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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

What the United Nations means for Japan - Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at United Nations University

Monday, March 16, 2015

[Provisional translation]

Rector David Malone, thank you very much for your kind introduction.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, your talk was fascinating. I was touched, and I appreciate that.

Years for action and Japan’s resolve

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this year and the next constitute an extremely important time for the United Nations, and indeed, for Japan as well.

As for the U.N., this year marks the 70th anniversary of its founding. For Japan, next year we'll be commemorating 60 years since our accession to the U.N. We have decided that we will make these two years as “years for taking concrete actions.”

Time and again, the issues we face are ones that extend beyond the framework of individual nations, whether the issue be extremism, terrorism, the threat of nuclear proliferation, climate change, or terrible infectious diseases.

However, the situation teaches us one thing, and one thing alone: we must not be divided. The nations must stand even more united.

This year, for the Security Council elections, Japan stands, aiming to secure a seat for the 11th time. We are resolved to lead discussions both within the U.N. and beyond, regarding any and all issues, in any and every aspect.

I wish to urge the U.N. community to incorporate into the new development agenda the concept of achieving “human security” that Japan has been promoting.

Above all else, as for reforming the Security Council, it is no longer time to discuss. Now it is time for us to produce concrete results.

With pride quietly in mind at having built up a record of one achievement after another, Japan stands ready to take on the role of a permanent member of the Security Council. This is how Japan has been until now, and how it will continue to be into the future.

Take a look, for instance, one of the new areas where you could expect more of Japan's unique contributions.

That is what we call the “smart platinum society.” You might not have heard of it, in which case please make room in your lexicon for the new “Japanglish” phrase.

A “smart platinum society” is one that enables the platinum generation, i.e., the elderly, to live vibrant lives through the use of ICT, robots, and other such technologies.

Now as the U.N. is dedicating efforts to address the challenges of aging, Japan, which leads the world in “platinumization,” intends to tackle the challenges by making full use of its technological prowess.

Embracing our pledge of 60 years ago in the present day
This year and the next will be a time for us in Japan to look back on the journey we have walked together with the U.N. and renew our determination towards the future.

While feeling deep remorse regarding the war, we have dedicated our post-war development to building a country liberal and democratic, which upholds human rights and the rule of law.

Our goal has always been to grow as a country that is able to contribute to the peace, growth and the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and of the world.

That was exactly an aim what our fathers and mothers, and grandparents embraced. How overjoyed and thankful they must have been as Japan was again welcomed into the United Nations! This is something that we in later generations should try to imagine from time to time.

The day Japan was admitted to the United Nations, then-Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu delivered an address at the U.N., stating that “...Japan ...accepts the obligations contained in the Charter of the United Nations, and undertakes to honour them, by all means at its disposal.”

Nobusuke Kishi, my grandfather, who succeeded Shigemitsu as Foreign Minister, also emphasised in one of the speeches he gave to the Diet of Japan that “Japan must always stand ready to make as much contributions as would be necessary to strengthen the authority of the United Nations and to attain world peace through the U.N.”

Sticking to that intent we started with, Japan has since then continued to serve as a stout and sturdy pillar supporting the United Nations, right up to the present.

It will continue to be very much important for us to recall the elation and appreciation we felt 60 years ago, and to embrace the same initial spirit as our pledge for today. This much, I wish to convey in particular to my country's younger generations who are the mainstay for our future.

Making financial contributions and putting forward ideas
It was the second Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, who said that the United Nations "was NOT created to take mankind to heaven.” That famous epigram continues, “BUT to save humanity from hell.”

It still resonates with us as words from a man who never lost zeal at the height of the Cold War to never forsake the raison d'être of the U.N.

As far as Japan goes, however, there was no need whatsoever for anyone to persuade us of the importance of the United Nations.

And why was that, ladies and gentlemen? It is because the Japanese are a people who are always thinking about what they can do, sparing no efforts, in keeping with the ideals advanced by the United Nations.

It is because, in that regard, the Japanese are second to none. That is how the country has been until now, and that's how it will continue to be into the future.

The cumulative total of the contributions to the U.N. and financial contributions to peacekeeping operations that Japan has paid in, as a simple tally of the book value of those contributions, easily exceeds 20 billion U.S. dollars. The one and only country whose financial contributions surpass those of Japan over the past 30 years or so is the United States.

Our track record of development assistance amounts to 324.9 billion U.S. dollars, again as a simple tally of the then book value.

I am not blowing my own horn here. I have ventured to tell you these things to let you see that we have been faithful to our initial spirit of 59 years ago up till now, and also to remind ourselves of that fact.

Allow me at this point once again to call your attention. Reform is indispensable for the U.N. so that it remains able to respond to the shifting and increasingly complex challenges facing the international community. Realizing its reform, including the reform of the Security Council, is absolutely essential.

Here, I have one more point to touch on as regards Japan's relations with the U.N.

