Subject: Japan Times: Japan lobbies for high post in U.N. East Timor aid body

The Japan Times November 15, 2000

Japan lobbies for high post in U.N. East Timor aid body


Staff writer

Japan is in talks with the United Nations on getting a senior post in charge of economic assistance projects at a U.N. body overseeing East Timor's transition to independence, government sources said Tuesday.

The sources said that Japan hopes to get the post at the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor early next year, when the UNTAET will change its organizational structure. The abolition of a high-level post currently held by Akira Takahashi, a Japanese aid expert, is among the changes.

Takahashi, a former senior official of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the government-affiliated aid organ, will retire as a deputy UNTAET chief in charge of humanitarian and emergency reconstruction assistance at the end of this year. Takahashi has held the post since UNTAET began full operations early this year.

The planned change in UNTAET's organizational structure early next year apparently reflects the focus of the U.N. body's work shifting from emergency aid to medium- and long-term reconstruction assistance.

"We expect the U.N. to agree to grant Japan an influential post in charge of economic assistance projects, if not as high as the post currently held by Mr. Takahashi, at UNTAET," a senior Foreign Ministry official said. "One suggestion is to create a new post of a senior adviser of economic assistance."

"We need to maintain a voice in the decision-making process at UNTAET, at least concerning actual implementation of economic assistance projects," the official said, requesting anonymity.

At their meeting in Tokyo last December, aid donor nations and organizations pledged to extend a total of about $520 million in aid to East Timor over three years. Of that amount, nearly a quarter -- or about $130 million -- was committed by Japan.

The aid donors' meeting, the first of its kind, came four months after East Timor residents rejected Indonesian rule in a referendum in favor of independence. East Timor is expected to become a sovereign state, with independence leader Xanana Gusmao as its first president, as early as next autumn.

In recent years, the Japanese government has called for a greater political role at the U.N., including permanent membership on its powerful Security Council, under a slogan of "no taxation without representation."

Japan is the second-largest financial contributor to the world body's budget, after the United States, although the U.S., increasingly critical of the world body, is a notorious deadbeat on due U.N. payments.

Government officials firmly believe that maintaining and demonstrating a strong role -- and presence -- in the U.N. peacekeeping process for East Timor will be very important as part of efforts to promote its bid for permanent council membership, which is currently held by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France.

Through talks with Japan, the U.N. appears likely to meet a Japanese demand for a senior UNTAET post in charge of economic assistance projects, in hopes of preventing Tokyo from tightening its purse strings vis-a-vis East Timor aid.

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