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STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR TOSHIRO WAWA,
REPRESENTATIVE OF JAPAN,
AT THE GENERAL DEBATE
OF THE UN COMMITEE ON INFORMATION
DURING ITS 26TH SESSION
27 APRIL 2004

Mr. Chairman,

It is a great pleasure to see you, Ambassador Chowdhury, presiding over this Committee once again. I am confident that our work will continue to proceed smoothly under your able leadership. I also wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, for the very comprehensive, policy-oriented presentation that he made yesterday.

Mr. Chairman,

As you are aware, the United Nations is now facing a number of difficult challenges, and the necessity of UN reform is being asserted with increasing urgency. In this connection, a high-level panel was established last year on the initiative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and the Panel is in the midst of ongoing, active debate on this issue.

Mr. Chairman,

At this time, it is a matter of the utmost importance for the UN to garner the support and understanding of the international community, and the role of the Department of Public Information and the UN Information Centres has become that much more critical as a result. Although DPI is not directly involved in the Panel's activities, the Department has nevertheless taken the lead in striving for reform, and Japan highly appreciates its concrete actions and initiatives in that regard. It is important to remember, however, that reform of DPI and rationalization of the UN Information Centres should not be implemented simply for the purpose of achieving budget savings for the Department. Such efforts must have as their primary goal streamlining the flow of information and making the content more effective. That undertaking requires the efforts of Member States in addition to the steps being taken by DPI.

Japan has been cooperating actively for the further strengthening of UN information services The importance Japan attaches to UN information activities is reflected in the assistance it extends to the UN Information Centre in Tokyo. Despite the severe budget constraints of the last few years, my government has been providing about 200,000 dollars annually as assistance for the public information activities of UNIC Tokyo. In 2004, approximately 241,000 dollars will be provided, and in 2005, the Japanese government contribution is expected to increase to as much as 350,000 dollars, an amount which will include the facilities expenses of the Centre.

UNIC Tokyo is the only centre from which the United Nations issues information in Japanese, and it therefore plays an extremely important role in furthering an awareness of the importance of the UN among the Japanese people. As you know, Japan is the second largest financial contributor to the UN regular budget and a major financial contributor to many UN agencies. Such a high level of support is possible only with the understanding and support of Japanese taxpayers concerning UN activities.

Recently, some dissatisfaction with respect to the UN has been voiced within Japan, and that situation seems to have been exacerbated by the latest developments relating to Iraq. Under such circumstances, enhancing Japanese citizens' understanding of the UN role has become that much more critical, and the Centre is called upon to play a vital role in this respect.

From the point of view of advancing acceptance of the UN within Japan, the visit of the Secretary-General to Japan last February was a great success. I am certain that the public information activities conducted by DPI and by UNIC Tokyo, in particular, played a key role in that regard. During his visit, the Secretary-General appealed for the participation of Japanese companies in the Global Compact. My government will continue to work in close cooperation with UNIC Tokyo to encourage the participation of Japanese companies in this initiative.

Now let me present Japan's views on some additional areas covered in the Reports of the Secretary General.

My government welcomes the activities of the United Nations Communications Group, focusing on the challenges faced by the UN. We particularly appreciate the Group's proactive efforts to promote greater interest in and awareness of issues concerning African development, including the information provided on TICAD 111, which was co-hosted by Japan and the UN last year. Sustainable development is undeniably the major challenge now confronting humankind, and I am confident that UN information services will play an important role in this area as well. For its part, Japan is organizing "EXPO 2005 AICHI, JAPAN", to begin in March of next year, with the theme of "Nature's Wisdom". In that connection, my government welcomes the involvement of the Communications Group, which is forming the Consultative Group for Expo 2005, and also looks forward to the Group's active efforts to draw greater public attention to the EXPO.

Regarding the issue of multilingualism and the UN Web site, the site has been improved to the extent that it attracted more than 2.1 billion hits during 2003. This enhanced message-delivering capacity is something that only the United Nations could accomplish and an achievement of which the organization can be justly proud. At the same time, however, we believe that the program to upgrade the site can continue to be carried forward within the limits of existing DPI resources, and we would ask that efforts be made to achieve that goal.

Mr. Chairman,

Our efforts to strengthen and improve UN public information activities have almost reached the implementation phase. Japan reaffirms its determination to continue to work in cooperation with the UN and its Member States to realize our objective.

Thank you.

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