Remarks by H.E. Mr. Tsuneo Nishida
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the University of California, Los Angeles
February 24, 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the University of California, Los Angeles, for organizing this roundtable on this beautiful campus.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here, especially given that I served as Consul-General of Japan in Los Angeles from August 1999 through March 2001.
Today, I will speak on the topic of Japan and the United Nations. After giving the historical background, I will explain Japan’s UN policy, including Japanese efforts in the field of peace and security as well as those in the area of development and environment. I will then talk about UN reform, namely, administrative and budgetary reform, and Security Council reform.
In the wake of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference established the League of Nations. As an emerging power, Japan played an important role in this organization, occupying one of the permanent seats on the Council.
However, the era of international cooperation did not last long. Japan withdrew from the League in 1933, after the Assembly of the League voted on and adopted the Lytton Report on the situation in Manchuria. Less than a decade later, the Second World War broke out. Japan fought in that war and was defeated.
After the war, achieving reintegration into the international community became one of the principal objectives of post-war Japanese diplomacy. Securing Japan’s admittance to the United Nations was of primary significance in this regard.
But it was not an easy task. With the Cold War deepening, Japan’s application was rejected through consecutive negative votes on the part of the Eastern Bloc countries.
It was not until December 1956 that Japan's accession to the United Nations was finally approved. At the UN General Assembly, Japan made its maiden speech. Then-Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu stated:
“We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance, for all time from the earth.”
This historical background may help to explain the special attachment the Japanese people have to the United Nations. More than a half-century has already passed since then, but we Japanese still have at heart the kind of passion for multilateral diplomacy that Mr. Shigemitsu expressed in his speech.
(Japanese UN diplomacy today)
The United Nations was, at its inception, an alliance of the Allied powers, which fought against the Axis powers. The existence of the so-called “enemy clauses” in the UN Charter, which today are a dead letter, is a vestige of this.
In the course of its more than 60-year history, however, the UN has become a truly universal organization, whose mission is to serve the interests of the whole of mankind. The UN membership has expanded in that period from 51 member states in 1945 to 193 today.
The issues addressed by the UN now extend to all fields of human activity: peace and security, development, environment, and human rights, among others. In a world undergoing rapid globalization, issues such as climate change and infectious diseases have emerged as major challenges in the international arena. With the end of the Cold War and the rise of emerging countries, the world order is becoming increasingly more complicated to maintain.
Only the UN can lay claim to the universality and specialization required to address today’s myriad challenges. This unique role of the United Nations explains the importance Japan attaches to the organization. In his statement at the General Debate in September 2011 at the UN in New York, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reiterated Japan’s commitment to the UN.
Through and in partnership with the UN, Japan can carry forward its diplomacy for addressing global issues, while extending at the same time the bilateral relationships Japan maintains with individual countries into the multilateral sphere.
Now I would like to give you a more concrete picture. First, I’ll speak about Japan’s efforts in the field of peace and security, in particular, through peacekeeping operations and disarmament. Secondly, in the field of development and environment, I’ll talk about the Rio+20 Conference.
(Peace and security)
UN activities in this field comprise, schematically speaking, several phases: conflict prevention, peacemaking, peace enforcement, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. Over the last several decades, peacekeeping operations have become the core UN activity in the fields of peace and security.
United Nations peacekeeping began in 1948, when the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, known as UNTSO, was created. UNTSO exemplifies the traditional type of peacekeeping operation, conducting observation and monitoring ceasefires.
With the end of the Cold War, the strategic context changed dramatically. Quantitatively speaking, there occurred a rapid increase in the number of PKOs. In qualitative terms, PKOs have become complex, multidimensional undertakings. Today, PKOs are involved in almost all phases from conflict prevention to peacebuilding. They are called upon not only to monitor ceasefires but also to facilitate the political process, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants, support the organization of elections, protect human rights, and assist in restoring the rule of law.
The latest example of this multidimensional type of PKO is UNMISS, the recently established United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. Let me touch on Japanese participation in UNMISS for a moment.
As international peace and security are indispensable for its stability and prosperity, Japan endeavors to provide as much assistance as possible to that end. Since the enactment of its international peace cooperation law in 1992, Japan has dispatched contingents and personnel to 13 PKO missions.
The participation of the JSDF in the UN Mission in South Sudan marks a landmark event.
South Sudan became independent in July last year. With a view to providing support for peace consolidation and to fostering longer-term nation-building and economic development of this country, a new UN PKO mission, the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, or UNMISS, was launched.
In this context, last December, the Japanese government decided to dispatch up to 330 JSDF engineer troops. Japan has made this important political decision, responding to the high expectations of the international community. Through the activities of the JSDF, Japan hopes to contribute to the nation-building and stability of South Sudan, which is essential for the peace and stability of the entire African continent.
The United Nations has also served as the venue for many multilateral negotiations on disarmament and non-proliferation.
Japan has been playing an active role on all fronts to promote global efforts for disarmament and non-proliferation. For instance, with strong public support at home, Japan submits, on an annual basis, a draft resolution advocating nuclear disarmament.
While aiming for the long-term objective of eliminating nuclear weapons, Japan continues to pay close attention to the ongoing threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Japan has organized seminars in New York in order to raise awareness among UN members on such issues as the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.
