On the role The Genron NPO should play in resolving Japan's challenges / Yasushi Akashi

January 01, 2014

Yasushi AkashiYasushi Akashi
Chairman of the International House of Japan &
Former Undersecretary-general of the United Nations

From passive player to proactive creator of peace

As we look back at the history of East Asia, we see that China had ruled the region for a long time until the rise of Japan in the mid-19th century. Today, the two nations confront each other for the first time as the region's big powers. The situation resembles that of 1914 just before World War I, according to Britain's Economist magazine. I, meanwhile, recall what I learned during my 1995-96 visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the U.N. officer in charge. Standing at the historic site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria that led to the outbreak of WWI, I learned how fragile international peace is. And, today we face an even more fragile peace now that the United States is losing its influence as the balancer of postwar power.

Two important trends have continued to develop since the beginning of the 20th century. One is growing racial confrontations and the other is the fact that the world is integrated more into one entity in terms of economy and finance. We face increasingly borderless challenges, but, at the same time, nationalism is rising dramatically in many nations. Also, a split is growing between two groups of nations around the globe. The European Union and other countries call for global standards of human rights, democracy and peace. Some Asian and African nations see this as unreasonable pressure from industrialized nations, prioritizing their national sovereignty and ethnic consciousness. As those issues grow increasingly more complicated, the United Nations and other international organizations appear to shun them.

Japan, Asia and the world are all at a turning point where we should respect Asia's diverse culture and ethnicity, and show generosity for each other. We should together build a solid foundation of true "humanism." Japan should make a road map to further develop our postwar pacifism, and step out to promote frank and active dialogue with neighboring countries to build the regional consensus of a no-war pledge, just like many Asians enthusiastically endorsed in 1945. In such a context, I think, The Genron NPO is increasingly in the spotlight for the role it is playing.