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Secretary-General's Remarks to the Breakfast Meeting with the Japan Institute for International Affairs [as prepared for delivery](1 July 2008 / Hotel Okura)


Thank you very much, Ambassador Satoh, for your kind introduction and for hosting this breakfast in my honour. It was wonderful to work with you at the United Nations, and I congratulate you on your leadership of this Institute.

You have assembled today a distinguished group of parliamentarians and other dignitaries. I am keen to answer your questions, so I’ll try to keep my remarks brief, but I do want to say a few words about my priorities as United Nations Secretary-General and how I see Japan as a key partner in addressing them.

The world is now facing a triple crisis from the combined threats of climate change, rising food prices and a development emergency that is holding whole continents back from achieving progress in key areas.

In the face of these interrelated problems, humanity’s common ties are starting to fray. Rising energy prices hurt all people, but it is the poor who suffer most. The same is true of climate change. And the cost of food is tearing at the fabric of society, ripping not only neighbour from neighbour but also parents from children, as parents face terrible choices, like which child to feed, or whether to go without medicine in order to buy a little more food.

Disparities in health care systems are separating rich from poor and the healthy from the chronically sick. Because of gaps in care, a routine procedure in one country can turn deadly in another. In developing countries, women are dying during childbirth in epidemic proportions. Globally, a woman loses her life from this largely preventable cause every single minute. That is just appalling.

To repair the fraying ties that bind humanity, we must address these major challenges in tandem. And the United Nations is the best, if not the only, international organization with the capability, legitimacy, universality and reach to undertake this critical mission.

But to succeed, the United Nations needs leadership from governments, especially countries like Japan, which has demonstrated its commitment and ability to address the food crisis, climate change and the lack of development.

Japan has already done a great deal in providing resources to help tackle these global problems. And beyond financial support, Japan has been a leader in contributing ideas and providing political will which are indispensable to tackle these issues.

As host of the upcoming Group of Eight leaders meeting in Hokkaido, Japan has set the right agendas. I strongly hope that the assembled leaders will realize the urgent need to take a comprehensive approach to these interlinked global challenges, because inaction now could spell cataclysm in the future.

If we fail to address rising food prices, which could drive over one hundred million more people into poverty, we put an entire generation at risk.

If we fail to reach an agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, we will do irreversible damage to the planet that our children will inherit.

And if we fail to keep our promise on the Millennium Development Goals, we create the conditions for greater human misery and global insecurity in the future.

I will be looking to the G-8 meeting to take resolute action in response to the food crisis. This requires delivering urgently on the full range of immediate food assistance, while ensuring that emergency needs are met fully; ensuring political commitment for long-term additional agricultural investment; minimizing export restrictions and cutting subsidies in developed countries.

At the same time, the international community must maintain the momentum on climate change that was generated at the Bali conference last December. We must work diligently in the eighteen months remaining before negotiators meet in Copenhagen to adopt a treaty.

Much was achieved at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last December. We must press forward to achieve the agreement that the world expects and needs. Developed countries must lead the way in the negotiations, given their historical responsibility for the bulk of carbon emissions and in light of the agreed principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. With the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen less than 18 months away, the future of the planet is literally at stake.

Here too, we look to Japan to show real leadership.

First, we look to you to focus on what must be delivered by this December in Poznan. This includes a shared vision of what a new agreement will look like — one that addresses all the building blocks agreed to in Bali; strengthening or creating new financial mechanisms to assist developing countries in implementing past and future agreements on adaptation and mitigation needs; a fully financed and operational Adaptation Fund; and concrete illustrations of the transfer of low-carbon technologies to developing countries.

Second, we look to you to promote agreement in Copenhagen, not only on long-term goals for reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, but also on short- and medium-term targets in the context of UNFCCC negotiations. These are essential for market forces to provide the financing and technological changes required.

Japan has shown great leadership in this arena. Prime Minister Fukuda has advocated shifting to a low-carbon society in order to generate opportunities for economic activity that are compatible with the environment. I share this vision. I believe that trends are favourable for ushering in a new era of “green economics” where protecting the environment also boosts the bottom line. Japan’s “Cool biz” campaign is a simple example of how we can change our lifestyles with little effort and thus contribute to protecting the environment.

