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UN Security Council Holds Open Debate on Post-Conflict Peacebuilding [ 2010.05.14 ]

[NewsJapan.net] On April 16 the United Nations Security Council held an open debate on the theme of “post-conflict peacebuilding.” The meeting, which was chaired by Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada, ended on the evening of that day (the morning of April 17 Japan time) with the adoption of a presidential statement that emphasized the need for sustained international support after a conflict, among other points. It was the first time that a Japanese foreign minister served as the chair of a UN Security Council meeting. The Asahi Shimbun editorial of April 18 stated, “We applaud Foreign Minister Okada for setting a new precedent.”

Foreign Minister Okada Is First Japanese Foreign Minister to Chair a UN Security Council Meeting

In addition to members of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, representatives of 29 states and organizations made statements during the open debate, including the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina and ministers from the governments of Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone.

According to The Nikkei (April 17, evening edition), the presidential statement that was adopted consisted of 12 paragraphs and began by emphasizing the “critical importance of post-conflict peacebuilding” in preventing the recurrence of conflicts. Specific points included stressing the importance of creating jobs for young persons and empowering women and vulnerable people. Indicating policy guidelines for peacebuilding, the statement declared that sustainable peacebuilding “requires an integrated approach, which strengthens coherence between political, security, development, human rights, and rule of law activities.”

The presidency of the UN Security Council is determined on a monthly rotating basis, and many of the presiding countries hold open debates, chaired by a government minister, on topics high on their diplomatic agenda. The April 16 debate was the first that Japan has organized. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun editorial on April 18, open debates, in which UN member countries other than the Security Council members can also participate, are held one to three times a month. The Security Council president can select some of the topics to be discussed, and Japan, this month’s president, chose “post-conflict peacebuilding” as the theme. In his regular press conference on April 13, before traveling to the United States, Foreign Minister Okada commented, “I want us to hold discussions on a better approach to post-conflict peacebuilding,” taking into account the opinions of people from countries that have been involved in conflicts,

According to a Kyodo dispatch from New York, Foreign Minister Okada, as the chair, delivered an opening statement at the debate in which he stressed that “the key to [peacebuilding] is for people in the post-conflict situation to have hope for the future.” “When we think about peacebuilding, we should first of all emphasize the importance of political leaders implementing a peace agreement with steadfast determination.” He further noted “This requires as its foundation achieving peaceful co-existence and reconciliation among parties to the conflict.” He called upon each country to provide medium- to long-term assistance that goes beyond emergency aid in the immediate aftermath of a conflict, emphasizing that “long-lasting peace requires sustained cooperation between a post-conflict country and the international community.”

Two Major Newspapers Carry Related Editorials: “Government should up physical peace-building support” (Yomiuri) and “Human resource development is essential” (Asahi)

The Yomiuri and Asahi Shimbun carried editorials on the UN Security Council’s open debate in their April 18 editions. While the Yomiuri insisted that “Japan should, first and foremost, increase its physical support for peacebuilding activities,” the Asahi emphasized that “The development of human resources is essential in order for Japan to make peacebuilding its forte.”

Referring to such conflict-ravaged countries as Afghanistan and Somalia, the Yomiuri editorial pointed out that they had slipped back into a state of conflict again because the governments established after their civil wars had weak foundations. It commented, “To have peace firmly take root, it is critical that the international community uninterruptedly provide support.” Drawing attention to the fact that, during the open debate, Foreign Minister Okada emphasized the importance of a “comprehensive strategy” to organically coordinate countries’ support measures, the Yomiuri asserted that in order to play a leading role in this field, “Japan needs to further strengthen the physical support it provides for peacebuilding activities.” It urged the government to consider utilizing the Self-Defense Forces in UN peacekeeping operations and increasing the dispatch of police officers and civilians. In providing assistance to Afghanistan, the Yomiuri said that the government should seriously consider physical assistance measures to serve as an alternative to the discontinued refueling mission of the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Indian Ocean.

In view of Japan’s large share of the budget for UN peacekeeping operations and its involvement in the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, the Asahi said, “Peacebuilding can be described as one feature of Japanese diplomacy.” But, it went on, “Practical examples are still few and far between. As of February this year, Japan ranked eighty-fourth in the world in terms of its record of dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces and police to UN peacekeeping operations. And Japan comes sixth among the seven major industrialized countries in terms of the use of the government’s official development assistance in peacebuilding over the last four years.” The Asahi stressed, “First of all, the development of human resources that can be active on the ground is essential in order for Japan to make peacebuilding its forte.” It continued, “Four years have passed since peacekeeping operations became a basic mission of the SDF. The development of international human resources, such as ceasefire monitors and command personnel, is urgent. The problem then is how to use these human resources that have been developed. That is an issue that must be considered in tandem with Japan’s diplomatic policy.” The Asahi added, “The government should devote more effort to dispatches to peacekeeping operations, get an understanding of the conflict situation in various regions, and endeavor to promote dialogue among the parties concerned and mediation.”

(Copyright 2010 Foreign Press Center, Japan)

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