Asia
Commentary

Can Japan Be A “Peace Enabler”?

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By Yuki Tatsumi and Hana Rudolph: 

The evolution of Japan’s contribution to international peace through the United Nations has been remarkable. Today, Japan engages with the U.N. through peacekeeping operations and collective security measures, diplomatic efforts, and humanitarian assistance and relief. Japan now seeks to be an active, permanent member of the U.N. Security Council too, to aid in the decision-making. Seventy years after the end of World War Two and sixty years since Japan’s accession into the U.N., the remarkable post-war development of Japan into a peace-loving nation could not be more evident.

“Proactive contribution to peace” is a major diplomatic initiative that Japan has actively pursued under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In December 2013, Japan’s National Security Strategy (NSS) described Japan as a “proactive contributor to peace.” The NSS emphasized the importance of strengthening diplomacy at the United Nations, promoting international peace cooperation, sharing universal values, responding to global development issues, realizing human security, and cooperating with human resource development efforts in developing countries. Prime Minister Abe has actively worked to realize these efforts through a number of initiatives – within the U.N., in tandem with partner countries, and independently.

Perhaps most dramatically, at the 2014 Summit on Strengthening International Peace Operations, Prime Minister Abe highlighted Japan’s commitment to capacity building, including the recruitment and development of more experts to contribute to the field of peacebuilding. He also mentioned changes to Japan’s legal security framework as potentially opening new opportunities for Japanese engagement in U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKO) and other security measures, as Tokyo seeks to demonstrate greater flexibility for Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) deployments. The Abe government has not only identified the need for greater contributions for international peace and stability, but it has actively sought internal reforms in order to fill those needs.

Japan remains firmly committed to creating a larger role for itself within the U.N., across levels and agencies. In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2015, Prime Minister Abe called Japan a “Gap Bridger” – connecting layers of decision-making, resource-preparation, and operation. As a peace-loving nation with a rich history of active involvement in the U.N., Japan is uniquely equipped in its identity, experiences, and strengths to contribute even more dynamically for world peace and prosperity. Though fierce challenges are ahead –regional concerns of militarization, declining financial resources, and a changing global order – Japan has made incredible strides towards alleviating fears, creating strategic and sustainable partnerships, and implementing domestic reforms to respond to the shifting environment.

Japan as a Peace Enabler: Views from the Next Generation offers a collection of policy briefs on the evolution of Japan’s contribution to international peace, particularly through the United Nations. The volume examines Japan’s efforts at peacebuilding at a multilateral level as a part of its proactive contribution to international peace and stability. These briefs are written by a mixed group of leading and emerging experts and scholars in the issues at hand.  The authors address different aspect of Japan’s effort to be a positive force in the pursuit of peace.  From human security, assistance to fragile states, cultivation of human resources, and participation in PKOs, all briefs describe Japan’s unique and important role as a contributor to international peace.  They also suggest the possible means by which Japan can strengthen its partnership with the U.S. and partner nations in the U.N. in order to more effectively respond to growing challenges.

Japan has come a long way in the seventy years since the war, and it has established its role as a fervent protector of the international peace and stability maintained under the 1945 order. Recognizing new challenges that the world faces today, Tokyo has sought to increase its role and capabilities in order to further contribute to the growing need for expertise, contributions, and decision-making. Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan is becoming better equipped to serve as a peace enabler. The next steps Japan must take will be to work even closer with other countries – the United States, as its ally, as well as partner countries within the United Nations. 

Photo credit: U.S. Government Work via Flickr
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