The 18th meeting of the UK - Japan 21st Century Group was held at Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, from 22nd to 24th February 2002. The Group met under the joint chairmanship of the Rt. Hon. Peter Mandelson MP and Hon Yasuhisa Shiozaki. Both chairmen were recently nominated by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi respectively.
1. Economic and Social Revitalization and Political Leadership
Both countries, each with a highly popular prime minister elected within the past year, face complex challenges in the social, economic and political spheres.
In the case of the UK, its economic growth outpaces that of most countries of the European Union, with continued low levels of inflation and unemployment despite a recession in the manufacturing sector. At the same time, the condition of the public services, including transportation, health provision and education, all of which suffer from past under-investment, is seen by both government and the public to require urgent attention. Against this background, debate continues on the issue of possible UK entry into the Eurozone and the timing and likely outcome of a referendum on such entry.
By contrast, Japan is still suffering from continued economic stagnation, with some troubling signs that conditions are worsening. Japan's failure to revitalize its economy, which is the second largest in the world and represents about half of the entire Asian economy, has broad regional and global implications. It is generally acknowledged that Japan's economic recovery depends importantly on a resolution of the problem of non-performing loans in the financial sector and on the successful implementation of structural reforms. Attention was drawn, however, by UK participants to welcome signs that parts of Japanese industry are restructuring and that the climate for inward investment into Japan has improved markedly. This would be encouraged in Japan, as in other countries, by an effective and efficient competition and regulatory regime. In a special presentation to the Group, Sir Chris Gent, CEO of Vodafone, underscored this development in recounting his own company's experience in taking a majority share in Japan Telecom.
In both countries, strong political leadership is called for to implement the relevant economic and social revitalization programs in the face of strong political opposition to policy change and structural reform. In both countries, however, the prime ministers should be able to implement their plans because of strong public support for their reform agendas.
The Group was concerned at evidence from both countries of an increasing pattern of disengagement by citizens from political processes. This reflected a failure by political parties in particular to engage the younger generation in policy issues or the political process itself.
The Group considered that public engagement in policy issues and greater public understanding of scientific debate was an important task to which attention should be given by both sides.
2. Enhancing Cross-sectoral Partnership in the Provision of Welfare and Public Services
The Group addressed the common challenge of improving welfare and public services as the needs for them become more diverse and complex and the costs of providing them have increased substantially. The discussion centered on health and welfare service delivery, but it was acknowledged that the issues are similar in other areas of public service provision. In both countries there is a growing debate about how the burden of improving social services should be shared among the public sector, the business sector and the civil society sector.
It was noted that in both countries the efficiency of public service delivery had, in most cases, been improved through privatization, which introduced market mechanisms and the benefits of competition. In both countries there has been an expanded role for private sector companies in areas traditionally dominated by the public sector, such as health services and education. The Group also saw an increasingly important role for civil society organizations and volunteers in the provision of welfare and public services in both countries, as the inability of the public sector to act as sole provider becomes evident in the face of the growing complexity of social issues and increasing costs, as well as under growing pressure from the public for choice. Highly motivated civil society organizations and volunteers have an important catalytic role to play in community building and tackling the problems of social exclusion and homelessness. Civil society organizations tend to be more innovative than the public sector in dealing with complex social problems. On the other hand, there are areas where the role of the public sector continues to be of critical importance. Clearly there is a need for partnership and cooperation in the provision and delivery of social and welfare services between the public sector, the corporate sector, and the civil society sector, but the appropriate mix may vary both between the two countries, and in regard to different services within each country.
Although differences in the evolution of public services provision in each country reflect a different historical pattern of governance of society, the Group felt that this subject is a fertile ground for the exchange of information and sharing of experience between the two sides. In particular, the Group recommends such collaborative activities (where necessary with Government encouragement) in the following areas:
(1) Comparative study of Japanese experience and methodology of privatization of the Japan National Railway with the UK's experience with the privatization of British Rail.
(2) Information exchange on how to deal with homeless people, a complex problem that requires collaborative efforts among diverse sectors.
Facilitating exchange of volunteers in the social sector: in particular the introduction in Japan of a visa category which recognizes the contribution of such volunteers, as is done on the UK side.
3. Defining the New Global Order in the Post September 11 Era
The Group had an intensive exchange of views on the impact of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11th on the international community, on the US response in Afghanistan, and on possible further action by the United States. The tragic events proved a watershed for Japan in terms of its international security role, with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law in October 2001 which enabled Japan to contribute actively to the efforts of the international community beyond the traditional security role of Japan, as defined by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and generally limited to East Asia. While both sides applauded the decisiveness and swiftness of the US response to the tragedy and felt it justified, some concern was expressed about the possible future direction of US policy. There was general agreement that the war against terrorism would be a long drawnout affair, which was unlikely to be successfully concluded without sustained efforts to bring peace to the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbours.
