts in this area. To this end, Japan welcomes the report of the Secretary-General, which focuses on enhancing response capacity at the local, national, regional and international levels on the one hand and promoting international cooperation on the other. Let me briefly discuss both goals.

First, with regard to humanitarian response capacity, the first line of defense is at the local and national levels. If local and national authorities are overwhelmed by the magnitude of a crisis, however, the international community should provide assistance in a spirit of solidarity and from the viewpoint of “human security,” with the United Nations playing an important role. The capacity of the United Nations itself should be strengthened, if it is to address effectively the needs of vulnerable populations for assistance and protection. Ineffectiveness can result from the lack of expertise and leadership that is needed, but it can also be the result of a mandate not being clearly defined, as has happened when the task is assisting and protecting internally displaced persons. We hope and expect the General Assembly will address this issue of internally displaced persons and how best to structure efforts to assist them.

Second, in order to use existing resources efficiently, we should strengthen our efforts to identify the technical expertise that many countries have and establish a mechanism to mobilize it quickly in the event of a crisis. Stand-by arrangements between the United Nations and Member States as well as regional organizations to provide such expertise can be highly valuable in this regard. Such arrangements are sometimes hampered, however, by the lack of political will, interoperability and financial resources. Japan is determined to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders on such issues including how best to overcome financial difficulties. In addition, we should give humanitarian coordinators more capacities and stronger responsibilities in performing their role in coordinating international humanitarian assistance activities. Their role should not be limited to eliminating duplication but extend to strategic planning.

On the matter of an improved financial mechanism, we support a restructured Central Emergency Revolving Fund as a way to ensure rapid access to the financial resources needed for an effective response in the initial phase of a humanitarian crisis. We look forward to discussing particulars such as its size, the scope of applicable projects, and an accountability mechanism. Further efforts are needed to address the problem of under-funded emergencies, however, as we have learned from experience that the establishment of a new funding mechanism does not always increase overall financial resources for international cooperation.

Here again, the recent tsunami disaster offered important lessons. The international response was unprecedented in the number of new donors who came forward and the size of contributions from the private sector. We should redouble our efforts to expand the partnership for mutual cooperation in humanitarian emergencies. This will not be achieved by merely calling for more contributions. Such a call has to be accompanied by efforts to share with a wide range of Member States a sense of ownership of international humanitarian assistance. There should be increased policy dialogue with non-traditional donors, strengthened partnership in operational cooperation, and wider geographical representation with regard to the personnel employed by United Nations humanitarian organizations. Japan has been striving to facilitate the dialogue with a view to expanding the partnership, and is determined to continue such efforts. The potential of private funding should also be fully explored.

Lastly, Mr. Vice-President, although it may be beyond the scope of this segment, I wish to stress the importance of addressing disaster reduction. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean was a painful reminder of the impact of unmitigated natural disasters. Not only do they take a high toll in human life, they also destroy economic and social infrastructure and set development back. The impact of natural disasters is also long-lasting in the minds of affected population who need special care to recover from a traumatic experience. We should redouble our efforts to create a society resilient to natural disasters by incorporating disaster prevention and mitigation in national development planning. The Hyogo Framework for Action adopted in the World Conference on Disaster Reduction needs to be steadily implemented. We are looking forward to discussing these matters in the General Assembly.

Let me conclude, Mr. Vice-President, by expressing Japan’s full support for the clear focus of this year’s humanitarian segment. Bearing in mind the division of labor between this Council and the General Assembly, we believe that operational issues are an appropriate focus for ECOSOC. Such a focus will strengthen the Council’s policy guidance to the United Nations humanitarian assistance activities.

Thank you very much.