Japan Govt wants representative at UNESCO's Asia-Pacific regional committee

Japan Govt wants representative at UNESCO's Asia-Pacific regional committee
Visitors look at photos and documents on display at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in Nanjing on October 10, 2015. Japan on October 10 lashed out at UNESCO's decision to inscribe documents related to the Nanjing massacre in its Memory of the World register, describing it as "extremely regrettable" and calling for the process to be reformed.

The government hopes to have a Japanese person appointed to UNESCO's Asia-Pacific regional committee, to increase its influence on the screening process for the Memory of the World programme, it has been learned.

The decision came after UNESCO added the "Documents of Nanjing Massacre" recommended by China to its Memory of the World list, despite the government's request for the matter to be handled neutrally and fairly, according to sources.

The Memory of the World Committee for Asia/Pacific (MOWCAP) influences the registration of the Memory of the World programme, which is administered at three levels: international, regional and national.

Each proposed listing is screened individually by a committee at each level.

At the international level, the International Advisory Committee (IAC) conducts screenings and recommends items for registration to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. The IAC has 14 members.

However, there is no guarantee that the committee will accept a Japanese member, as the criteria for members' selection and appointment are not clearly defined.

According to a source close to UNESCO, the IAC and regional committee members significantly influence each other, as they exchange opinions.

Regarding the documents related to the Nanjing Incident, which were registered on Oct. 9, a senior Japanese government official said, "China lobbied the international committee intensively through MOWCAP."

UNESCO's regional committees are said to accept new members if the government of the potential member's country applies, and that country has sought to register items on the Memory of the World list in the past.

MOWCAP approached Japan in May 2012 about adding a member to the committee, but the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry declined the offer, saying domestic interest in the Memory of the World programme was low.

There are currently 10 MOWCAP executives, with no limit on the overall number.

China has a number of members on the committee, four of whom are executives, including the chairperson and secretary general.

There is only one South Korean member of MOWCAP, but he is vice chairman.

"The ministry made the wrong decision," a member of Japan's ruling coalition said.

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