The Group felt that UK and Japan, the closest allies of the United States respectively in Europe and Asia, have a special role to play in engaging the US in international cooperation, working closely with its allies both in the war against terrorism and on broader issues of the international community. In the spirit of the close partnership UK and Japan enjoy, both governments should continue to raise the level of their political cooperation to achieve a better outcome on international and global issues. In particular, the Group makes the following recommendations:
1) Exploration by governmental and non-governmental experts, planners and policy researchers of the future potential for security cooperation between UK and Japan in UN peacekeeping other security-related operations.
2) Cooperation in the enhancement of human security in such areas as environmental degradation, the spread of contagious diseases such as AIDs, drug trafficking and human rights violations. Both countries should promote full participation by their corporations in the ��רlobal Compact�ߡ�proposed by UN Secretary ? General, Kofi Annan, to enhance corporate social responsibility in addressing global challenges.
3) Close dialogue on furthering the peace process in the Middle East, bringing together each country's experience of dealing with the countries in the region.
4) Further promotion of NGO cooperation between the two countries in the areas of international security and development, including Afghanistan and Africa. The increasingly active participation by Japanese NGOs in this area and the long tradition of involvement by UK NGOs provide a promising prospect for cooperative efforts.
5) UK-Japan cooperation in support of the New Plan for African Development where Japan's ODA and growing NGO participation can develop a productive partnership.
UK-Japan Cooperation in Enhancing the Contribution of Science and Technology to Sustainable Development
The Group was pleased to welcome Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, as a participant in this session of the conference.
The Group began its discussion on the premise that the degradation of the natural environment poses a serious challenge to hopes for sustainable development. The drive to produce and manufacture goods and improve the living conditions of the world's population means that without intervention a range of environmental limits could be reached. Population growth, materials use, energy demand, pollution and waste are the main threats. In the field of energy use a number of promising technological developments were discussed, many of which hold promise of major breakthroughs in the time scale of the next few decades.
In applying existing and developing new technologies clear government leadership is necessary. At the same time there is need for greater citizen participation in decision making in areas which vitally affect citizens' wellbeing. Ignorance of science and distrust of government, often amplified by the media, are problems that need to be tackled in order to make such participation constructive. The free availability of data collected by government agencies should be encouraged. Greater transparency is necessary in decision making.
Overall, the Group was not pessimistic about the possibilities for technology to facilitate sustainable development and roll back some of the perceived threats to the environment, particularly as some of the fears and extrapolation of trends in the past may prove to have been exaggerated. In the new environment companies will have to be seen to be environmentally responsible or risk losing their customers: the long-term interests of shareholders depend on corporate responsibility in this area, thus encouraging the application of environmental technology to the manufacturing process.
The Group felt that Japanese and British interests and experience in this area had much in common and that it should make the area of science and the environment a focus for future work. It was agreed that the following areas could be particularly suited for joint study and action and that the appropriate bodies on both sides be encouraged to bring forward proposals:-
methods of matching supply and demand for renewable sources of energy;
the use of taxation policy in providing incentives for conservation;
how to design regulation to stimulate innovation;
nucleur waste: the application of science and technology and the need for more effective public presentation of security aspects;
nucleur fusion: finding an agreed basis for an internationally viable project;
waste: development of packaging and materials to minimise waste and maximize recycling;
nanotechnology: developing strategic partnerships between Japan and the UK for R & D and manufacturing in this area.
5. Report back on Japan 2001
For the past two years the Group has enthusiastically supported the idea of Japan 2001. The UK Chairman of Japan 2001, Lord Blakenham, reported on the great success of this massive programme to bring all aspects of Japanese arts and culture to as wide a range as possible of the population throughout the UK over a 10 month period, May 2001 ? March 2002. It was estimated that by the end over 3 million people would have witnessed or participated in at least one of the over 2000 events organized nationwide. There had been a number of major artistic events which had received great acclaim, but the bulk of the activities had been at grass roots level, school days, exchange programmes, conferences etc. Tribute was paid to the generous sponsorship provided by UK and Japanese companies and foundations, as well as to the committee in Tokyo chaired by Naohiko Kumagai and the joint managing directors and their staff. Visits would be made to event organizers to explore the scope for follow-up activity to cement the friendships, connections and exchanges that the festival had produced.