This took place during the 1990’s, when the Cold War had just ended with our side, i.e., the side that enjoyed free and democratic political economic systems, emerging victorious.

Japan, together with such leaders as Dr. Amartya Sen and Dr. Sadako Ogata, urged a certain fundamental shift within the concept of security.

It was at that point that the word “human,” in addition to the word “national,” came to be used in front of the word “security.”

This was also a time when, seizing the changes in the undercurrent, Japan set forth with conviction the philosophy it had long fostered, as a goal for the United Nations and a matter for humankind.

This was because giving weight to each individual human being, teaching them reading, writing, and arithmetic, and aiming to free them from want and fear was the path that Japan had consistently followed since early-modern times.

The form of assistance that we developed
Indeed, it is education that gives rise to people’s dignity as human beings and creates the foundation for peace and prosperity. Education prevents crime and extremism and leads to social stability.

That all children without exception deserve high-quality education always stands as one of the pillars of Japanese development assistance.

We build schools in villages. We put hygienic bathrooms therein, liberating girls from fear and worry.

Many women spend half their day just drawing water, and this heavy labour is apt to dig deeply into their shoulders. Regarding these conditions to be an injustice, we pursue the empowerment of each individual woman and girl.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have walked this path exclusively under this approach, right up to the present day.

Every day I call for the creation of a “society in which women shine.” I will continue to appeal for this over and over again, never letting up.

Last year we successfully held a symposium known as WAW!, or “World Assembly for Women.” We will continue to hold this symposium unfailingly until the day we bring about a “game change” in society. I ask that everyone come together in Japan again this year, at the end of August.

This year, we will increase the amount of our contribution to U.N. Women to ten times what we did the year before last.

Of the Global Fund, Japan was instrumental in the launch, and has worked tirelessly towards the development, with the fund aiming at ending the “big three” infectious diseases of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

This year as well, Japan will make a contribution of 190 million U.S. dollars to that Fund, and come December, we will host a meeting to discuss the future of the Fund in Tokyo.

Soon, Japan will provide the Kenyan government with assistance of roughly 33 million U.S. dollars, aiming to support its health policies in their entirety, as an unprecedented kind of assistance.

Their policies promote “UHC,” or “universal health coverage,” which aims to make everyone able to receive basic healthcare services at reasonable cost.

Such is the development policy we have advanced without wavering over the last 20 years. It has shown our philosophy of assistance grounded in the concept of human security. And of late, by publishing Japan's “Development Cooperation Charter”, we have made them salient.

Development must be sustainable and take a long-term perspective. In addition to freedom from want and freedom from fear, going forward, it will be necessary for development to become something that imparts upon people the freedom to dream. It is for that very reason that we must aim at quality growth.

That is the thinking that flows through our “Development Cooperation Charter.” I very much hope that this will contribute to the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and peace building
In his address 59 years ago on the day Japan acceded to the United Nations, then-Foreign Minister Shigemitsu stated, “Being the only country which has experienced the horrors of the atomic bomb, Japan knows its tragic consequences.”

It is undoubtedly true that Japan knows better than anyone else that Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated. That is precisely why Japan has been advocating tirelessly at the United Nations the necessity of total elimination of nuclear weapons.

This year also marks 70 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We will hold major international conferences in both cities, stressing the importance of nuclear disarmament and the danger of proliferation. In addition, this year Japan will again submit to the United Nations General Assembly a draft nuclear disarmament resolution.

At the beginning of the year I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. That visit etched deeply into my mind how much merciless humans can be by singling out a group of people and making that group the object of discrimination and hatred.

To dispel hatred and promote reconciliation, Japanese diplomacy has made modest but continuous efforts in Mindanao in the Philippines or in Sri Lanka. This June, we will hold the “High-Level Seminar on Peacebuilding, National Reconciliation and Democratisation in Asia.”

The seminar will have Asian countries each bringing their own experiences in these areas, and the venue will be right here at the U.N. University.

I trust you are already well aware that Japan is now bearing the flag of “Proactive Contribution to Peace based on the principle of international cooperation.” It goes without saying that cooperation and collaboration with the United Nations comprise the very essence of this.

I would also ask that you bear in mind that we will now start a comprehensive program to foster professionally trained peace builders.

The United Nations: Unable to be out of step with the times
As I conclude my remarks to you today, I would like to say that we commemorate the longevity of an organization like the U.N. only when it serves as a testimony that the organization is continuously moving forward.

At this very moment, there are people suffering from Ebola, there are people whose lives are threatened by lawless terrorists. Some are working diligently to construct weapons of mass destruction, while others conspire towards their proliferation.

The United Nations is an organization that was precluded from the beginning from falling out of step with the times. It is a body that is obliged to be continually transformed anew. This is because whatever form or type issues may take, such issues never fail to exist.

In closing may I reiterate that reform of the United Nations is a matter of great urgency, and we will spare no effort in any way to make that reform a reality.

Thank you very much.


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