H.E. Mr. Toshiro Ozawa
On Item 48, "Fifty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", and Item 117(d), "Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action"
10 December 2003
On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the distinguished individuals and organizations who have just been honored with the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights today. I salute them for the great courage they have shown in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The recognition today of their outstanding contributions will no doubt encourage many people all over the world who are also fighting on a day to day basis to gain more respect for human rights issues. I think that Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the late United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is watching us today. We have a responsibility to carry on with his work and further strive to promote and protect human rights all over the world.
Fifty-five years have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, and ten years since the international community renewed its commitment to promote and protect human rights by adopting the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. While we have witnessed significant progress since then, we have to admit that grave human rights violations continue to take place in many parts of the world. The fact is, fundamental human rights are not acquired as a matter of course, but promoted only through determined and tireless efforts by individuals, civil society and states. Also, vigorous and continuing international cooperation is a prerequisite for enhancing human rights universally.
Japan attaches great importance to the role of the United Nations in establishing the universal standards and norms in the field of human rights. Japan has already ratified six principal international human rights instruments, and it welcomes the decision to establish a Working Group to draft an International Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are ready to participate in this process actively.
Japan will continue to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary. We do hope and expect that OHCHR will pursue its work vigorously.
The Government of Japan firmly believes that human rights are universal values, and thus, must be promoted and protected in every part of the world. Accordingly, while each state has the primary responsibility for guaranteeing the human rights of its people, the human rights situation in any individual state should be a legitimate concern of the international community as a whole.
In our attempts to address actual human rights issues in certain states, we believe that it is necessary for us to promote mutual understanding, taking into account the specific situations of each state. With this conviction, Japan has placed great importance on dialogue and cooperation as a means of improving human rights situations in an effective and practical way.
On this commemorative and celebratory occasion, we believe that it is important for all of us to renew our recognition that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is indispensable to realizing world peace and prosperity. I would like to conclude my statement by reaffirming that Japan is committed to making every effort, in close cooperation with the United Nations and the international community, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.