Asahi: Making Noise

In its Cover Story today, Asahi notes that Japanese nongovernmental organizations have been struggling for respect, and that they failed to generate much momentum on influencing policy issues during a previous Group of Eight summit here in Japan, and they have lagged behind their Western counterparts in terms of success...

I find that rather typical of Japanese media. Instead of highlighting the success of many NGOs, journalists prefer to downplay their activities. I often suspect that Japanese journalists secretly harbour the misplaced idea that they, the media, have a more important role than the civil society. In fact, NGOs are very active and doing a lot both at home and abroad, making much more than just "noise".

The article gets more interesting when it starts reporting about a G8 Summit NGO Forum conference last week (with over 200 participants):

Now, with Tokyo gearing up for next summer's Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, Japanese NGOs are joining hands to have their voices heard by the G-8 leaders and to perhaps make a difference in the world. Masaaki Ohashi, vice chair of the 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, is upbeat about the Lake Toyako Summit in July.

The forum consists of NGOs in various fields, such as environment, poverty and human rights.

"It will be the first time for Japan's NGOs to issue cross-sectoral policy proposals," Ohashi said.

"It will be an important touchstone," he said of the forum's proposals planned in three fields: poverty and development; environment; and human rights and peace.

In Sweden and many parts of Europe, NGOs are funded to a large degree by governments and tax payer's money, in one way or other. In other parts of the World, donations are more generous. Yet, without all that, Japanese NGOs manage to maintain a very high level of activism and sophisticated discourse. I think it is time they start getting some credit for their work!

Asahi: Making Noise

2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum (English website)


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