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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Address by H.E. Mr. Yoshihiko Noda, Prime Minister of Japan, at the Opening Ceremony of the International Co-operative Alliance Asia and Pacific Regional Assembly

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Opening Remarks

I am deeply grateful for having been invited to the Opening Ceremony of the Tenth Meeting of the ICA Asia and Pacific Regional Assembly today.

This year was declared as the "International Year of Co-operatives" in a resolution on "Cooperatives in social development" adopted in 2009 during the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

It is truly meaningful and gratifying that, in this memorable year for cooperative organizations throughout the world, the Regional Assembly is being held in Japan for the first time with the participation of Dame Pauline Green, President of the ICA, Mr. Li Chunsheng, President of ICA Asia-Pacific, and distinguished representatives of cooperative organizations both within Japan and overseas.

Cooperatives and the International Year of Cooperatives in Japan

The history of cooperatives in Japan can be traced back to the establishment ofHotokushacooperative organizations through the leadership of Ninomiya Sontoku and the founding of theSenzokabuassociation by Ohara Yugaku at the first half of the 19th century.

After that, with the enactment of the Industrial Union Act in 1900, industrial unions comprised of agriculture, forestry, and fishery workers, merchants and craftsmen, laborers, and consumers came to be organized nationwide.

In addition, upon the enactment of the Agricultural Cooperatives Act, the Consumer Cooperatives Act, and other such legislation soon after the end of World War II, the tremendous efforts of a large number of our predecessors enabled cooperatives to spread throughout Japan, resulting in one of the world's most prominent cooperative organizations, with 80 million union members and 640 thousand officials in total at present.

By way of this historical process, cooperatives in modern Japan have come to play an important role in bringing stability to civil life and invigorating local communities through their widespread presence in local society and its promotion of mutual assistance by people.

Moreover, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in March last year, cooperatives all over Japan made use of the cooperative networks they had cultivated over the years to engage in such activities as providing food, daily necessities, and other emergency supplies to the residents of the disaster-stricken areas, dispatching doctors and nurses, and sending out disaster recovery volunteers, while cooperatives from all around the world also provided warm encouragement and support. I would like to take this opportunity to express once more my heartfelt appreciation for this support received from both within Japan and overseas.

This year, the International Year of Cooperatives, is an ideal opportunity to further enhance the visibility of cooperatives, which play an important role in people's lives.

The Japan National Planning Committee for the International Year of Cooperatives 2012, which was launched in August 2010, held a kickoff event on January 13 of this year to begin the year's activities and events, and in July it held a commemorative central assembly and conducted other activities to mark International Day of Cooperatives 2012.

The Government of Japan for its part has been working to raise the awareness of cooperatives among the public through its public relations efforts. Among other activities, it carried an article in June this year as part of its "Government Public Relations Online" on the theme of "Cooperatives Create a Better Society: 2012 As the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives."

I very much hope that the efforts made by Japan's cooperatives during the International Year of Cooperatives will contribute to the advancement of cooperatives' activities in Japan, and I would like to continue to support those efforts as much as possible.

Contributions to the Development of Cooperatives in the Asia-Pacific Region

Japan's cooperatives have been making great contributions to the development of the cooperative movement in the Asia-Pacific region.

For example, the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives has since 1963 provided training for the development of agricultural cooperatives to 5,300 people related to agricultural cooperatives in developing countries thus far, and consumer cooperatives, centered on the Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union, have since 1987 provided assistance for human resource development of cooperatives in Asia, and fostering participation by women and youth in cooperatives, and other such areas with the help of the Asia Co-operative Development Fund.

The Government of Japan has been working in Asia through relevant ministries and agencies and through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or "JICA," to cultivate cooperatives' organization, strengthen their activities, and improve their management while also engaging in cooperation aimed at enhancing quality control, and marketing capacity.

I very strongly hope that today's distinguished participants from cooperatives around the Asia-Pacific region effectively capitalize on these efforts by Japan and turn them into a bridge towards the further development of cooperative organizations in each country.

Future Efforts

In closing, I would like to extend my best wishes that the cooperative movement in the Asia-Pacific region and, throughout the world develops more and more, taking advantage of this year of the International Year of Cooperatives.

November 28, 2012
Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
(Reading by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tsuyoshi Saito)

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