7 July 2007 : Address by Mr. Seiichi Kondo, Ambassador of Japan to UNESCO at the Conference co-organized by IDDRI, IISD, SIPA and SCIENCES PO.


A Road Map to New International Regimes


"Thank you very much, Professor Axworthy,

It is a great honor and pleasure to be a part of this very interesting debate on such pertinent and timely issues.


I came back from NZ only the day before yesterday. They are having a mild winter there. When I left NZ, the temperature was 15 degrees centigrade. When I arrived in Paris in the morning, it was 16 degrees in the middle of summer. This indicates the importance of the question of climate change, which is one of the main issues we are discussing today.


It was only yesterday morning when I found an e-mail inviting me to this seminar. I was a bit hesitant to accept not only because of the fatigue caused by the 35 hour journey from NZ and an awful jet lag, but also because I knew there is a wide spread recognition that a diplomat is a person who thinks twice before saying nothing. When I was Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, I had a similar problem. I was supposed to be an economist, but it was said in those days that an economist is a person who is very accurate, but totally useless. I decided to accept anyway because this is such an interesting topic.


I am going to share with you three observations as food for thought for the discussion that will take place later.


My observations are based on 36 years of experience as a diplomat, particularly my experience with the G7/8 Summit from 1996 to 1999, my experience as Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD between 1999 and 2003, and my experience as Tokyo-based Ambassador for International Trade and Economy, a chief negotiator for the WTO Doha Development Agenda.


My first point is that what we are discussing here is not a new issue. For me this is deja-vu. The questions, such as “for what purpose will China and India use their economic might?” or “what kind of world order are they going to shape with their new power?” are exactly the questions many Western countries asked about Japan during the 1970s and 80s when Japan was ascending as a new economic power.


Professor Ezra Vogel's book titled Japan as Number One published in 1979 was warmly welcomed by all the Japanese, but apparently raised some concerns in the West. The phrase we often heard in those days was that the world is concerned because “ Japan has become assertive, but it has no exportable ideology.” We were a bit perplexed by this because we did not think we had one. We did not think we had to have one.


We had been working hard to recover from the ashes of WW2, and thanks to our people's diligence and international assistance such as that from the World Bank, we managed to achieve our goal to “catch up with the West.” Nothing more, nothing less.


It is clear that the international community, under the leadership of the Western powers tried to have an “engagement policy” to make sure that Japan would not be heading in the direction that they did not want. This was evidenced by the invitation of Japan to the OECD in 1964 and to the G7 Summit as an original member in 1975.


But still concerns about Japan 's possible hidden agenda were repeatedly expressed in the Western media throughout the 80's. In response, Japan came up with the “International Co-operation Initiative” in 1988 under Prime Minister Takeshita, which was composed of three pillars of expanded ODA to help developing countries, the “Financial Initiative” to make effective use of Japan 's trade surplus and the large scale “International Exchange Program.”


This was designed to alleviate Western concerns by demonstrating what kind of world Japan wanted to see, and how it was going to use its economic might. I can clearly attest to this because I was Private Secretary to the then Vice Foreign Minister Ryohei Murata who was the architect of this initiative. I saw him drafting the initiative alone in his office late at night.


Therefore I suspect that my BICS colleagues are confronting similar situations. There is a clear recognition gap between the West and the newly emerging Asian and other powers. The West tends to see emerging power as a potential threat, and tries to decide if it is a friend or foe. This dichotomous approach often lets western people pick up bits and pieces of information as examples that represent the whole and decide if they are black or white, thereby overlooking the real issue. This approach unnecessarily antagonizes emerging countries.


This is my first point.


Secondly, I believe that what the BICS will bring to the world is neither a challenge to the Western driven post-war system, such as the OECD growth model, nor a complete association with it. It will be a model complementary to the existing one.


The Western success since the 17 th century can be attributed to a reductionist approach initiated by Rene Descartes. The emphasis on rationality contributed to the development of scientific, economic and free trade theories. It led to great progress in science and technology, enabling the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent progress which raised our living standards enormously, sent mankind to the moon, and revealed much of the mystery of life, such as embryonic stem cells.


But obviously this approach is facing an enormous challenge of sustainability. More and more people are coming to realize that science alone might not solve the problem of climate change. Globalization driven by the free flow of goods, services and information has raised concerns about the loss of humanity and identity.


The Asian approach, and probably that of other BICS countries, is based on a balance between rationality and sensitivity, between material values and spiritual values, and between parts and the whole. In the Asian philosophy, individuals are not considered to be independent from others nor from nature. They are considered to be parts of the whole. This philosophy is behind many policies and actions in Asia and this is exactly what we need in the 21 st century. Japan was notorious for its air and water pollution and related diseases during the 1970's. This was a result of quick industrialization in order to catch up with the West. However Japan restored its tradition and is now one of the cleanest countries with the most strict emissions controls. The ancient city of Kyoto is not only known for its world cultural heritage, but also as the birth place of the Kyoto Protocol.


