International relations in 21st century and dialogue among and coexistence of civilizations: JCP Ogata

Speech at the 18th International Symposium Organized by the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD)

Yasuo Ogata, House of Councilors member and Japanese Communist Party Executive Committee vice-chair and International Bureau director, presented the following statement at an international symposium held by the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), Tunisia's governing party, November 3-4 in Tunis, on the theme: "The Civilizational Dimension of International Relations in the 21st Century." The gist of his statement is as follows:

First, I would like to offer my congratulations on the holding of the 18th International Symposium of the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD). I am greatly honored to participate in this historic event. At a time when we are trying to achieve advancement of international relations toward peace and justice, we are more than ever called upon to pay attention to the aspect of civilization, increase cooperation between governments, political parties and grassroots movements and strengthen efforts to promote peaceful coexistence between civilizations. The Japanese Communist Party Program that was revised in 2004 states that the party shall "exert efforts to establish peaceful coexistence among countries with different social systems and establish dialogue as well as relations of coexistence among various civilizations." As a political party having put this into practice, we welcome the timely theme.

For 84 years since its founding, the JCP has worked hard for peace and social progress in defiance of difficulties and a rough ride. Although the JCP is an opposition party, we have developed external relations in the interests of the people, placing emphasis on relations with Islamic countries. The JCP has sent delegations to Islamic countries, starting with Malaysia in 1999. As the invasion of Iraq was imminent, we visited Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates to call for a political solution to the problem. It was impressive that we reached agreement with all these governments on opposing war and for a diplomatic solution. I attended as a guest the summit conferences of the Non-Aligned Countries and of the Organization of Islamic Countries, both in Malaysia.

It was of special importance that the then JCP Central Committee Chairperson Fuwa Tetsuzo participated in the 2003 RCD Congress and held talks its leaders, and visited the country's historic sites. This is a country known as a crossroads of civilizations of Europe, Middle East and Africa, and it was a good opportunity for us to further understand international politics, history and civilizations.

Last September, the JCP delegation headed by Kazuo Shii, JCP Executive Committee chairperson, visited Pakistan at the invitation of the Pakistani government. He held talks with Mr. Shaukat Aziz, Pakistani prime minister, through which we keenly felt the importance of dialogue between civilizations in pushing forward with anti-terrorist struggles. This is also a challenge to Latin America, where Catholics account for the majority of the population. During my visit to Venezuela last year, I was particularly impressed by the fact that mutual understanding between Catholics and Muslims was a major topic of our talks.

Through these experiences, the said formulation was introduced in the JCP Program, based on which we have come to further realize its significance. We are now working on the world with this awareness. Let me explain some of the points I think are important from the civilizational dimension.

First, standing firmly for the UN Charter's principles should come before everything else. It was important that on the eve of the Iraq war, the worldwide struggle was carried out on the single demand: "defend the UN Charter." Governments, political parties and citizens acted as one appealing against war. Their common slogan was the protection of the UN Charter.

Second, coexistence of different values is to strictly abide by the principle of non-interference in other's internal affairs, not to impose specific values on others. Each country has its own law of social development in accordance with its own history and conditions, and therefore, the form and speed of development differ from one country to another. We should rightly respect them. If any country imposes on others "freedom" or "democracy" that has been attained by some countries as universal values, there will be no coexistence. What is most important is peaceful coexistence through mutual understanding.

In this regard Asia has an encouraging experience. In the past several years, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) was held four times. Including the declaration of the conference in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, held in September 2006, participating parties agreed on the following: "All Asian countries should choose their own development path and development model in accordance with local conditions," "(They) advocate strengthening dialogue among different civilizations, seeking common development through interactions and realizing a win-win situation (...) on the basis of fully respecting each other's historical traditions, cultural differences and diversified development paths." In the 2004 Beijing Declaration they made clear that "Asian political parties (...) should respect other's choices and practices, respect other's internal and external policies established on the basis of conditions in their respective countries, and refrain from interfering in other's internal affairs". We consider this is a universal principle, embodiment of the principle of non-interference in other's internal affairs. On the strength of this principle, cooperation among all political parties is possible, regardless of political, ideological and religious differences.

Each country will follow its own course and timing of development. Take people's sovereignty, for example, that all citizens are free and equal before the law. In Japan, it is 60 years ago, just after the end of World War II, that people's sovereignty became a reality. In France, it is 210 years ago that the Declaration of the Rights of Man was promulgated at the time of the French Revolution. But when it comes to enfranchising women's suffrage, the two countries were in parallel. We have to bear firmly in mind that imposing "happiness" or "values" on others would undermine international relations.

Third, we should not connect specific religions with terrorism. Some people persistently link Islam with terrorism, which should firmly be rejected. The intrinsic nature of Islam lies in peace, tolerance and equality. Certainly the anti-terrorist struggle is an important common task in today's world, but at the root of terrorism is poverty and the lack of education. This brings to my mind what former Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia said when the JCP delegation visited Tunisia in 2003: the Tunisian government's policy of reducing poverty, with the view of combating terrorism.

We also see a phenomenon in which people with high educational backgrounds or those brought up in wealthy families turn into terrorists. This is induced by grievances against the social situation or injustice, or by reaction against external pressures, or by desperation from war or conflicts, or by moral indignation. The Iraq war that was started under the pretext of eliminating terrorism has become a hotbed for terrorism, and even a U.S. government report (National Intelligence Estimate's key judgments, declassified on September 26, 2006) acknowledged that the Iraq war "is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; (...) would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere." The root causes of terrorism are war, conflicts, and oppression of other nations. Removing these causes, and recovering a world in which peace and justice prevail, will be the way to drive terrorists into the corner and eradicate them.

The major issue facing the world today is the choice between the international order guaranteeing peace based on the UN Charter and the international order of interference, aggression, war and oppression. The currents for an international order of peace based on the UN Charter are bringing about a structural change in the 21st century world on a global scale. Solidarity is the keyword in promoting this struggle. This solidarity will spread through the UN Charter, dialogue and coexistence. We are at the threshold where governments, municipalities, political parties and NGOs can cooperate with international bodies and regional communities with a view to enhancing peace and social progress. Convinced that this symposium has an even greater role to play in promoting dialogue between civilizations, we would like to reaffirm that the JCP will also make utmost efforts to contribute to this cause. Thank you very much for your attention.

- Akahata, November 7, 2006

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
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