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Japan seeking to position Japanese national at top U.N. post

  • August 22, 2021
  • , Nikkei , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

The Japanese government aims to have a Japanese national selected to serve in the top post at an U.N. organization. If achieved, it would be the first time in two years. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) will carry out an election for the director general of the international bureau, the organization’s top position, on Aug. 25. Metoki Masahiko, a senior executive officer at Japan Post, is a candidate for the position as are a Swiss and a Belgian. If he is elected, he will be the first director general to hail from Asia.


The UPU, which is one of the U.N.’s 15 specialized agencies, oversees international rules on postal services. Metoki is well-known among UPU member states, as he has assumed several key posts, such as chairperson of the postal operations council.


Since the passing of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Amano Yukiya in July 2019, Japan has held no top positions at any of the 15 U.N. organizations. This is the first time in 31 years for Japan to be in such a position. 


China heads the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the United Nations industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). For many years, Japan was the second largest contributor to the U.N. after the U.S., but it was overtaken by China in 2019, an indication of China’s growing role in the U.N. as well as the international community.


The heads of international organizations are not supposed to operate for the benefit of their home countries. Yet they can act as an invaluable liaison with their home countries and partner nations. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is said to have deep ties with China, made headlines over his handling of COVID-19.


The Japanese government attaches importance to regaining top U.N. posts, as it expects having Japanese nationals at top posts will help expedite the understanding of Japan’s positions based on democracy and the rule of law.


This past February, relevant ministries and agencies met for the first time to hold strategic discussions on winning executive posts at international organizations. The meeting was co-chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet Secretariat and joined by the Japan Patent Office and 17 ministries and agencies that are involved in making international rules. UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Nakamitsu Izumi was invited to the second meeting in July and added to the exchange. (Abridged)

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