Last year when I was a chief negotiator for the WTO Doha Round, I was struck by the big role played by Brazil and India . Until recently, in the trade field, the US, the EU, Canada and Japan, known collectively as “QUAD,” used to be the core leaders of free trade negotiations. Now the trade agenda is driven by the G4, namely the US , the EU, Brazil and India . Brazil and India are also representing the G30, a group of emerging developing countries. These two new core leaders are often regarded to be challengers to the status quo, but I take it that they are bringing in a non-Western approach to the WTO in areas such as agricultural policy and intellectual property rights. It is true that their agendas are heavily driven by narrow national interests, but so are the agendas of the US and the EU.


One could argue that the fact that Japan, Korea and Mexico, three non Western countries who had caught up with the West by 1990's, have joined the OECD and have been good world citizens, whereas the fact that none of BICS want to join the OECD means that the latter is attempting to challenge the current system. My experience with the OECD and the WTO tells that this is only the result of different approaches—one trying to complement the current system from inside and the other doing so from outside.


What should not be overlooked is the direction of the restoration of the balance between rationality and humanity in the long term. One of the reasons one tends to overlook this is that policy makers are not necessarily articulate on this and the rhetoric they use in order to attract the short term attention of their voters often gives a nationalistic and anti-colonialist tone.


Rather than asking if what they bring is an alternative to the current system or not, we should take it as an opportunity to restore the balance dearly needed for sustainable development in the coming years. What the BICS are presenting is neither an OECD model nor an anti-OECD model. The Western dichotomous approach can not look into the underlying value of the new phenomenon. It is, and should be considered to be, a suggestion that complements the current system.


My third point is how then can we make sure that the BICS or non Western approaches contribute to the world without being driven by the narrow national interests of these countries? In other words, how can we ensure good policy coordination between the BICS and developed countries?


My answer is the role of individuals and civil society.


I agree with Professor Hurrel who said that elements of both modern liberal internationalism and traditional balance of power system exist today. We are still in a transitional period from a traditional system to a modern system. I do not know how long this transition period will take. It may be that it will last forever. However long this transitional period is, it is the civil society who will play an increasingly important role in international relations.


The current international relations are managed not only by states but also by cross-border networks of individuals and NGOs. States do not enjoy absolute sovereign power any more, although they still retain military power, the police, the power to tax people and some degree of economic policy. Under globalization, citizens are more and more frustrated by the limit of government's power. Government is too small to deal with complex issues that require international coordination. Government is too big to deal with the day to day concerns of citizens, such as health, the environment and education.


As a result, as Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter says, states are getting more and more disaggregated. We see an increasing number of horizontal networks of public functions, such as international finance issues, trade, customs officers, police, etc. What is more striking is the role of private network.


Today it is difficult to find international conferences on economic, environmental or health issues where no civil society participates. The constant interaction between those individuals and organizations will raise awareness of key issues among the public and increase pressure upon governments to take the right policies.


The reason why I became aware of the importance of individuals is that last year when we had difficult WTO negotiations in Geneva , individual negotiators of the G6 (the G4 plus Japan and Australia ), including myself, frequently had private conversations over dinner after hard negotiation. We came to the conclusion that if we gave anonymous papers describing what each of us thought of the final compromise text, all the texts would look very much alike.


We concluded that if we had not gotten instructions from capitals, we would have been able to reach an agreement easily. Some serious NGO people also agreed.


It is the individuals, not governments as institutions, who are able to understand the need to restore the balance between rationalism and humanity and are ready to put this into action. Institutions are machines, the work of which is based upon rationalism, and the people who work in them have to accept this working mechanism, in order to keep their job.


Governance in the 21 st century is achieved by the interaction of these networks-- both public and private, and not by hierarchical system.


The emergence of the BICS as big influential powers might appear to be a challenge at the country level, but it should be regarded as giving a good momentum that encourages individuals and NGOs, both in the West and in developing countries, including the BICS themselves, to intensify their interaction and strengthen their ties, which will lead us to a world where non-Western thought and philosophy play a complementary role in modifying the existing model so that the whole world can move towards more sustainable development.


To summarize, in order to cope with the newly developing situation in order to ensure sustainable development, the dichotomous approach should be abandoned, the non-Western approach taken by the BICS should be welcomed as complementary to the existing system, and the role of individuals and civil society is key to the successful incorporation of the new ideas in future policies.


Thank you."



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