|The UK-Japan 21 st Century Group held its 20th meeting from 6 to 8 February 2004, at Brocket Hall, under the joint chairmanship of Hon. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, member of the House of Representatives and the Rt. Hon Peter Mandelson MP.
The UK-Japan 21st Century Group was established in 1985 in order to study Japan-UK cooperation, based on an agreement of the prime ministers of the day, Yasuhiro Nakasone and Margaret Thatcher. This year marked the Group's 20 th anniversary. It was recognised that some of its initiatives had made a real difference, for example in educational exchange and the promotion of contacts between NGOs.
Beforehand, at a meeting with Japanese members of the Group at No.10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister warmly endorsed its aims and work. Mr Shiozaki expressed Japanese gratitude, in particular for the assistance provided by British forces to their newly arrived Japanese counterparts in Iraq, and also for Britain's decision to participate in the Aichi World Expo, in which the Group played a crucial role. Meetings were also held with the Deputy Prime Minister Rt. Hon John Prescott MP and the Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn MP.
The meeting covered a wide range of topics, such as Pointers for the Future, Corporate Social Responsibility and Political Governance. In each field, it was recognised that Japan and the UK were faced with various common challenges. These vary from Ageing society and demographic imbalance, Improvement of corporate governance, and Decline in the public's engagement with central political institutions and leaders.
As for Global Governance, delegates unanimously endorsed the need for unrelenting efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism. All felt that Japan and the UK should cooperate closely, perhaps initially through cooperation in the intelligence field. British assistance to JSDF troops arriving in Iraq to carry out reconstruction work had been much appreciated and Japan's greater involvement in such operations as Iraq was warmly welcomed. There was much scope for enhanced cooperation between Japan and the UK in the context of international conflict resolution and peacekeeping.
Finally, the Group discussed Prospects for a Sustainable Environment. Delegates emphasised the urgent need for reinforced collaboration to confront the dangers posed to the environment by present levels of economic activity and to forge a valuable and constructive partnership in the international debate on sustainability.
Comments from Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Joint chair of UK-Japan 21st Century Group:
"It was a great honour to co-chair the 20th anniversary meeting of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group. Although meeting my close friends such as Mr Peter Mandelson gives me enough good reason to fly to London, I truly enjoyed discussion over wide-ranging issues, such as domestic democracy, international policy framework, corporate social responsibility and sustainable environment. I was particularly struck by the width of issues for which our two counties have shared values and interests and hence encouraged by the room for further joint cooperation and actions. They should be all reflected in Chairmen's Summary. I look forward to welcoming UK members to Japan next year."
Comments from Mr Yukio Sato, Chairman of the Institute for International Affairs, one of the founders of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group:
"I am deeply impressed not only by the discussion itself but also by the mere fact that this group has been meeting for the past 20 years. I clearly remember the time in 1985 when I personally floated an idea of establishing this kind of group in talking to Sir Richard Needham. Throughout the meeting this time, I am convinced that Japan-UK bilateral cooperation and friendship has been greatly enhanced and that what was originally envisaged is truly followed up."