Tokyo - 17 March 2003
It is a pleasure to have been here for this important and enlightening discussion, so let me begin by thanking the participants for their sharing their insights and opinions - and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations University for making this Symposium possible in their role as sponsors.
As speaker after speaker has made clear, this Symposium has been a unique forum to reflect on Japan's role in the UN System - and to explore what the future may hold. And now that I have the floor, it is also an opportunity for me to brag about UNICEF's long partnership with Japan - and to tell you why we treasure it so highly.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Japan has long understood that we will not achieve human security through force of arms, as some would have us believe, but through efforts that ensure the well being of children and the realisation of their rights.
Japan knows that responsible and enlightened leadership must begin with the recognition that poverty and inequity threaten child rights and human security as surely as any weapon of mass destruction.
That is why the conquest of poverty has become the overarching goal of the United Nations - and it is an effort that starts with investing in children.
That was the message of the Millennium Summit in September 2000, when world leaders vowed to implement eight Millennium Development Goals - seven of which speak directly to the rights and needs of children. And the wisdom of investing in children was reaffirmed last May, when the General Assembly, in its Special Session on Children, promised to redouble its efforts to reach agreed-to targets on child poverty, education and health, including the goal of halving the proportion of people living in abject poverty by 2015.
UNICEF's Medium Term Strategic Plan is designed to maximise our contribution to the broader international agenda of the Millennium Development Goals and the Special Session on Children. It does this by setting out the following five inter-related and mutually supporting organizational priorities for UNICEF:
· Girls' education
· Integrated early childhood development
· Immunization plus
· Fighting HIV/AIDS
· Improved protection of children from violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination.
For UNICEF, girls' education is the first priority among equals. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded us in We the Peoples, his Report to the Millennium Assembly, there can be no substantial or lasting reduction in global poverty - and thus no significant or sustainable transformation in societies - until girls receive the quality basic education they deserve.
UNICEF is currently working with 25 countries in the hope that we can accelerate progress toward achieving gender parity in primary school enrolment by 2005, as agreed to in the Millennium Development Goals. Our haste grows out of the conviction that unless we act now, we will be consigning another generation of young girls to lives of poverty, injustice, illness and abuse.
Taken together, girls' education and the other four MTSP priorities comprise a framework to guide all our activities in the areas of programmes, alliances and partnerships, communication and advocacy, fundraising, and internal operations.
They are also in harmony with Japan-led initiatives such as the Okinawa Infectious Diseases Initiative, BEGIN - and this week's Third World Water Forum.
But it is clear that the challenges of achieving the MDGs are formidable - and that is why UNICEF is counting on Japan's strong support and leadership in the drive to realising these goals. In this regard, Japan's effort in launching the TICAD initiative deserves the highest praise and emulation by others. Why? Because Africa is one region in which intensive interventions are required, without which the MDGs will not be achieved at all.
Japan's leadership in promoting development in Africa grows out of its long national dedication to promoting human security. In establishing the Human Security Trust Fund, Japan has positioned itself to support initiatives that directly benefit people threatened by such threats as poverty, HIV/AIDS and armed conflict.
Japan has also distinguished itself as a dedicated partner in the drive to protect human rights, especially the rights of children and women. It ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in April 1994 and submitted its initial report for this convention in May 1996.
In 1985, it ratified CEDAW - and submitted its first report in 1987. And UNICEF looks forward to Japan's ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
It is a measure of Japan's commitment to ending these intolerable violations of child rights that it hosted the watershed Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in December 2001, as well as the International Symposium on Child Trafficking this year.
UNICEF is also gratified by Japan's ongoing efforts to consolidate peace, most recently through initiatives in such places as Afghanistan, the former East Timor and Sri Lanka.
At the same time, we welcome Japan's efforts to bridge the gap between humanitarian assistance and development, as demonstrated in the Ogata Initiative in Afghanistan, which pioneered a new approach to post-conflict assistance. UNICEF looks forward to the day when Japan can bring the same kind of innovation to post-conflict assistance in Africa, where peace and stability are prerequisites for development.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this shining record of partnership began in the difficult days of 1949, when UNICEF provided assistance to Japanese children and mothers.
It was the first time that any UN agency had provided aid to what was then a suffering and war-torn country - and it marked the start of the longest partnership ever between Japan and an entity of the United Nations.
UNICEF, in turn, became the first UN agency to receive a portion of Japan's voluntary contribution. In 1950, Japan provided assistance to Korean children and women through UNICEF and, two years later, made a contribution to UNICEF worth US$100,000.
UNICEF's assistance to Japan, which continued until 1962, ultimately benefited some 1.5 million Japanese children. And the Government of Japan is now one of UNICEF's largest donors.
The Japan Committee for UNICEF was founded in 1955 following a strong call from Japanese volunteers - most of them women. The Committee has gone on to earn a reputation as one of the most active of all of UNICEF's national committees - and it is consistently the largest donor.
We are also very proud of the fact that in Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, we have the most readily recogniseable and respected Goodwill Ambassador - an individual dedicated to promoting the cause of the United Nations cause in Japan - and giving visibility to Japan's overseas development assistance.
My Friends, Japan and UNICEF both know that the greatest source of hope for the future is what we have seen happening "on the ground" - through work being carried out at the grassroots and community level, by parents and teachers, by village councils, by local authorities, by national governments, and by the bilateral and multilateral international community.
In Afghanistan last year, I watched as 3,000 schools across that war-torn country reopened, and a million and a half children, boys as well as girls, streamed in, many for the first time in six years. It was UNICEF's largest logistical operation ever in support of education - and it succeeded because the interim government committed itself to a drive that mobilised teachers, registered children, readied school facilities and organised a curriculum and an entire educational structure virtually from scratch.
It was a stirring affirmation of hope and defiance, and the universal spirit behind it has only reinforced my conviction that the future remains in our hands as never before. In a few days I hope to confirm that with my own eyes in Kabul.
Ladies and Gentlemen, UNICEF is privileged to have the longest working relationship as a UN organization with Japan, and we look forward to a continuation of our long and successful partnership. For we are united in the belief that each of us has the power to help build a world fit for children - and make it a place where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.