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Speech Transcripts

February 21, 2023

JICA's Cooperation based on Human Security

Guatemala City, Guatemala

His Excellency Mario Búcaro, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
His Excellency,Manuel Estuardo Roldán Barrillas, Ambassador of Guatemala to Japan

I would like to express my appreciation to all of you for inviting me to speak at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala. I am Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

I arrived in Guatemala yesterday from Japan, where the cold winter is on full display. I have heard that Guatemala City is described as the City of Eternal-Spring; I agree with this notion and find the weather here very comfortable. In addition, the beautiful scenery is impressive. This is my first visit to Guatemala, both personally and as president of JICA. However, this country seems somehow familiar to me. Maybe I think that's because the Volcano Agua looks very similar to Mt. Fuji, Japan's iconic volcano.

Guatemala is certainly a country full of kindness and potential, but I am also aware of certain challenges this country continues to grapple with due to various historical and socio-economic factors.

One of the challenges that JICA is working with Guatemalan counterparts to address is citizen security. To improve citizen security, we are implementing a Community Policing Project in the metropolitan area of Guatemala City. This project is based on our social philosophy of prevention based on trust between citizens and police. Security is an intangible asset, and JICA's approach to yielding it has, so far, made some progresses elsewhere. For example, we contributed to reducing crime rates in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where homicides have decreased by one fifth (1/5) in twenty years. I believe that similar things will happen here in Guatemala.

In sharing some of my views with you, particularly on the state of global affairs amidst compounded crises, I would like to focus on JICA's international cooperation efforts.

In 2023 now, as the foreign minister has mentioned, the world continues to face multiple and compounded global crises, which could be described as a once-in-a-century event. Climate change is inflicting increasingly severe damage on humanity, and the new coronavirus epidemic is not completely under control in some particular countries such as China. The war in Ukraine is not only causing terrible casualties for both the Ukrainian and Russian people, but it is also fueling serious energy and food shortages around the world.

Meanwhile, accelerated by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation is soaring across most of the world's economies. On top of that, interest rates are rising, and currency exchange markets are volatile. Developed countries face potential recessions while some developing countries are experiencing severe debt problems.

Against this backdrop, Japan is expected to play a leading role in helping resolve global challenges in 2023 as both the chair of the Group of Seven summit meeting and nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe, under these circumstances, that the concept of "human security" is very important and it should be the guiding principle for our collective international development efforts. As you know, this concept, ‘human security', was originally proposed in 1994 by the United Nations Development Programme in its "Human Development Report." In a departure from Cold War thinking that focused mainly on national security, the Human Development Report of 1994 argued that, in the future, emphasis should be on the security of every single human being.

In today's world, where Russia is invading Ukraine, and the U.S. and China are locking horns in a deepening conflict, some may argue that national security should come first, and human security may wait on the back burner. But in my understanding, such a view is incorrect and short-sighted. It is true that human security gained prominence only after the Cold War, as per the 1994 Human Development Report. But in my understanding, the essence of human security which is freedom from fear and freedom from want, and the maintenance of human dignity. This fundamental view of human security is actually as old as the history of modern political thought, and from that view, national security can be seen as a means to achieve these fundamental values of human security.

Today, the people of Ukraine suffer from a lack of human security as missiles are falling on them and power outages make life for Ukrainians even more challenging in the cold winter months. For Ukrainians, national security equals human security.

Furthermore, aggression from other countries is not the only threat to human security. Other threats include structural deprivations beyond any one individuals that can control, such as extreme poverty, hunger, lack of safe water, and poor sanitation, all of which are exacerbated by the compounded crises the world is now facing. Even in stable developed countries, catastrophic floods and forest fires stemming from climate change are wreaking havoc. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented scale of deaths and people are still suffering from its aftereffects.

Such complex and intertwined threats to human security cannot be addressed solely through the self-help efforts of individual countries. We must work together with many stakeholders. I believe this is the philosophical foundation upon which Japan, as the chair of the G7, should convey to the world. But of course, philosophy alone will not solve these difficulties.

Ladies and gentlemen, what should we adopt to address today's compounded global crises that threatens human security in many parts of the world?
I believe our collective strategy should focus on at least four arguments:
First, it is vital to take a cooperative approach that is as inclusive as possible. It is true that we are now facing geopolitical confrontations, but to realize human security, the human security of us all, we need cooperation among as many stakeholders as possible. For example, in order to reduce the damage caused by climate change, we need cooperation from China, which is now having nearly one third of greenhouse gas emissions of the world.
Secondly, under these compounded crises, speed is also important. We need to address the necessity of human development crises that occur around the world. I believe as the Chair of G7, that Japan should be ready to make quick responses to the necessities of the people suffering from the lack of human security throughout the world.
Third, we need to support liberal democracies around the world. Over the past few years, it is said that democracies were in crisis. Some of the democratic countries face real challenges, and have difficulties in coping with COVID-19. But over the past few years, I believe many democratic countries have shown resilience and have shown they are able to cope with COVID-19. But still the democracy should get together to help each other. So, the third thing is our support, our worldwide support.
Fourth, despite of the necessity of short-term quick responses, we need to have a long view and a long-term perspective. Many of you here mentioned that we need to tackle human security issues. We need to have a long-term plan, which could make our society as resilient as possible for future shocks. We cannot resolve climate change in the short-term measures alone. We have to have persistent policies to cope with climate change. And also, we need to create a long-term plan to create our society as resilient possible as to face future for possible pandemics.

International cooperation based on human security is actually not an act of altruism. It is in everybody's self-interest. International cooperative action is essential to protecting the human security of people around the globe, including in Guatemala and Japan.

Finally, let me also touch upon JICA's people-to-people cooperation and the challenges we have jointly overcome. Upon the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, all JICA volunteers had no choice but to leave this country. However, our volunteer program has now resumed and is progressively dispatching Japanese citizens to Guatemala again. As of today, 23 volunteers are working in various professional fields as part of high-impact service assignments in communities across Guatemala. At the same time, we are implementing our projects on a larger scale than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. JICA is back in Guatemala at full scale.

Looking ahead to the post-pandemic era, JICA would like to continue our work as steadfast partners of the Guatemalan people with the goal of advancing "KIZUNA" which means "ties of friendship" with the people of Guatemala, with whom we share democratic values. We, therefore, pledge to work together with you for the development of this beautiful country. We look forward to your continuous understanding, collaboration, and support for the projects JICA will continue to carry out in Guatemala.

Thank you.


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