No.1 Mr. Yasushi Akashi : 20th Anniversary

Relay Messages from Japanese Peacekeepers

Relay Messages from Japanese Peacekeepers_No.1 Mr. Yasushi Akashi(img)

<Photo> With King Norodom Sihanouk (right)

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Mr. Yasushi Akashi(img)

Yasushi Akashi

Chairman, International House of Japan

Mr. Yasushi Akashi is currently Representative of the Government of Japan for Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka, Chairman of the International House of Japan, and President of the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning ( JOICFP ) as well as a Visiting Professor of the Graduate School of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University, and Director of Foreign Language Research Institute, Gunma Prefectural Women's University.
Until he retired in 1997, Mr. Akashi was served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia and SRSG of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia ( UNTAC ) from 1992 to 95, following his assignment to the position of Under-Secretary-General (for public information, disarmament affairs and then humanitarian affairs) in 1979. He worked for the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN , first as a Counselor, a Minister and eventually an Ambassador from 1974 to 79. It was in 1957 that he began his career in the UN . His positions in the UN include Political Affairs Officer and President of the UN Employees' Union.
Mr. Akashi graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Tokyo in 1954. After studying at the Graduate School of Tokyo University, he studied abroad at the University of Virginia, The Fletcher School, and Columbia University. He was born in Akita Prefecture, Japan, in 1931.
Among his major works are The United Nations-Tracks and Prospects (Iwanami Paperbacks), Between War and Peace-People Across the Border (Iwanami Shoten) and Skills to Negotiate with a "Dictator" (Shueisha Shinsho), all available in Japanese.

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The International Peace Cooperation Law(PDF: 63KB)Open new window came into force in 1992, which enabled Japan to cooperate with UN peacekeeping operations. You were then Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia ( UNTAC ). How did you see the argument over Japan's international peace cooperation back then?

The Law was enacted in June 1992. The Gulf War broke out the year before. Although Japan provided a large sum of money, it failed to offer human resources. So, the ruling party made every effort to adopt the Law, and they succeeded at last. The Law marked the first step for Japan's participation in peacekeeping in the international community as well as through the UN . It was a great pleasure and an epoch-making thing that a Japanese unit, ceasefire observers, and civilian police officers took part in peace in Cambodia according to the law.

The International Peace Cooperation Corps in Cambodia was Japan's first large-scale dispatch to a UN peacekeeping mission. In retrospect, what impression do you have?

 UN peacekeepers staged a parade in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh in October 1992. I saw the Japanese flag flying among the UN flag and other 43 flags of the participating countries with deep emotion.
 UNTAC was the first opportunity to participate in UN peacekeeping not only for Japan but for China and Germany, as well. Since 1992, countries have engaged in much more extensive fields of activity.
Over the past 20 years, Japan first enforced the International Peace Cooperation Law and decided to join UN peacekeeping operations, and then the 2001 amendment lifted the ban on the Self-Defense Forces' participation in so-called core peacekeeping operations. Article 3 of the amended SDF Law stipulated international peace cooperation as one of the SDF 's primary missions. Furthermore, cases where the SDF 's could use weapons were eased and became more practical.

With Prince Norodom Ranariddh (left) and the UN Force Commander (right)(img)

With Prince Norodom Ranariddh (left) and
the UN Force Commander (right)

In your book Patience and Hope, I was impressed by your conversation with a local woman on the voting day of the first election in the wake of the Cambodian Civil War. In response to your question, "What do you hope for the future?" she replies, "I want peace and roads."

We Japanese might take peace as something like air, something you can't sense directly, but still know is there. But for Cambodians, peace is not something abstract or ideological but something familiar in daily life: meals, transportation, repairing roads, building bridges, constructing schools and hospitals, and other common infrastructural activities. Japanese are well used to peace, but they should have enough imagination to consider these details.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the entire world was moved by the sight of young Japanese sincerely assisting victims in any way they could. Foreigners lent them a helping hand and cheered them up, too. We live in such a globally interdependent world. It may be a good idea to show our solidarity to more precarious places than Japan as a member of the international community by means of UN peacekeeping or another form in a way that's unique to Japan.
I'm very encouraged when I see a Japanese, especially a woman, struggle alone in places like Africa. We should remember that individuals and NGO s play an active part worldwide in international peace cooperation, apart from SDF personnel or civilian police officers.

