International symposium on “Women, Peace and Sustainable Development”

Tehran, Iran

Your Excellencies Madam Molaverdi, Vice President for Women and Family
Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Madam Ebtekar, Vice President
and Head of the Department of Environment of the Islamic Republic of
Iran. Mrs. Akie Abe, Chairperson of Foundation for Encouragement of
Social Contribution, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome and I am delighted to see many participants from both Iran and Japan here today.

To us Japanese, Iran is an old friend. If you visit Nara, the ancient Japanese capital in the 8th century, which was the terminal point of the Silk Road, you will see many ancient Persian artifacts. It is said that these artifacts were brought to Japan over a thousand years ago and some of them have been designated as national treasures. In this way, Persian culture has been highly appreciated since long ago, and we can still see some of its influence in Japanese culture and arts.

Actually, this is my first trip to Iran in forty years, and I am quite sure many changes have taken place here, so I am looking forward to seeing them with my own eyes.

The Nippon Foundation, of which I am chairman, was founded over 50 years ago. It is a private foundation engaged in a wide range of activities that contribute to a better society, both in Japan and abroad. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, co-organizer of this symposium, is an affiliated foundation that addresses diverse and complicated issues in an effort to make a more peaceful and secure world. It is involved in several projects to promote mutual trust and understanding between Iran and Japan.

More specifically, with the Institute for Political and International Studies affiliated to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation organizes the Japan-Iran Conference, a forum to discuss diplomatic issues, and another program to invite researchers from the School for International Relations to Japan.

The Japan-Iran Conference has been held almost every year since 2010, alternating between Tokyo and Tehran. It is a venue for government officials, researchers and academics to discuss various issues of international importance. In 2014, when Vice-President Ebtekar visited Tokyo, we organized a special lecture event where she shared her thoughts on world peace and environmental issues. She will deliver a special address today, and I look forward to hearing more of her thoughts.

Today’s symposium is the first of various new programs now being planned by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. It is being held jointly by three organizations: Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs, Institute for Political and International Studies, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The theme chosen is “Women, Peace and Sustainable Development”. I believe it is a very appropriate theme as peace and sustainable development are made possible only when they are supported by all those who constitute the society. Today the discussion will focus especially on the perspective and role of women.

In recent years, efforts are being made in countries around the world to ensure an environment where women can apply their abilities in a way that will contribute to sustainable growth and development. Women are already active in society, playing important roles in the home, health, education, business, and politics, among other areas.

In Japan, as well, promoting the role of women is now being given greater priority than ever before, and it is now a key government initiative. I am aware that promoting greater participation of women in society is also a major topic in Iran. Our cultures and situations may differ, but we are both seeking ways to respond to our respective circumstances.

Today we are joined by Mrs. Akie Abe. Understanding the importance of our discussion, she has taken time out of her busy schedule to be here. She is chairperson of an NPO in Japan called the Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution. She travels around the world and especially to countries in Asia, actively seeking to give recognition to individuals and groups who are making a contribution to society at the grassroots level. In this way, the foundation works to heighten public awareness of making a social contribution.

In addition to Mrs. Abe, we will also hear from speakers and panelists representing diverse fields. I look forward to a fruitful discussion on the role of women in society.

Lastly, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation will continue to engage in exchange with Iran from a long-term perspective.

Let us hope that what we discuss here today and our future projects will bring about continued dialogue that will contribute to peace and sustainable development.