As a model of economic advancement, Japan is well-placed to help developing countries around the world. The recent TICAD IV meeting is the latest manifestation of this country’s spirit of partnership. It is exactly that kind of productive collaboration that the world needs now to strengthen the ties that bind humanity and advance toward a better future.

The challenges are daunting — but the solutions are at hand. Malaria, which kills at least one million people a year, does not have to be fatal. We can prevent malaria deaths by providing bed nets, indoor residual spraying, public health facilities, and case management. These measures will dramatically cut mortality rates, especially among those worst-affected: pregnant women and young children in Africa.

At the same time, we must build comprehensive primary health care systems, supporting the health workforce and mobilizing action to address a range of concerns, like the neglected tropical diseases that affect one billion people worldwide, and the abysmally high maternal mortality rates.

An additional 10 billion dollars a year would ensure coverage of basic services for maternal, newborn, and children’s health. This would save countless precious lives.

Overall, donors must reach agreed targets for Official Development Assistance.

If we take these measures, we strike a major blow against poverty, which thrives where disease and hunger are allowed to fester. A healthy, well-fed population is our best asset in advancing economic well-being and social development while consolidating political stability.

All partners have a role to play in meeting these pressing challenges – but only the United Nations can coordinate national efforts in a concerted campaign for progress. No single country can succeed on its own, but together, we will definitely advance.

I strongly believe that, given the global nature and scope of the challenges we face, this is the time for multilateralism, the time for collective action, the time for countries to work with and through the United Nations as never before. And this need for acting together requires even stronger leadership by countries like Japan.

Distinguished guests,

Japan has long been a leader in the area of human security. You are increasingly focusing on the relationship between human security and the responsibility to protect — the obligation accepted by all States to act collectively, through the Security Council, when a population is threatened with genocide, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity. Adopted unanimously by the 2005 World Summit, the Responsibility to Protect affirms that States have the primary obligation to protect their populations from those committing or inciting these crimes.

Three years on, the Responsibility to Protect remains more honoured in the breach than in observance. The struggle against inequality, intolerance, and injustice continues. Too often, national leaders seek to hide abuses of fundamental human rights and humanitarian norms behind the false cloak of sovereignty. As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must give life to those rights, which bind together our common humanity. That means we must spare no effort in taking the Rsponsibility to Protect from word to deed.

The principle is strictly focused on genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. It is a coherent, sound and politically sustainable policy. It may be limited, but it is extremely powerful — if we can prevent these atrocities, we will have taken a momentous step forward.

There are many ways to do this. Helping countries to build capacity, ensuring early warning, taking decisive action in response to threats, and collaborating with regional and other groupings are all part of the Responsibility to Protect.

Prevention is the key. The aim is to help States to avert genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.

There will be cases when prevention is not enough. There may be times when the only way to protect hundreds of thousands of people at risk is through enforcement measures. This is in exact accord with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

So the Responsibility to Protect builds on our founding principles, reinforcing the legal obligation of Member States not to use force except in conformity with the Charter. We look to Japan’s leadership in developing ways to translate into practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After visiting Japan, I will go to the Republic of Korea and then China before returning for the G-8 summit. These three countries are increasingly working together as friendly neighbours with an eye toward their common future. I applaud their plans to hold their first trilateral summit and to cooperate on climate change, assistance to Africa, and the food and energy crisis.

The participation of Japan, the Republic of Korea and China in the Six-Party talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is further evidence of their productive relationship.

These are all key concerns of the United Nations. As the first Asian Secretary-General of this new millennium, I feel it is natural and even necessary for this trilateral partnership to join forces with the UN to address our shared concerns and reach our global objectives.


There is a notion in some cultures that to be considered to be “normal”, a country must have a fighting army. But from the UN’s perspective, Japan can contribute more than many by staying true to its pacifist Constitution.

Where many others tend to see security issues as separate from development, Japan has long treated these as two sides of the same coin. This is evident in its recent leadership of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. By paying attention to post-conflict countries and helping them to consolidate stability, the Peacebuilding Commission is an excellent example of the comprehensive, United Nations-based approach that I have been advocating today.

It is important to take a broad view of the issues we face. As you say in Japanese, “Taikyoku kan ni tatsu.” — “Stand with a whole view”.

The UN provides this illuminating perspective. And with the support of all countries — especially established leaders like Japan — we can realize the ideals of our Charter for the sake of all the world’s peoples.

Thank you.