Statement by H.E. Mr. Shinichi Kitaoka
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
Items 42 and 43 (Culture of Peace)
Sixtieth Session of the General Assembly
20 October 2005
Sixty years have passed since the United Nations was established with the determination "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors." And five years have now passed since the United Nations celebrated the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations in 2001, adopting the resolution entitled "Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations."
Today, however, there are still problems that are causing people everywhere great concern. Conflict and confrontation: arising from racial or religious differences persist around the world. Globalization, which can bring different civilizations closer, contributes many benefits to society and can also give rise to intolerance among people when they come into contact with civilizations different from their own without preparation.
In order to deal with this unfortunate situation, it is of great importance to promote dialogue among people and civilizations based on the spirit of tolerance and deep mutual understanding.
At the World Summit in September 2005, leaders reaffirmed that all cultures and civilizations contributed to the advancement of humankind. They, therefore acknowledged the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world and committed themselves to promoting a culture of peace and dialogue at the local, regional and international levels. It is our responsibility to achieve this goal. Japan, for its part, believes that the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations has been playing a key role in the promotion of understanding among peoples and cultures around the world and in this way is contributing to further development of a culture of peace.
In this regard, my delegation highly commends UNESCO for the major role it played in implementing the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations by including it in its medium-term strategy for 2002-2007 with a view to achieving its strategic objective of "safeguarding cultural diversity and encouraging dialogue among cultures and civilizations." Within this framework, UNESCO has organized and sponsored a broad range of activities, conferences and other meetings such as an International Conference on the Dialogue among Civilizations, Cultures and Peoples in April 2005 in Paris as well as regionally centered symposia and conferences on the dialogue among civilizations.
Let me welcome here the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions on October 17 in Commission IV of 33rd UNESCO General Conference, which we believe, will protect and promote cultural diversity by providing a wide-ranging framework. I believe that respect for cultural diversity and intercultural dia1ogue is one of the surest guarantees of development and peace.
As pointed out in a report issued in August 2005 by the Secretary-General, Japan believes that a global partnership is urgently needed and to that end concrete action should be taken through practical initiatives to further promote dialogue among civilizations. Besides the activities by UNESCO, Japan also welcomes the various initiatives promoted by member states to implement the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations and, among others, welcomes the "Alliance of Civilizations" launched on 14 July 2005 by the Secretary-General.
Throughout its history, my country has been fortunate enough to be exposed to and has accepted various civilizations such as those from China and India and, in modem times, Western civilization. Japan has been successful in co-existing with different cultures while maintaining our own identity. Therefore, Japan, recognizing the great benefits of cultural diversity, attaches importance on interaction among people and also acknowledges the importance of understanding each other's cultures and civilizations and, how to foster mutual understanding through dialogue.
With this in mind, Japan attaches special importance to exchanges among young people, who will play the leading role in the international community of the new generation. Through youth invitation schemes such as the Global Youth Exchange Program, Japan intends to make further efforts in promoting mutual understanding, transcending the differences in cultures and languages.
In January 2001, in response to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, Japan launched a new initiative which sought to further enhance mutual understanding between Japan and Islamic countries as part of the effort to promote dialogue among civilizations. Since then, Japan has been actively undertaking a series of efforts to deepen the understanding among cultures and civilizations, through such dialogue as Japan Middle East Cultural Exchanges and Dialogue Mission, the Arab-Japan Dialogue Forum, Seminars on the Dialogue among Civilizations between the Islamic World and Japan and so on.
Based on the experience accumulated through those culture and region specific dialogues, Japan decided to hold a conference with much wider perspective. At the Asian-African Summit in April 2005, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stated that it was critical to share our experiences and our knowledge through dialogues between civilizations, between cultures, and between individuals, and to that end he offered to host the "World Civilization Forum," so that each country might share its experiences and preserve its traditions while at the same time advancing its own modernization.
At the Forum held in July 2005 in Tokyo, Professor Amartya Sen, the chairman of the Forum, pointed out in his opening address at the Forum that the distinction solely based on civilizations made little sense because we were defined by a variety of concerns and therefore could not be reduced to a single set of features; instead we must see the richness of the human condition. He argued that, in this sense, the Forum was not about a dialogue between civilizations, but about a global dialogue between people striving to address the problems and grievances of the world. The Forum provided an opportunity for governments, private enterprise, academia and civil society to share a common awareness of the issues and to form networks to promote interaction in serious discussions of today's situation. Japan acknowledges the absolute virtue of dialogue and peace, and accordingly would like to continue its efforts to promote them.
In the years to come, we will have to continue our labors in close cooperation with each other, to expand dialogue and exchange views among civilizations. I would therefore like to conclude my statement by reiterating that Japan is determined to redouble its efforts to bring about a culture of peace.
Thank you very much.