Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Opening Remarks by Dr. Mitsuru SAKURAI, Senior Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, of the Government of Japan at
The 10th ASEAN-Japan High Level Officials Meeting on Caring Societies
on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 9:00 AM, Shinagawa Prince Hotel

Distinguished delegates, participants from the health, welfare and labour sectors of the ASEAN member states and related countries, ladies and gentlemen.  

On behalf of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Government of Japan, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all of you participating in this tenth(10th) ASEAN-Japan High Level Officials Meeting on Caring Society.

Please allow me to express my sincere gratitude to the Honorable Vice Minister, Professor Syhavong Bounkong of the Ministry of Health, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, for his attendance at this memorable tenth(10th) meeting.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the ASEAN Secretariat, the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office, the ILO Office in Japan, and JICA for the considerable support you give to the high level officials meeting each year.

Furthermore, I wish to thank the academic experts here for having taken time from your busy schedules to participate in this meeting and for their precious help in enhancing cooperation among the ASEAN countries and Japan.

The meeting has been conducted in order to share their knowledge and experience of health, welfare and labour issues.

Japan marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of a national health insurance program in the last year. The health care system in Japan has been receiving attention around the world due to long life expectancy and healthy life living of Japanese people.

I hope that we can share our experiences in health and social security, and utilize it in the process of developing the health and social security system in the ASEAN member states.

In November of last year, the ASEAN-JAPAN summit was held in Jakarta. An important result of that meeting was the endorsement of the “Joint declaration for enhancing ASEAN-JAPAN strategic partnership for prospering together“. One of the strategies in the declaration includes “creating together a more disaster-resilient society”.

The declaration also calls for the enhancement of cooperation for the promotion of an inclusive caring society and the development of social safety nets for vulnerable groups.

Based on the progress and requests from ASEAN member states, the theme of this meeting has been set as “Caring societies for the socially vulnerable suffering after natural disasters”.

It has been one year and seven months since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in March of last year. Japan has been working hard and step towards reconstruction of the affected area have been taken.

I would like to express my deep appreciation for the genuine and heartfelt support provided to Japan by ASEAN member states and many other countries as well as various international organizations in the wake of this unprecedented disaster.

I was born in Miyagi prefecture, Tohoku, one of the areas that was hardest hit by the quake.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake, the deaths and missing have reached approximately 20,000. Among them, about 1,600 people were identified as disaster-related death. If adequate and timely medical services could be provided immediately after the disaster occurred, some of them might have been saved.

By learning from these lessons we are placing great efforts to strengthen the medical and health care system in the event of a disaster. 

There is a need to ensure the stabilization of the lives of those who live in the affected areas, especially the socially vulnerable, at the earliest possible time. Our ministry is making efforts to reconstruct the system of health, welfare and employment sectors in the affected communities.

At this tenth meeting over the coming three days, it is my hope that the participants will exchange a wide range of useful information and experience in natural disaster response and management for social vulnerable people. I believe that the discussions will contribute significantly to the development of policies and measures for all participating countries.

Japan has maintained longstanding relationships with the ASEAN countries. ASEAN and Japan mark the 40th anniversary of the ASEAN-Japan Dialogue relations in 2013. We have built good relationships in the wide range of fields together. I am confident that the meeting over the next three days will be another precious opportunity for all of us to share information, experience and wisdom.

I also hope that all of you will have a opportunity to see and feel the Japanese culture and have a wonderful time during your stay.

Thank you very much.