Chatting with disarmed soldiers(img)

Chatting with disarmed soldiers

With King Norodom Sihanouk (left)(img)

With King Norodom Sihanouk (left)

Do you have any personal stories from your days in Cambodia?

Mr.Yasushi Akashi(img)

After the peacekeeping operations in Cambodia had been accomplished, when I was given an opportunity to make a report to Their Majesties Emperor and Empress and talk with them about the operations, Empress Michiko told me that two events after the Cold War had impressed Her Majesty most vividly and deeply.
One was the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the following German Reunification. The other was that UNTAC planned and held a democratic election in May 1993, when 90% of Cambodian electorate cheerfully went voting. I was very glad to hear that Her Majesty had been moved by local women going to vote in their best clothes.

You chaired the Advisory Group on International Peace Cooperation set up in the Cabinet Secretariat in 2002. What kinds of challenges do you think Japan must get over to take a more active role in international peace cooperation?

 UN peacekeeping operations had extended their role beyond just peacekeeping. But after the UN faced a series of difficult situations in Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and other places in the mid-1990s, the Brahimi Report was published in August 2000 based on those experiences. In the report, Lakhdar Brahimi, Chair of the commission, called attention to the necessity for enough budget and personnel to expand and strengthen peacekeeping operations flexibly. When you apply impartiality, one of the Principles of UN Peacekeeping, you have to judge it by the parties' courses of action. The principle of non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate also brings into question to what extent the use of force in self-defense is permitted to defense the UN mandate. In that sense, peacekeeping cannot be unchangeable and thus has been constantly changing in accordance with the state of affairs, including use of force.
In 2002, the Advisory Group on International Peace Cooperation released its recommendations. To be sure, Japanese peacekeepers should act under the Japanese Constitution, but they could cooperate as far as the internationally recognized boundaries. We raise the issues of not just cooperation in peacebuilding in the post-conflict period including the practical use of ODA (official development assistance), civilians' and NGO s' participation in peacebuilding activities, and UN peacekeeping operations, but participation in a wide range of multinational force-like activities, too. The report reflects the view that there are a lot of things for Japan to do in light of its desire to "occupy an honored place in an international society," as stipulated in the preamble of the Constitution.

The Japanese International Peace Cooperation Corps are currently in operation in South SudanHaitiTimor-LesteHaiti and the Golan Heights. Besides, a number of young Japanese are embarking on an international career. Could you give some advice for them?

Mr.Yasushi Akashi

I take it that International Peace Cooperation Corps members run up against a crop of troubles under various circumstances in each country. Still, these are precious experiences all the same, ones that cannot be experienced in Japan, even if you wanted them. In that sense, I want them to behave themselves with a sense of duty and pride, and, at the same time, I'm deeply grateful to them as a Japanese.
I'm really happy with those young people who set their mind on that kind of career, and I believe a lot of them have the guts to get out of Japan and to try out life overseas, even though some of them are introverted. If you have a strong will to do something as a member of the international community as well as a Japanese, seize any chance, build up your experience, and aim higher.

Interviewed on April 5 at the International House of Japan
Interviewers:Matsutaro Yamasaki, Yasuaki Aihara and Takuro Horikawa, Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters
Photographer:Takuro Horikawa,Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters

Back number :

No.2  Dr. Hideki KobayashiNo.3  Mr. Shigeru YotoriyamaNo.4  Colonel Toru NamatameSpecial Edition  Mr. Lou Oshiba

In “Relay Messages from Japanese Peacekeepers”, we look back on the history of Japan's international peace cooperation through messages delivered by prominent figures who are well versed in international peace cooperation as well as former members of International Peace Cooperation Corps in commemoration of the 20 years since the enactment of the International Peace Cooperation Law.

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