Issues/Opinions

NEW YEAR GREETING
What's on the agenda for 2017

Yasushi Kudo, President, The Genron NPO
January 1, 2017


kudo.jpgIt gives me great pleasure to convey my New Year's message to you as president of The Genron NPO. We are grateful for the cooperation and support you have extended to our various initiatives launched in 2016.

2017 has just begun. I believe that the real worth of our organization will be tested this year.

Difficulties lie ahead for democracy and freedom as the values on which we have based our activities. What we have to consider here is the fact that a democracy that makes no serious efforts to solve our problems is very fragile.

At a time when many countries' peoples are concerned about their future, political leaders and so-called "elites" have not seriously grappled with the challenges facing us. This has led to growing anxieties and anger, and as a result, certain political forces are trying to expand their influence by capitalizing on such public sentiment.

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America on January 20, while various elections will be held in Europe this year at a time when political parties with populist inclinations are increasing their influence in the region. Protectionism and exclusionism will likely grow amid calls for expelling immigrants.

This will lead to not only a waste of precious time as we try to resolve our problems, but also to a situation in which our confidence in democracy and free societies will be endangered. The emergence of non-democratic states is adding fuel to geopolitical conflicts. If a liberal international order is to be restored, our efforts to this end must be determined and committed.

In November last year, German President Joachim Gauck visited Japan and I had the opportunity to meet him. There was one question I keenly hoped to pose to the president: How should we look at the future of democracy?

Hailing from the old East Germany, President Gauck knows all about societies controlled by a totalitarian regime. He asked, "Would we welcome a society in which individuals' freedoms and human rights will be denied or in which political activity is influenced only by nationalistic sentiments at home?" Then, he said, "Democracy is certainly associated with various problems, but democracy can learn (from mistakes)."

His remark was like an awakening to me. We have a golden opportunity to think about the fragility of democracy in various parts of the world and the spread of populist trends, and try to find a way out of the situation. The president's remark told us that we must begin to work for a better future right now.

When we launched The Genron NPO 15 years ago, we stressed the need for ordinary people to speak out and be determined to bring about change. Then, we emphasized that unless people like us strengthen their resolve to tackle the problems facing Japan, democracy will not function We examine political parties' election promises and the administration's achievement of its policy targets every year or ahead of major public elections, and we also organize activities for the future of Asia. These are actual endeavors in line with our original idea.

We must accelerate our efforts toward achieving these goals. This is a historic challenge that must be addressed for our democracy. This is also a determination that we hope to uphold in 2017.

We should not leave Japan's future entirely in the hands of politicians. We should grapple with the challenges facing Japan as people involved and properly select politicians who are committed to finding solutions. We must not be indifferent to the problems facing us.

We understand that The Genron NPO bears the responsibility for creating a place where efforts to solve the challenges facing Japan will be linked to citizens' activities. However, The Genron NPO alone is not capable of continuing efforts to resolve the problems expected to have a decisive influence on Japan's future. But, if the power of many people, working together toward a common goal, can be harnessed, there should be a transformation that will spark greater efforts to resolve the challenges facing this country.

I will soon visit the United States and have discussions with many people about the United States under the Trump administration, and the course of democracy. We expect to spread the initiatives emerging from the discussions with our American friends to Europe and Asia this year, in order to give impetus to efforts to solve the problems facing Japan. Then, we hope to hand these moves on to the next generation.

Your support for our new attempts to find solutions to the problems facing us will be deeply appreciated.

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