2004 Statement


H.E. Mr. Toshiro Ozawa

Ambassador of Japan to the United Nations

At the Thirty-seventh Session of the Commission on Population and Development

22 March 2004

I join others in congratulating you, Mr. Chairman, on your assumption of the leadership of this important Commission. I would also like to thank the Secretariat for producing excellent reports for our deliberations here.

By the year 2015, the world population is projected to reach 7.2 billion, an increase of more than 800 million over an eleven-year period. It can be said that such huge growth may hinder our efforts to fight poverty, hunger, illiteracy, gender inequality, and degradation of the environment in the developing countries. On the other hand, in the developed countries, the rapid ageing of their populations owing to declining birth rates and longer life expectancies has already become a serious problem. The international community as a whole is making progress in tackling these two challenges, but the problems persist as grave concerns to all of us. This is why it is so important for us to review and appraise the progress made in achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. This session of the Commission will be meaningful if we reach agreement on the direction of our future policies in this area.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation is very pleased that the ICPD Programme of Action has introduced the new concept of reproductive health and also provided the international community with comprehensive guidelines for tackling population issues. We, the Member States, and international organizations such as UNFPA must continue to make efforts to ensure its full implementation.

As my delegation has mentioned on many occasions, the Government of Japan attaches great importance to "human security," and is promoting this concept as one of the pillars of Japan's foreign policy. Human security means the protection of human lives, people's livelihoods and dignity, and the empowerment of individuals. Human security also stresses community empowerment through the enhancement of agricultural production, education, health and sanitation, and the status of women. As population issues are closely linked to such economic and social issues, we believe that the promotion of human security is crucially important in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like now to touch on some of the priority areas for Japan's international cooperation relating to population.

First, under the "Basic Education for Growth Initiative," the Government of Japan is supporting the efforts of the developing countries in this sector. We attach particular importance to the basic education of girls. Promotion of girl's education is likely to lead to reductions in the fertility rate and lower population growth, and hence improvement of the health of children in developing countries. We are also supporting grass-roots projects of NGOs and educational institutions, and the activities of UNICEF in this area.

Second, we believe that the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the most formidable challenges to human life and dignity that the world faces today. The Government of Japan is committed to providing international assistance in the area of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. In this regard, we believe that actions to ensure reproductive health are particularly important. It was during the Kyushu-Okinawa G8 Summit Meeting in 2000 that the Government of Japan announced the Okinawa Infectious Diseases Initiative. Under this Initiative, Japan pledged to provide support amounting to three billion dollars for five years beginning in 2000. Of this sum, more than two billion dollars has already been disbursed, and we expect to reach the target of three billion dollars later this year. In addition, my Government has decided to pledge contributions of 265 million dollars to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Out of this amount, 230 million dollars has already been disbursed. Furthermore, through the Trust Fund for Human Security we are supporting projects of international organizations such as WHO and UNFPA, including those in the area of reproductive health-care, totalling approximately 22 million dollars.

Third, the Government of Japan attaches great importance to gender equality on matters relating to population and development. Projects for supporting women in the area of population and development account for approximately 11 percent of our technical assistance, and approximately 25 percent of our grass-roots and human security grant assistance. In 2002, the Government of Japan issued a report entitled "Measures to support women in Afghanistan," which emphasized gender equality in the implementation of assistance, as part of the process of promoting peace in that country. We also provide assistance to numerous projects such as the construction of a multi-purpose women's center by an NGO and vocational training for refugees and IDPs through the Trust Fund for Human Security.

Mr. Chairman,

Allow me in conclusion to turn to the population issues that Japan itself is confronting and the measures that we have been taking. Japan is fortunate to enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world, owing to vast improvements in its health care. On the other hand, the fertility rate is declining and the population is ageing rapidly. The concern is that this major change in the structure of our population may lead to a reduction in the size of the working age population, a slowdown in economic growth, and instability of the social security system.

In order to address these challenges, the Government of Japan has taken measures to enhance the compatibility of work and childcare, including the expansion of the childcare leave system. Further progress was made in 2003 with the passage of two laws, the "Fundamental Law against a Decline in the Fertility Rate" and the "Law to Support the Development of the Next Generation." The former law requires the government to take measures to address the issue of the reduction in the fertility rate and the latter law obliges private enterprises to devise plans to review the means for reconciling an employee's obligation to work and to play a role in childcare. We would be most pleased if our experience in these areas were useful to other countries facing similar challenges. We would be happy to provide more information, and by the same token, we would be grateful if other countries would share their experiences with us.

Thank you for your kind attention.