Continued UNICEF funding sought

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Japan’s goodwill ambassador to the U.N. Children’s Fund, on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi not to cut Tokyo’s contributions to the organization in the fiscal 2002 state budget.

Kuroyanagi said she made the request in a meeting with Koizumi at his official residence out of concern that funding may be cut under the government’s policy to reduce its spending on Official Development Assistance.

“UNICEF receives only 22 yen a year (per person in Japan from the Japanese government). I told him that I think the Japanese people would be willing to each spend 22 yen for children, and asked him not to reduce that amount,” the actress and TV personality said.

Kuroyanagi said Koizumi had understood her concerns.

The government adopted a budgetary request framework earlier this month that slashes the ODA budget by 10 percent for fiscal 2002.

Speculation is rife that the government may cut not only direct aid to developing countries, but also contributions to international organizations.

Japan allocated $26.8 million to UNICEF in fiscal 2001, according to government officials.

Kuroyanagi also said she told Koizumi she was sorry he had decided to not attend the U.N. Special Session on Children slated for Sept. 19 through Sept. 21 in New York.

Koizumi said he will send Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka in his place, according to Kuroyanagi.