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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 13:27 02/06/2008
February 6, 2008

Toward a Japan-China Joint Risk Management System: For Human Security and Environment

Izumi HARADA (Senior Research Fellow, Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies)

This is an English summary of Mr. Harada's presentation at the Japan-China Symposium on Energy and Environment Risk Management, jointly held by the Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies and the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations at the International House of Japan in Tokyo on January 25, 2008.

In this paper, we argue for establishment of a joint risk management system between Japan and China to deal with various risks, threatening human security and environment in the both countries as well as the rest of the region, in view of recent incidents in the areas of environmental pollution, infectious diseases, food poisoning, etc.

The traditional concept of national security is to protect the nation's citizens and territories from foreign aggression by resorting to force whenever necessary. Needless to say, emphasis is also placed on mutual trust, diplomacy, international cooperation, etc. between nations in order to prevent military actions from happening for mutual benefit. In this regard, under the Ohira Administration around 1980, Japan proposed a concept of "comprehensive national security" to respond not only to military threats, but also to various risks in acquiring food, energy and other resources, which Japan is heavily dependent on, as well as in facing large-scale natural disasters, where diplomatic, economic and other non-military means are to be used as much as possible. Along this line, the concept of "human security" is widely accepted these days to emphasize the importance of dealing with such risks as environmental disruptions, human rights violations, refugee problems, poverty, etc., which will fundamentally threaten human existence, living and dignity.

This kind of shift in the nation's view on security seems to be happening not only in Japan, but also in China, along with other nations, especially in addressing environmental problems such as air and water pollution in recent years. Each nation must work hard to be a safe, healthy and "low carbon" society and cooperate with other nations to create a framework to deal with global issues such as climate change for a better living environment in the region as well as in the world. After having experienced difficult environmental and other social problems domestically for the last several years, China now seems ready to adopt this kind of approach to national security, and work with Japan to tackle such serious problems as global warming, dust and sandstorms, bird flu epidemic, food poisoning, etc.

So far Japan and China have been cooperating closely in the area of environmental protection, first by setting up the Japan-China Friendship Environmental Protection Center in 1988 and then by launching various environment-related projects financed through Japan's environmental ODA, which has been increasing steadily over the last 20 years. In April, 2007, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on cooperation for establishment of a global framework to deal with environmental protection as one of the most important strategic objectives commonly shared by the two nations for mutual benefit. Then, in December, 2007, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese President Hu Jintao jointly announced that the two nations will cooperate on a dozen key issues in the field of environmental protection.

While these developments so far seem quite encouraging for Japan and China to try to solve environmental problems together, what we need from now on is a sense of community with common destiny for the both nations to share each other's experiences and lessons for risk management in human security and environment in general, rather than cooperating on individual issues through financial and technical assistance from Japan. More concretely, we wish to propose the following steps:

First, Japan should establish a strategic council within the Cabinet Office in charge of human security and environment risk management. This "Environmental Security Risk Management Council" consists of selected members from the Environment Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Welfare and Labor Ministry, and other related ministries and agencies. These members will be coordinated by the Cabinet Office so as to work together to formulate basic policies to be shared by all relevant ministries and agencies for human security and environmental risk management.

Second, Japan and China should set up a joint organization called "the Japan-China Joint Environmental Security Risk Management Center," which might be regarded as an outgrowth of the Japan-China Friendship Environmental Protection Center. At this new center, risk management methods could be applied to prioritize various human security and environmental issues to be taken up by the two nations, in accordance with basic policies formulated by the Council mentioned above.

Third, it is important for both Japan and China to take appropriate actions jointly in each of the following three stages: (1) "preventive stage," in which efforts are to be made to prevent risks from materializing, (2) "emergency stage," in which all possible measures should be taken to minimize damages from an actual incident, and (3) "recovery stage," in which recovery should be facilitated by appropriate policy measures. This kind of organization and approach will help Japan, China and other Asian nations deal with possible crises in human security and environment across nations in a timely and comprehensive manner.

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