Speech by

Mr. Hiroo Kinoshita
Special Advisor to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure
and Transport Former Administrative Vice Minister for the National Land Agency

at the Twenty-Fifth Special Session of the General Assembly
for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of the
United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II)

6 June 2001


 

Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my profound gratitude to all those involved in the preparation of this special, important meeting to discuss human settlement issues in the twenty-first century. It is an honor for me to represent the Japanese Government at this significant event.

Five years have passed since we met in Istanbul to reconfirm the spirits of the Vancouver meeting in 1976 where we made efforts to build a world where all can enjoy better living standards among greater freedom.

We are facing, however, difficult problems in human settlement, such as rapid urbanization all over the world, environmental issues including global warming, and a widening gap between the rich and the poor under further economic globalization.

Under this recognition, we, the representatives of the various governments, meet here today, to comprehensively review and appraise the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, to clarify the obstacles to such implementation, and to agree on further actions necessary to determine the spirit of the agenda.

Now, when the new century has just begun, so that we may bring humankind to prosperity in the new century, it is very timely for us to send powerful messages of action for the improvement of human settlement problems. That is the basic challenge for the peace and the development of humankind.

In Japan, based on the spirit of the partnership, we aggressively work on the concrete realization of the Habitat Agenda through public involvement. Let me introduce its main contents.
 
 Mr. President,
First, I would like to talk about the National Land Policy, which is the basis for our work on human settlement issues.

The, human settlement issues are extremely wide and varied, and they include economic, social and cultural factors. So, it is necessary to plan comprehensive and systematic national land policies in order to solve the problems. In Japan, in order to improve the human settlement environment, the National Land Policies aim at brightening the lives of individuals, ensuring security, conservation and the creation of a beautiful and favorable environment, and the formation of diversified regions.

Second, I would like to speak about the rejuvenation of cities that have important implication for the environment of human settlement.

As half the Japanese population lives in the country's three metropolitan areas, we make efforts to promote Twenty-first Century Urban Renaissance Projects that target the revival of the cities from the environmental standpoints, disaster prevention and globalization, in order to enrich the lives of urban residents.

Third, I would like to refer to the housing and land that is not only a part of human settlement, but also the grounds for daily living.

Based on the eighth five-year housing construction plan, which was established by the Japanese Government in March 2001, we will mainly work on such basic tasks as the construction of good quality housing stocks that meet the diverse needs of the nation, and the construction of the vibrant housing environment that supports those aging society with fewer children.

As for land policies that are closely related to housing problems, we will pursue the realization of the effective use of land, by promoting such policies as the utilization of land in low use and not in use in city centers.

Fourth, T would like to mention the water issues that are essential for environmentally sustainable, sound and favorable human settlement.

The water problems, including water shortage, the spread of water pollution and the great inundation disasters are emerging all over the world and creating such impacts ás food shortage and the spread of epidemic diseases. It may lead to a serious situation in the near future as the increase in population and rapid urbanization progresses.

The third World Water Forum will be held in the Kyoto area in the year 2003 to discuss important global water problems. I would like to call for the active participation of all of you in that forum.
 
 Fifth, I would like to talk about the disaster prevention for which the representative of the Japanese Government appealed strongly in HABITAT II, based on the invaluable lessons learned from the great earthquakes.

The World Conference on Natural Disaster 2001 was held in February, in Awaji of the Hyogo Prefecture, which suffered from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. The conference confirmed that it was necessary to establish the strategic guidelines toward revival, and an agreement was reached to fulfill and strengthen the global disaster prevention framework in order to promote global disaster prevention strategies. Let us promote international cooperation and liaison in the area of disaster prevention in the future and work toward the realization of such agreement.

Six years ago, when Japan suffered from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, we received the warm support from all over the world. Thanks to that support, main infrastructure facilities have already been restored, and all temporary housing for victims has ceased to be needed. I would like to express my acknowledgement for your support at that time.

Finally, I would like to note the international involvement by the Japanese Government toward realizing the Habitat Agenda under the rapid progress of globalization and interdependence among the nations.

We have to tackle the problems of poverty, environmental degradation, natural disasters, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, conflicts and refugees and various other threats to human dignity and life from the viewpoint of "Human Security" in respect to the values of individuals. For this purpose, the Japanese Government cooperates in these projects in hopes of improving living conditions in low-income areas. This is done by establishing the "Trust Fund for Human Security" in the UN, in order to assist the efforts by the international organizations to strengthen "Human Security."
 

Mr. President,

The resident participation approaches, with which the residents themselves actively participate in improving living standards, are very effective for the development of poverty areas. We weigh the participation approaches by regional residents, based on the spirit of the Habitat Agenda, when we cooperate with the poverty reduction projects on the grassroots level. This includes job training, creating employment opportunities, and offering basic social services. As a part of its efforts, the Japanese Government has established funds for poverty reduction in the Asian Development Bank and World Bank respectively, through which grant assistance are provided.

Furthermore, the partnership between various parties is important to implement the Habitat Agenda. Japanese Government will continue to assist the NGOs operating in developing countries and to provide them financial assistance, such as NGO Project Subsidy and Grant Assistance for Grassroots Projects in order to ensure swift and accurate cooperation toward economic and social development.

 
 As for our efforts in the Asian and Pacific region, as the Japanese Government has welcomed the Habitat Asian and Pacific Regional Office in Fukuoka in the year 1997 which was the year after HABITAT II, we cooperate on solving settlement issues in the region through providing assistance to that office.

We cooperate through the Japan-ESCAP Cooperation Fund, toward the concrete realization of "the Kitakyushu Initiative for a Clean Environment." It was adopted in the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, which was hosted by the Government of Japan and organized by ESCAP. We have also actively supported the Initiative by establishing a national support framework consisting of the Government, municipalities and the relevant organizations involved.

In the twenty-first century, when we are strongly becoming aware of the finitude of the environment and the earth's resources, all nations must cooperate to realize a world lush and full, enabling its inhabitants to enjoy economic affluence as well as spiritual affluence. With this recognition, the Japanese Government is bound and determined to strengthen its efforts to join in taking responsibility and to play its role in international society, as well as to implement its domestic policies of human settlements.

Thank you, Mr. President.