Press Releases

    25 February 2004

    United Nations of Twenty-First Century Needs Japan’s Wisdom, Experience, Says Secretary-General in Tokyo Address

    NEW YORK, 24 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Japanese Diet in Tokyo, 24 February:

    It is indeed an honour to be here in the Diet -- this stronghold of democracy, this symbol of law, this institution where you carry out the Japanese people’s most important work. Today, in an age of interdependence, your role is more pivotal than ever.  So I am grateful for this invitation to talk to you about your country, our United Nations, and the serious challenges we must face together.

    Every United Nations Member State has a moving story to tell, a chronicle of yearning and struggle.  Japan’s tale is an especially poignant one.  Out of the ashes of war, you have built a vibrant, prosperous democracy that is an inspiration to people throughout the world.  Japan has also become a paragon of international engagement.  For most of the past decade, you have been the world’s largest provider of economic assistance, especially to Asia and Africa.  You are also reliable supporters of peacekeeping.  As the only country ever to know the horrors of nuclear devastation, Japan is among our most tireless advocates of peace and nuclear disarmament.  Not only I, but the entire membership of the United Nations, stand in admiration of the strong global citizenship that Japan shows and that currently defines Japan’s place in the international community.

    As steadfast believers in multilateralism, you are well aware that I come before you at a decisive moment.  The past year has been one of the most difficult in the history of the United Nations.  Like Japan, the United Nations lost precious colleagues and friends to violence in Iraq.  Like you and many others, I am troubled by the persistent instability there and its potential effects on the entire region.  And again like you, I am concerned about the implications that the Iraq war could have for the broader quest of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security.

    Whatever view we took before the war, today each of us shares an interest in a peaceful Iraq that can once again take its proper place in the region and in the international community.  The restoration of sovereignty is essential for stability, and the United Nations is committed to doing whatever it can to help the people of Iraq resume control of their destiny, to maintain their unity and territorial integrity, and to form a legitimate, democratic government based on the rule of law, with freedom, equal rights and justice for all Iraqis.

    The immediate task is finding a consensus on the political transition.  As you know, the United Nations was asked to help in this task, and earlier this month I sent a team to Iraq, led by Lakhdar Brahimi, who happens to be in Tokyo today.  I have now forwarded a report on the team's findings to the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the Security Council, whose clear, united and unambiguous support is an essential precondition for the United Nations to succeed in Iraq.  And I have continued to plead for the unity of the Council.

    The team found a consensus among Iraqis that elections are a necessary step in the process of building democratic governance and reconstruction, but also that the 30th June deadline for the transfer of sovereignty to a provisional government should be maintained.  Unfortunately, credible elections cannot take place by  30th June 2004.  Therefore, it is necessary for Iraqis to agree on an interim mechanism, to which sovereignty can be transferred, and which can carry out essential functions during the time needed to prepare for and hold elections in the best possible conditions.

    The United Nations would be willing to offer its assistance to help build consensus among Iraqis on the specific powers, structure and composition of such a provisional governance body, and the process through which it could be established.

    After that -- once a provisional government is established, and sovereignty is transferred to it -- Iraqis expect the United Nations to play a major role.  They are very talented people, who certainly have the capacity to rebuild their country and State, but we would be happy to work with them, and to give them and the new authorities advice on the legal framework needed for democratic elections, as well as assistance in organizing such elections, in drafting a constitution, in reconstructing the country, and in building a State based on human rights and the rule of law.  As we undertake this work, it will be essential for the United Nations to retain a clear and separate identity.  The people of Iraq and others must see us for what we are:  an impartial, independent world body, with no other agenda than to help their country in this time of need.

    We cannot expect that the end of occupation will automatically end the current insecurity.  But a more secure environment is absolutely essential if we are to play our full role, since this would involve sending international staff back into the country on a more permanent basis.

    In short, there will be formidable challenges ahead -- but they will not be insurmountable if Iraq is supported by a united international community.  Japan is among those countries that have taken the lead in embracing this challenge.  You have responded to the appeals of the UN Security Council, and shown commendable solidarity with Iraq’s plight.  You are a member of the “friends of Iraq” grouping that I have just established in New York.  You have pledged to contribute generously to reconstruction.  And after a difficult debate, you have dispatched the Self-Defence Forces to Samawah to help with reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

    But it is not only the future of a nation of 26 million people, and of a volatile region, that is at stake today.  The divergence of views over Iraq, coming so soon after the traumatic events of 11 September 2001 -- truly a watershed event in our perception of international terrorism -- raised fundamental questions about our system of collective security.

    How do we identify threats to the peace early enough so that they can be addressed effectively, preferably without a resort to military force?

    When is the use of force permissible -- and who should authorize it? Does it have to be each State for itself, or will we be safer working together?

    What are the limits of self-defence in a world of globalized terrorism and privatized proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?

    How far is it the international community’s responsibility to prevent or resolve conflicts within States, particularly when they involve genocide, “ethnic-cleansing” or other extreme violations of human rights?

    And how can we rebalance the international agenda, so that the current focus on so-called hard threats does not overwhelm efforts to confront the ever-present dangers of poverty, hunger and disease?  After all, a world of glaring inequality and widespread misery is never going to be fully safe or peaceful, even for its most privileged inhabitants.

