Mr. Eiichi Oshima
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
On Agenda Item 78: Question Relating to Information
20 OCTOBER 2004
It is a great pleasure to see you, Ambassador Swe, presiding over this session of the Fourth Committee. I also wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, for his comprehensive presentation yesterday.
As you are aware, the United Nations is now facing a number of new challenges, and the need for UN reform is being asserted with increasing urgency. The High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, established by the initiative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is in the midst of ongoing, active debate on this issue.
We need a strong and effective United Nations to cope with these new threats and challenges. As Prime Minister Koizumi said in his statement at the General Debate on 21 September, we must in effect create “A New United Nations for the New Era”. At the same time, to make the UN system stronger and more effective, in addition to carrying out reform of the organization, it is a matter of the utmost importance for us to present to the public the new, reformed United Nations and thus to garner the support and understanding of the international community. In this context, the role of the Department of Public Information is becoming increasingly important.
We are aware that the Department has taken the lead in striving for reform, and Japan highly appreciates its concrete actions and initiatives to that end. It is important to remember that such efforts must have as their primary goal streamlining the flow of information and making content more useful and effective. Needless to say, that undertaking will require the support of Member States in addition to the steps being taken by DPI.
Japan, for its part, has been cooperating actively to further strengthen UN information services. The importance Japan attaches to UN information activities is reflected in the assistance that the Japanese government extends to the UN Information Centre in Tokyo. Despite severe budget constraints, the Japanese government will provide 350,000 dollars next year as assistance for the public information activities of UNIC Tokyo, which represents a 40 % increase over our contribution to the Centre this year.
UNIC Tokyo is the only centre from which the United Nations issues information in the Japanese language, and it therefore plays an extremely important role in furthering the awareness of the importance of the UN among the Japanese people. As you know, Mr. Chairman, Japan is the second largest financial contributor to the UN regular budget and a major financial contributor to many UN agencies. Such a high level of support for the UN is possible only with the understanding and support of Japanese taxpayers concerning UN activities. Recently, however, we have seen expressions of some dissatisfaction in Japan for the burden it is bearing in terms of UN budgets. Under such circumstances, enhancing Japanese citizens’ understanding of the UN role has become that much more important, and UNIC Tokyo is called upon to play a vital role in that regard.
Now let me touch upon some areas which my government believes deserve the special attention of the Department of Public Information.
My government welcomes the activities of the United Nations Communications Group, which focus on the challenges faced by the international community. We particularly appreciate the Group's proactive efforts to promote greater interest in and awareness of issues concerning African development. Japan’s foreign policy also places high priority on supporting and promoting African development. We believe that ensuring human security, that is, protecting and empowering ordinary people, is crucially important for the purpose of nation-building in Africa. That is why we are strengthening our support for Africa through such channels as the “UN Trust Fund for Human Security” and our bilateral human security grant programs. Furthermore, within the framework of its initiative entitled “Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD)”, Japan will host the TICAD Asia-Africa Trade and Investment Conference at the beginning of this coming November, to increase trade with and investment in the continent. We strongly expect that DPI will continue to place priority on the needs of the African continent.
Global issues such as sustainable development are undeniably the major challenge now confronting humankind, and I am confident that UN information services will play an important role in this area as well. Japan is taking a leading role in the field of water and sanitation, which is one of the pillars of the Millennium Development Goals. In fact, Japan is now the largest contributor in this sector, and Japan’s former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto currently chairs the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.
An effective strategy for disaster reduction is also one of the key elements in attaining sustainable development. A natural disaster can wipe out the fruits of years-long development efforts in an instant. Japan is to host the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in the city of Kobe next January. Kobe was hit by a severe earthquake in 1995 and has finally managed to recover from that disaster. We expect that DPI will include the issue of sustainable development in one of its thematic communications campaigns, in order to draw greater public attention to this important issue.
Finally, let me briefly touch upon the issue of multilingualism on the UN Web site. I am pleased to note that the site recorded more than 2.1 billion hits during 2003. This is truly a remarkable achievement. I believe that only the United Nations has that kind of message-delivering capacity, and the Organization can be justly proud. At the same time, we believe that the program to upgrade the site can continue to be carried forward within the limits of existing DPI resources, so I request that the Department continue its efforts in that direction.
Japan reaffirms its determination to continue to work in cooperation with the UN and its Member States to strengthen and improve UN public information activities.