2010 Statement

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Shigeki Sumi
Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations

Humanitarian Affairs Segment, Substantive Session
Economic and Social Council
United Nations, New York
14 July 2010

Mr. President,

     We are grateful for the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations. And we commend Under-Secretary-General John Holmes and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the work they and their humanitarian partners have done in this important field.

Over the past few months, massive natural disasters, including the earthquake in Haiti, have taken place around the world, creating challenges to our ability to provide humanitarian assistance. These challenges continue today in high-risk environments, for example, where conflicts rage, and therefore so too does the need for concerted action.

(Response to large-scale natural disasters)
Let me first address the question of the world’s response to recent natural disasters, as it has made clear the need to further strengthen the coordination function of the UN and, to that end, to engage in continuing reform of the UN system.

     The response to the Haitian earthquake illustrated a number of challenges.  It was reported, for example, that the cluster approach did not work as effectively as we had expected. Clearly, we need to address the problems that were encountered by the coordination mechanism after the earthquake as soon as possible, while they are fresh in our minds. Among the numerous issues that need to be discussed are how to ensure security for operations in a country that is itself unable to maintain security; how to organize cooperation between the military and civilian organizations; and how to effect a smooth transition from the emergency relief stage to the development stage. For these and other reasons, it is essential to strengthen the coordination capacity of OCHA, which we expect to take the lead in organizing discussions among donors, NGOs and other stakeholders about improving the response to humanitarian emergencies.

     Needless to say, importance must be attached to disaster risk reduction and preparedness as well as to how we respond after a disaster actually occurs.

     This is the midterm year of the Hyogo Framework for Action, and we call on Member States to implement it with all possible speed. Also, Japan believes it is important to act on the priorities for action, including building a culture of safety and resilience.  Similarly, we must agree on a policy with respect to protection against disasters, and repeatedly conduct exercises to ensure that we can carry that policy out.  For its part, Japan has established a disaster drill day in an effort to enhance people’s awareness about the need to be prepared. This drill will be carried out from the community to the national level.

     Also we are making efforts to develop cooperation within the Asian region.  In this connection, I would just like to mention that together with the ISDR, the Government of Japan will be convening the ASEAN+3 International Conference on Disaster Management at the end of August in Tokyo. 

     We will also co-host with OCHA the inaugural International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) Global Meeting in September in Kobe. We expect to have an intensive discussion on the nature of search and rescue activities in urban areas following a disaster. And we hope to take this opportunity to further strengthen OCHA-centered global cooperation and coordination both during peacetime and when disasters strike.

(Humanitarian activities in high-risk environments)  
Mr. President,

     Turning to the subject of humanitarian activities in high-risk environments, I would like to express our respect and gratitude for the invaluable work that humanitarian aid workers do in such situations. Clearly, we cannot allow these personnel to become the targets of deliberate attacks or kidnappings.

     The first point I wish to make is that strict compliance with all international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law is indispensable. Every country concerned is responsible for ensuring security within its own borders. 

     The serious challenge we face in this respect is finding a way to address the violence committed against civilians by non-state armed groups and the efforts they make to hinder humanitarian activities. Such groups recognize that attacks on civilians are the most effective way to damage governments. Calling on them to comply with humanitarian law is clearly inadequate. The most effective step we can take, therefore, is to promote the political process among all parties concerned, including non-state groups, so as to achieve a ceasefire and, eventually, a peace agreement.  The establishment of the rule of law is also critical.

     In order to ensure humanitarian access, humanitarian activities should be governed by the principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence. Long-term efforts to build confidence among the relevant local population are also necessary.  To this end, we should persevere with dialogue on the ground and efforts to keep local communities informed about activities being conducted. 

     Finally, we need to address the root causes of conflicts, such as the problems of minorities and access to natural resources, food, and water. 

(The role of Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF))
Mr. President,

     We appreciate the role which the CERF has been playing in facilitating the initial response of UN agencies in humanitarian crises and strengthening the humanitarian response in under-funded crises.

     There is still a great need for humanitarian assistance in the world, and it is for this reason that Japan has decided that this year it will double the funding it provides the CERF.

     My delegation applauds OCHA for its success in enhancing awareness and raising funds. We expect it to continue its efforts to improve accountability with regard to the decision-making processes involved in implementing assistance from the Fund and also to intensify its monitoring and evaluation of projects.

Before I conclude,  Mr. President,

I would like to mention once again how useful the human security approach can be to efforts to protect and empower those who are most vulnerable, such as refugees and IDPs. This multi-sectoral and human-centered approach focuses on both protection and empowerment at the individual and community levels.  Japan has therefore been providing support to these ends, including through the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.

      I would also like to pay special tribute to Mr. Holmes for the distinguished leadership he has provided and for his great achievement in strengthening humanitarian coordination at the UN over the past three and a half years.

Thank you, Mr. President.