    The Charter remains an irreplaceable framework for action.  The United Nations remains the locus of legitimacy.  But we are in a new and imperfectly charted international security landscape.  It is with this in mind that I have asked for a radical review of existing international rules and instruments, to see how they might need to be adapted.  To assist in this process, I have appointed a “high-level panel on threats, challenges and change” made up of 16 highly respected experts from all parts of the world -- a group of wise men and women.  Among them is Japan’s own Sadako Ogata -- someone we at the United Nations also think of as one of our own.

    People have described this panel as a panel on UN reform.  It may indeed propose changes in the rules and mechanisms of the United Nations, including the Security Council.  But if so, those changes will be a means to an end.  The object of the exercise is much broader:  the object is to find collective responses to the threats of our time.  I hope to be able to make recommendations to the General Assembly later this year or early next year.  Next year, the United Nations will be 60 years old.  What better way to mark the sixtieth anniversary than to take far-reaching steps to bolster the Organization for the future.  The ultimate decisions can be taken only by the Member States.  That means not only governments but also you, parliamentarians.  If the panel does its work well, history may yet remember the current quandary as a moment when wise men and women rose to the challenge, and strengthened the mechanisms of international cooperation to meet the needs of the new century.

    If this is a critical moment for the United Nations, it may also be one for Japan and its relations with the Organization.  I know that among some Japanese there is dissatisfaction with some aspects of that relationship.

    I share your disappointment that talks on reforming the Security Council have gone on for so long with so little progress.  Virtually all Member States of the Organization agree that the Council must be reformed and must be enlarged.  But the difficulty of reaching agreement does not excuse the failure to do so. Such a delay is far from cost-free.  If the Council wants its decisions to command greater respect, particularly in the developing world, this issue needs to be addressed with greater urgency.

    I know that this is not the only reason for Japan’s discontent.  The anachronistic “enemy” clauses of the United Nations Charter, and your feeling of being simultaneously over-assessed for the regular budget and under-represented in the ranks of the Secretariat, also account for the impatience that some Japanese feel about our Organization.

    But I hope and trust that these frustrations will not prevail over Japan’s commitment to multilateralism and its global leadership.

    The world will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals without Japan’s technological prowess and its focus on “human security”. Just ask the people of the dozens of African countries what a difference Japan has made in promoting health, education and environmental protection there.

    We need Japan to remain involved in the Organization’s political, peacekeeping and human rights work. Just ask the people of Tajikistan, Cambodia, East Timor, Mozambique and Rwanda, for example, how much they appreciate your efforts to help them emerge from conflict and rebuild stable, functioning States.  And consider how much Japan has done for Afghanistan -- organizing a successful pledging conference two years ago here in Tokyo, and I was privileged to attend that conference, and continuing to play a leading role in the country’s reconstruction.

    We need Japan’s active diplomatic engagement to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons.  I am encouraged by the resumption of multilateral talks tomorrow in Beijing, and pledge to do whatever I can and offer you my firm support for this process. I am also hopeful that Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will fully resolve the question of abductees and other outstanding issues between them. I understand how painful this has been for the people and families involved, and I express my deep sympathy to all those who have suffered.

    These are just some of the areas where Japan’s role and participation can make a great difference.

    But in order to do all this, and in order for Japan to be fully involved in finding solutions to the world’s problems, we need your people, too.  We will not rejuvenate the United Nations itself without more Japanese men and women seeking careers there at all levels, from entry level to the top hierarchy.  It is encouraging that more and more bright young Japanese people -- especially women -- are finding great satisfaction in working within the Secretariat and specialized agencies.  And I can assure you they are doing great work and are making wonderful contributions.  I can hardly think of a more exciting challenge for a young person than to cooperate with others of his or her generation to help build a better world -- and, hopefully, to improve on the job my generation has done or, perhaps, not done!  But I am aware that there remains a serious imbalance.  The United Nations of the twenty-first century simply cannot do without the benefit of Japan’s wisdom and experience, and I remain strongly committed to working with you to correct these shortcomings.

    There is an undeniable mood of the moment; reform and transformation are the order of the day.  From policy changes to institutional improvements, this is a time when the United Nations is being defined for the future -- and shaped to ensure that our legacy to succeeding generations is not turmoil and infirmity in addressing our difficulties, but, rather, strength, effectiveness, and a deeper appreciation for international cooperation not just as a virtue, but as a necessity.

    The evolution we seek is ultimately internal -- in our hearts and in our minds. But sometimes, such changes find appropriate outer manifestations, too. One such symbol will be a new addition to the United Nations Headquarters complex in New York. To design that office tower, the City of New York is expected to formally select the renowned Japanese architect, Fumihiko Maki.  I expect Mr. Maki to give us an exciting new expression of the United Nations spirit for the twenty-first century.

    That would be fully in keeping with tradition. The Japanese imprint on the United Nations has been strong and distinctive for nearly 50 years, ever since the day, in 1956, when Japan’s flag was raised and your country’s foreign minister expressed your deeply held belief that “no nation is responsible to itself alone”. With that spirit intact, I am certain that we shall achieve great things together in the years ahead.

    Arigato gozaimashita.

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