Mr. Shigeyuki Shimamori
On Agenda Item 110:Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
9 November 2004
We are much encouraged by continuing decline in the global number of refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR. As the report of the High Commissioner points out, since the beginning of 2001, numbers have fallen from 21.8 million to just over 17 million. Almost five million people who once fled their homes have found a solution through voluntary repatriation, resettlement, or local integration. This encouraging trend makes all the more important efforts to achieve durable solutions. Japan fully supports the High Commissioner's vigorous efforts to these ends.
Japan believes that protection and empowerment are two wheels of the same cart of the UNHCR mandate. Understandably, the protection and assistance given to refugees constitutes the core of UNHCR activities until conditions make it possible to undertake voluntary repatriation or resettlement. Bearing this in mind, Japan made an additional contribution of US$ 4 million and 700 tents to the activities of UNHCR that provide assistance to Sudanese refugees in Chad. However, when that time comes with the end of a conflict or other developments, whatever momentum has been generated should be fully utilized to arrive at a durable solution for refugee issues. In achieving this goal, refugees should not only be protected as recipients of assistance, but also empowered to be self-reliant, with dignity, as important partners in national rebirth who eventually will be able in turn to empower other vulnerable people. This requires respect for the ownership of a country and the consolidation of peace after a protracted conflict, as well as close collaboration between the UNHCR, its partners, and other international organizations, including development agencies. In other words, the international community must ensure a seamless transition from emergency relief to rehabilitation and reconstruction that will make possible the reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons to a community. Such a protection-empowerment framework is the core concept underlying human security. It does not undermine but complements national sovereignty by helping a nation achieve national reconciliation through a community-based approach and create an environment conducive to development by providing empowered people whose potential is fully realized.
Based on this idea, Japan, together with Denmark, has the pleasure of facilitating the discussion on targeting of development assistance for refugees, which is one strand of the Convention Plus. Indeed development planning and programs must start at an early stage of humanitarian assistance so as to quickly and smoothly restore the lives of refugees to normal once a situation is realized that makes this feasible.
Let me now turn to the operational implications of this protection-empowerment framework. First, regarding the collaboration of a wide range of actors, Japan welcomes the pragmatic approach taken by UNHCR towards cooperation with a country with refugee issues. We also support UNHCR's efforts to strengthen collaboration not only with humanitarian agencies but also with development agencies. In this context, Japan commends the inclusion of UNHCR in the United Nations Development Group, which has been producing fruitful results. For its part, Japan is endeavoring to promote cooperation between its development agency, JICA, and UNHCR. Also, it is actively contributing to UNHCR efforts to strengthen inter-agency collaboration, with a view to ensuring a seamless transition through the Human Security Trust Fund. Four projects have already been funded. In Zambia, for example, under close collaboration with the Government of Zambia, the UNHCR is carrying out a program to enhance food productivity of the refugee hosting areas and create an environment conducive for refugees to become responsible members of the host communities. We observe that there is still some way to go in strengthening the collaborative approach among relevant international organizations, especially with regard to the protection of internally displaced persons. Japan counts on UNHCR to make enhanced efforts in this regard.
Second, I would like to say a word about the reform of UNHCR operational capacity. In order to enjoy even broader and stronger support from the international community, which would contribute to a strengthened operational capacity, Japan considers it important that UNHCR continue to make efforts to employ staff from various backgrounds as well as diversify its implementing and operational partners. For our part, our humanitarian team is ready to work with UNHCR even more closely, and we expect greater opportunities for Japanese staff and NGOs to make a contribution. Japan is also looking forward to the accelerated headquarters review process and concrete and comprehensive responses to the recommendations in the JIU report. Japan also hopes to consult further with UNHCR on its proposal for administrative change, especially in light of the need to make effective use of resources so as to achieve a real difference on the ground.
Our Permanent Representative in Geneva, Ambassador Shotaro Oshima, has assumed the post of Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme. His assumption of this important position exemplifies Japan's continued commitment to cooperating with UNHCR. Japan stands ready to work with UNHCR toward the ultimate goal of bringing about a world where no assistance is needed through durable solutions to refugee issues.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.