Strategically develop expert personnel to secure more top posts for Japanese

It is highly significant for Japan to be involved in the creation of new rules for the international community in such areas as digital technology and climate change. Japan should send personnel with expertise to the United Nations and other organizations.

It has been determined that NTT executive Seizo Onoe will become the director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), one of the 15 specialized agencies of the United Nations. He defeated two candidates from Germany and Tunisia in an election and will serve a four-year term starting in January.

The post that Onoe will assume is said to be the third-highest position in the ITU and an important position that will be involved in the rule-making process for 6G, the next generation standard for high-speed, high-capacity telecommunications.

Japan lagged behind in the research and commercialization of 5G, which is currently gaining popularity, and Onoe, who was involved in the creation of international standards at NTT, is urged to use his knowledge to help frame discussions.

Japan shoulders more than 8% of the U.N. budget, third after the United States and China. However, it cannot be said that it is getting the posts it deserves.

Until a former bureaucrat assumed the position of director general of the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in January this year, there had been no Japanese at the top of any of the 15 U.N. specialized agencies for a six-year period.

China, which has become an economic superpower, has been conspicuous in landing key posts at U.N. organizations. Currently, there are two U.N. institutions headed by Chinese nationals, but through last year, there were four. Using its massive investment as leverage, China is winning support from developing countries.

Recently, however, international organizations headed by Chinese nationals have come to be viewed as problematic due to a blatant management style that seems to prioritize Beijing’s interests. Such bodies have held international conferences on the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s idea of creating a giant economic zone, and barred Taiwan from conferences.

International organizations that are supposed to be fair must be prevented from being in situations where they can be abused to expand China’s interests or to impose one-sided assertions. Japan needs to cooperate with the United States, European nations and other countries to urge China to exercise restraint.

In order for Japanese nationals to assume leading positions in the international community, it is first important to develop human resources who can become candidates for top positions. Improving language skills is a prerequisite. Other countries are increasingly fielding candidates with cabinet minister experience for top jobs at international organizations. Japan should also consider such a pathway.

It is also important to increase the total number of Japanese working at the United Nations and related organizations. The number of Japanese employees in such positions reached a record high of 956 at the end of last year, but still the lowest among the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations.

Employment at international organizations has high competition rates and hurdles are tall. There is a system in which each country pays the salary of its own people for two years at international organizations before aiming for formal employment. This system should be actively utilized.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 16, 2022)