UNICEF ambassador to urge Koizumi not to cut funds

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, an actress and goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children’s Fund, will visit Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Aug. 29 to request that the government not reduce its contributions to the organization.

Kuroyanagi’s planned visit comes after the Japanese government announced that it would drastically cut official development assistance expenditures in the 2002 fiscal budget.

Kuroyanagi said she will ask the prime minister not to reduce the government’s contribution to UNICEF and also encourage him to attend the U.N. Special Session on Children, scheduled for Sept. 19-21 in New York, which will address building a better society for children.

Seventy-five heads of state or government leaders have already confirmed that they will participate in the session, including South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

“Japan’s contribution to UNICEF on a per-person basis is so little,” Kuroyanagi said. “I would like to tell the prime minister that there must be some other budget that can be reduced instead of this contribution.”

The government decided to slash the ODA budget by 10 percent for fiscal 2002, which starts in April. It is feared that the government intends to cut not only direct aid to developing countries, but also contributions to international organizations, including UNICEF.

In 1997, Kuroyanagi persuaded former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi not to reduce contributions to UNICEF when the government decided to reduce the ODA budget.

Japan contributed some $25.59 million in 2000, placing it fifth among donor countries contributing to the organization, according to UNICEF.