New Year greeting for 2014 / By Yasushi Kudo, president of The Genron NPO

January 01, 2014

Yasushi KudoHappy New Year!

To begin with, let me convey my deepest gratitude for your understanding and cooperation for the activities of The Genron NPO last year.

When asked what the new year will be like, I should say that our sense or awareness of participation as a citizen in the process of solving the issues facing Japan and the world will become the most important thing for the new year.

If such challenges were to start in all areas, we could be ushering in new and definite changes to this country, and I firmly believe that in this new year, the much-awaited solution to Japan's challenges is to start with the strength of all the people's efforts.

I base my optimism on my recent experience of participating in numerous international conferences, and the resultant realization of various initiatives toward problem-solving being launched on the stage of private sectors.

What lie behind such moves is the sheer reality that it is becoming increasingly formidable to strike an international consensus on key issues on the agenda due to the advent of China and other emerging countries. Another factor is the reality that at many countries, governmental approaches toward the solution of diplomatic issues or global challenges are not wining support from a broad range of citizens and voters. This is testified by the overt failure to obtain an international agreement or consensus on climate changes and other global issues on the agenda.

The same holds true of domestic issues in Japan. At present, Japan is in dire need of reconstructing the domestic economy. Growth of the Japanese economy must be attained at any cost. However, only thing that can be effectively done by the government is to provide and improve an environment conducive to private-sector efforts for economic growth. Without private-sector initiatives, a strong economy won't be realized.

Moreover, the Japanese public is not fully informed of the fact that Japan is in a considerably perilous state with regard to the journey to its future. In particular, we should lose no time in devising the social system to deal with the rapid progress in aging population and in averting financial collapse. While the problems continue to deteriorate and their adverse effects are being felt in wide-ranging fields, no tangible moves toward their resolution are yet to be launched. Why?

My answer is the erosion of the power of voters, that is, the power of democracy.

When it comes to the relations with our neighboring countries, governmental diplomacy does not function well against the backdrop of inflamed negative public sentiment, thereby raising international concern about the breakup of accidental crashes in the East China Sea. Against such a backdrop, The Genron NPO endeavored to reach a private-sector agreement with China last year, which we call the Beijing Consensus featuring a "no-war pledge" between Japan and China. This agreement was aimed at creating an environment in which the long-stalled government-to-government diplomacy would be prodded toward improvement. On that occasion, I was strongly impressed by the contribution from numerous people who cooperated with our efforts to reach an agreement till late at night. But for the strong will and action of so many people beyond national borders and ages, the historic "no-war pledge" consensus could never have been achieved.

In the new year, I would like to spread the flows toward problem-solving to the future of Japan and the entire East Asian area.

Again, the "sense of participation in the process of problem-solving" is tantamount to the "strength of democracy." It is my firm conviction that this country will begin to move toward a brighter future and a stronger democracy only when as many people as possible have a little bit of courage to face and address the given issues. The Genron NPO is determined to dedicate all our strength to set the stage to that end.

Thank you.