H.E. Mr. Toshiro Ozawa
Ambassador of Japan
At the 26th Session of the Committee on Information
27 April 2004
It is a great pleasure to see you, Ambassador Chowdhury, presiding over this Committee once again. I am confident that our work will continue to proceed smoothly under your able leadership. I also wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, for the very comprehensive and policy-oriented presentation that he made yesterday.
As you are aware, the United Nations is now facing a number of difficult challenges, and the necessity of UN reform is being asserted with increasing urgency. In this connection, a high-level panel was established last year on the initiative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and the Panel is in the midst of ongoing, active debate on this issue.
At this time, it is a matter of the utmost importance for the UN to garner the support and understanding of the international community, and in this regard the role of the Department of Public Information and the UN Information Centres has become that much more important. Although DPI is not directly involved in the Panel's activities, the Department has nevertheless taken the lead in striving for reform, and Japan highly appreciates its concrete actions and initiatives to this end. It is important to remember, however, that reform of DPI and rationalization of the UN Information Centres should not be implemented simply for the purpose of achieving budget savings for the Department. Such efforts must have as their primary goal the streamlining of the flow of information and making the contents more useful and effective. Needless to say, this undertaking requires the efforts of Member States in addition to the steps being taken by DPI.
Japan has been cooperating actively to further strengthen the 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 the severe budget constraints of the last few years, my government has been providing about 200,000 dollars annually as assistance for the public information activities of UNIC Tokyo. In 2004, approximately 241,000 dollars will be provided, and in 2005, the Japanese government contribution is expected to increase to as much as 350,000 dollars, an amount which will include the facilities expenses of the Centre.
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 in Japan, we have seen expressions of some dissatisfaction with respect to matters relating to the UN, and these dissatisfactions seem to have been strengthened by the recent UN experiences relating to Iraq. Under these circumstances, enhancing Japanese citizens' understanding of the UN role has become that much more important, and the Centre is called upon to play a vital role in this respect.
In terms of advancing wider appreciation of the UN in Japan, the visit of the Secretary-General to Japan last February was a great success. I am certain that the public information activities conducted by DPI and by UNIC Tokyo, in particular, played a key role in that regard. During his visit, the Secretary-General also appealed for a wider participation of Japanese companies to the Global Compact. My government will continue to work in close cooperation with UNIC Tokyo to encourage more participation of Japanese companies in this initiative.
Let me next present Japan's views on some additional areas covered in the Report of the Secretary General.
My government welcomes the activities of the United Nations Communications Group, focusing on the challenges faced by the UN. We particularly appreciate the Group's proactive efforts to promote greater interest in, and also awareness of, issues concerning African development, including the information provided on TICAD III, which was co-hosted by Japan and the UN last year. Sustainable development is 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.
For its part, Japan is organizing "EXPO 2005 AICHI, JAPAN", to begin in March of next year, with the theme of "Nature's Wisdom". In this connection, my government welcomes the involvement of the Communications Group, which is forming the Consultative Group for Expo 2005, and also looks forward to the Group's active efforts to draw greater public attention to this EXPO.
Regarding the issue of multilingualism and the UN Web site, we understand that this site has been improved to the extent that it attracted more than 2.1 billion hits during 2003. This enhanced message-delivering capacity is something that only the United Nations could accomplish and an achievement of which the organization should be justly proud. At the same time, however, we believe that the program to upgrade the site can continue to be carried forward within the limits of existing DPI resources, and we would ask that such efforts be made to achieve this goal.
Our efforts to strengthen and improve UN public information activities have reached the implementation phase. Japan reaffirms its determination to continue to work in cooperation with the UN and its Member States to realize our objective.