In this connection, I would like to make reference to North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs pose a threat to the entire international community. North Korea must comply with the series of relevant Security Council resolutions. Japan, for its part, will continue to work to ensure the steady implementation of the resolutions by all UN member states.
Resolving the abduction issue is essential. North Korea has already admitted that it has abducted Japanese citizens. In this context, Japan, together with the EU, has been bringing resolutions on the situation of human rights in North Korea to the UN General Assembly. Japan calls on North Korea to receive in good faith the message of the international community and take action toward the resolution of the abduction issue.
(Development and environment)
Now I would like to talk about development and environment, which have also been a central issue for the United Nations.
In the area of development, the General Assembly adopted, on the occasion of the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, a set of development goals to be achieved by 2015, titled the “Millennium Development Goals.” The MDGs comprise a variety of targets, ranging from poverty reduction, primary education, gender equality, and maternal and child mortality, to infectious diseases, sustainable environment, and global partnership for development.
Much progress has been made towards the achievement of the MDGs. However, the progress has been uneven, and we are failing to reach out to the most vulnerable. We must further accelerate concerted efforts by all stakeholders. Japan is actively taking part in discussions now under way as to how to move forward to the target year of 2015 and beyond.
Among the environmental issues, climate change attracts the most attention. At COP17, the most recent meeting of the conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Durban last December, substantive progress was made towards the establishment of a new, fair, and effective framework with the participation of all major economies, which is what Japans aims to achieve. The prospects for establishing such a framework depend on whether all stakeholders can work together in a spirit of cooperation.
Development and environmental challenges such as those I have just mentioned, the MDGs and climate change, are all inter-related. We must pursue simultaneously the dual imperatives of growth and protection of the environment, that is, sustainable development. We need a comprehensive and holistic approach for addressing these challenges.
Rio+20, the next meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, will be held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil this June. World leaders will gather again to address the multiple challenges the world faces today.
Positioning human security as the main guiding principle, Japan is committed to making positive contributions to make the outcome of Rio+20 as ambitious, forward-looking, and focused as possible. Japan will play a leading role in the global effort to put in place the foundations for a transition to a green economy and thereby realize a paradigm shift appropriate for the new era.
(United Nations reform)
Its importance notwithstanding, the UN is also confronting serious challenges. While the list of its mandates continues to grow, its organization and functioning remain rigid. The UN must be reformed to adapt to the changing reality.
Take the issue of the UN administration and budget, for example. As the UN is expected to engage in an increasing number of global issues, its budget continues to grow. However, given the current global financial crisis, allowing such unchecked growth to continue is not feasible.
Last December, the General Assembly adopted the UN’s first regular budget since 1998 with decreased expenditures relative to the previous year’s budget. Although the decrease is only 5%, we believe that this is a small but important step in the right direction.
As the second largest financial contributor to the United Nations after the United States, Japan contributed 12.5% of the 2011 UN regular budget. In that light, Japan has been urging the UN Secretariat to improve efficiency and effectiveness in its activities, with particular emphasis on financial discipline and accountability.
At the same time, Japan also acknowledges the need to allocate the resources necessary to implement the agreed mandates of the organization. However, the UN needs to prioritize. Funding must then be allocated to those activities with highest priority.
Last year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established a “Change Management Team.” Welcoming such initiatives on the part of the Secretary-General, Japan looks forward to continuing to work with the Secretariat and other member states towards ensuring transparent, accountable, and efficient management of the UN.
Let us not forget the long-overdue task of Security Council reform.
The greatest duty of the United Nations in the context of global governance is the maintenance of international peace and security. But the Security Council was unable to reach a consensus on the Syrian issue several weeks ago. This inability to act in a timely manner has resulted in continued bloodshed on the ground. On North Korea, the Security Council sometimes fails to meet our expectations, as in the case of the country’s uranium enrichment activities and of its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010. These examples clearly show how much the world needs a Security Council that can address present challenges with greater representation, legitimacy, and effectiveness.
Despite profound changes in global realities, the basic structure of the Security Council has not changed significantly from its original composition at its formation in 1945. Japan is of the view that the numbers of both the permanent and non-permanent seats on the Security Council should be expanded to better reflect the realities of today’s world. Japan has demonstrated that it has the determination, willingness, and capacity to take on further responsibility as a permanent member in a reformed Council.
Japan will spare no effort to advance constructive and results-oriented discussions on this matter with other reform-minded member states in a spirit of flexibility.
(Great East Japan Earthquake)
In closing, I wish to touch upon the Great East Japan Earthquake, which struck my country in March last Year.
People living all over the world, including many here in Los Angeles, were kind enough to make generous donations to Japan and the Japanese people following the earthquake. Japan became newly aware of the importance of “kizuna,” our bonds with the people of the world. I would like to take this opportunity to express once again our profound gratitude for your generosity and solidarity.
We Japanese, especially people in the affected areas, have demonstrated resilience as we first came to terms with the disaster and then got to work on recovery. Now is the time for Japan to look outward in order to contribute to the building of a resilient society in the world. For this endeavor, I am certain the UN offers an indispensable setting.
The United Nations is a forum where 193 member states gather to discuss matters that directly affect your everyday life. I hope my lecture today will be useful to all of you as you think about the UN and the world’s future.
I look forward to a stimulating discussion with you. Thank you for your attention.