30 November 2009

A Tokyo Conference Reaffirms Japan's Role in Afghanistan

*Click the title above to read the Japanese version of this release.

by Takahiro Katsumi and Vladimir Ionesco

(Tokyo 30 November)On 23-25 November, a three-day conference on Afghanistan was held at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Entitled "Roundtable Discussion on Peace and Reconciliation: Prospects for Shared Security in Afghanistan" the conference was co-hosted by World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) Japanese Committee (page in Japanese only) and Japanese Parliamentarians for Shared Security (JPSS) with the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

To ensure the safety of all participants as well as frank and free discussion, the conference was completely closed to the media and the public until the final day.

During the three-day event, participants from Afghanistan and other countries, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and many more, engaged in a vibrant discussion on how to foster peace in Afghanistan. They included diplomats, military officers, academics, researchers, development specialists, and religious leaders from eighteen countries. The conclusions reached in the conference were compiled into a recommendation paper that was presented to the press on the final day.

Eight-point recommendation delivered to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister

Before the press conference took place, the Master of Ceremonies and Acting President of JPSS, Senator Tadashi Inuzuka (DPJ), and his delegation split into two units, which visited the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry to deliver the conclusions of the conference; an eight-point recommendation written under the supervision of Amb. Francesc Vendrell, the Chairman of the Conference. To the delegation, Prime Minister Hatoyama was noted to have said the following when he received the document from Rev. Nichiko Niwano, President of WCRP Japanese Committee:

"Thank you for achieving what politics alone cannot."

WCRP President Nichiko Niwano delivering the recommendation to Prime Minister Hatoyama
Second delegation led by the Chairman delivering the recommendation to Foreign Minister Okada

The eight-point recommendation outlines the roles that each stakeholder should play in the promotion of reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. The section that outlines the role of Japan reads as follows:

Japan’s Role: Since Japan enjoys an excellent reputation with Afghanistan and the immediate neighbours of Afghanistan, it is highly desirable that Japan play a key role within the international community in supporting the peace and reintegration programme led by the Afghan government. The participants welcomed measures for aid effectiveness that ensure transparency, accountability and more effective results that would enable the government of Japan to continue to provide support to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

With inputs from Muslim participants and religious figures, the recommendation also outlines the role of Islamic states as follows:

Role of Islamic States: The participants called for increased cooperation among Islamic states to prevent the spread of radical groups that promote violence, and to advance the reform of madrassas and other efforts at de-radicalisation to help individuals or groups to break the cycle of violence (including the denouncing of suicide bombings and drug trafficking as un-Islamic practices). Therefore, it was proposed that WCRP facilitate gatherings of prominent Islamic scholars to engage Islamic teachings to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The participants affirmed the importance of the good offices of His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, as requested by the Afghan Government, to utilize His Majesty’s influence as a political and religious leader to help the process of peace-building in Afghanistan.

In advocating these recommendations as well as six others in a truly international setting, the conference not only reaffirmed the importance of Japan's assistance efforts to foster peace in Afghanistan, but also fulfilled the purpose of creating a cohesive environment of trust among the participating countries and institutions.

Press Information

Related Media Reports

25 November 2009

Can Japan bring peace to Afghanistan? (The Foreign Policy)

*Click the title above to read the Japanese version of this release.

The following article was published on the website of Foreign Policy magazine
Can Japan bring peace to Afghanistan?
Josh Rogin reports on national security and foreign policy for The Cable at ForeignPolicy.com
Wed, 11/25/2009 - 7:31pm
As far as we know, the U.S. government isn't focused on engaging the Taliban or other militants waging war on the Afghan government and international forces, but there is one country actively working on a plan to reconcile the warring factions in Afghanistan: Japan.
A conference held behind closed doors in Tokyo finished the last of its three days of meetings Wednesday, bringing together representatives of the governments of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and others to discuss how a peace within Afghanistan might be negotiated. Among the participants was Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, an advisor on reconciliation to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Stanekzai has often advocated for internal Afghan reconciliation and in his capacity as a visiting fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace last year, he wrote that "A multitude of factors suggest that the time is ripe for a reconciliatory process," and "A comprehensive and coordinated political reconciliation process must be started."
The conference ended with a list of recommendations, obtained by The Cable, that will now be sent to Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada as he charts out Japan's future policy on Afghanistan.
The Japanese government, now led by the Democratic Party of Japan, has been searching for a new role in Afghanistan after announcing it would end its military refueling mission there but also increase its aid contribution by $5 billion.
Leading an international effort to negotiate a détente between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government could be how the DPJ forges a new identity for Japan's foreign policy, which has long been tethered to U.S. foreign policy. The DPJ has called for a more independent position in the Japanese alliance with Washington.
"Since Japan enjoys an excellent reputation with Afghanistan and the immediate neighbors of Afghanistan, it is highly desirable that Japan play a key role within the international community in supporting the peace and reintegration program led by the Afghan government," the recommendations state.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set out the conditions under which she believes reconciliation with certain members of the Taliban could be achieved.
"We understand that not all those who fight with the Taliban support al-Qaida, or believe in the extremist policies the Taliban pursued when in power," she said at the Council of Foreign Relations on July 15, "And today we and our Afghan allies stand ready to welcome anyone supporting the Taliban who renounces al-Qaida, lays down their arms, and is willing to participate in the free and open society that is enshrined in the Afghan Constitution."
But Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said Nov. 23 that "there has been no direct meetings between American officials and Taliban officials ... we are not having direct contacts with the Taliban."
The conference was organized by World Conference of Religions for Peace Japan committee and was arranged with help of the group Japanese Parliamentarians for Shared Security and with cooperation of the Japanese foreign ministry.

Foreign Policy is a bimonthly American magazine founded in 1970 by Samuel P. Huntington and Warren Demian Manshel. Foreign Policy won the 2009, 2007, and 2003 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. It is published by The Washington Post Company in Washington, D.C., USA. Its topics include global politics, economics and ideas.
Josh Rogin is staff writer for The Cable of The Foreign Policy Magazine.