APDA The Asian Population and Development AssociationAPDA The Asian Population and Development Association


Japan’s initiatives in the field of population is well-recognized globally and JPFP is perhaps the only parliamentary caucus that has a global network.

Former Minister of Justice
Vice-Chair of APDA, Former Chair of JPFP
Hon. Sadakazu Tanigaki

―Thank you very much for making time for this interview today. First of all, how did you become involved in population issues?

Hon. Tanigaki As I had served for many years as Chair of the Parliamentary League for UNICEF, I had strong interest in issues surrounding developing countries and in international cooperation. At the suggestion of Hon. Yasuo Fukuda, former Chair of JPFP (the 5th Chair), I became involved in the activities of JPFP.

The mission of JPFP is to achieve sustainable development by solving the issues of population, while the mission of the Parliamentary League for UNICEF is to save the world’s children. Even though their approaches are different, the two share many commonalities.

As emphasized by other parliamentarians in the E-Newsletters, the important thing is, first, to secure food and provide adequate nutrition. The second is to prepare a healthcare system and a sanitary environment. This includes access to safe, clean water as well as adequate toilet facilities. The third is to ensure access to education. I think that “food and nutrition”, “health care and hygiene”, and “education” are the three important pillars.

At the end of UNICEF annual report, you can find data on infant mortality rate, literacy rate, GDP, and others. I felt concerned about the situation in countries that data showed were doing poorly, and visited many countries, mostly in Asia, to see the situation with my own eyes. One such country was Vietnam, which had embarked on the Doi Moi reform during the 1980s. At that time, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in Asia. That is hard to believe now. But even at that time, I was very much surprised to find that the average national literacy rate was over 90%.

In the past, Vietnam conducted imperial examinations, following the example of China, and I was impressed to see the names of successful candidates engraved in the stelae in the Temple of Literature. Some of the names were engraved centuries ago. You could sense that it was a great honor to pass the examinations and that Vietnam had put considerable efforts into education. Even while experiencing wars against France, China, and the United States, Vietnam never neglected education. I think that the development of Vietnam today is the result of attaching importance to education.

―During its history that spans 46 years, JPFP has played a leading role in the field of population. How do you see its significance?

Hon. Tanigaki JPFP and its activities to address the issues of population began with Hon. Nobusuke Kishi (1st Chair; 1974-1979) and Hon. Takeo Fukuda (2nd Chair; 1979-1990). Significant efforts were also made by General William Draper, who supported the founding of JPFP, as well as the successive JPFP chairs, executive members, and members.

I have been asked by other parliamentary caucuses why JPFP has been able to continue actively for so long. I think a wonderful thing about JPFP is its partnership with other regions of the world and countries. This kind of horizontal coalition can make an organization strong. I think it is the extraordinary efforts of our predecessors in creating and maintaining such a global network that have enabled us to continuously address the population issues even through changes in the government.

―Parliamentarians from abroad have, on various occasions, expressed words of appreciation for the role Japan has played in the field of population.

Hon. Tanigaki The Japanese government has promoted international cooperation based on the principle of “human security”. If I may refer to the case in Vietnam again, Nagoya University has led an effort to provide legal technical support. The Vietnamese people have told me that “Japan listens to the voices of the local people when providing support”.

There is convergence between the concept of “human security”, which includes the concept of “ownership” where the local people’s own initiatives are respected, and JPFP’s activities to address the issues of population. As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and a host of other issues, I think that this concept of human security is increasing in its importance. And whenever I see and hear about conflict between nations and tensions and social malaise within individual countries, I feel that respect and tolerance towards others will have a very important meaning.

―COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our society and economy. What do you think is important in guiding our society towards a better future?

Hon. Tanigaki The coronavirus has had a profound impact. We might succeed in stamping out the infection, but it would be pointless if people’s livelihoods are destroyed at the same time. We need to both maintain and secure people’s livelihoods and control the infection. Countries’ response has varied. Some have prioritized economic policy. Others have taken draconian infection control measures even at the expense of restricting economic activities. The jury is still out on which response is most effective. It will probably become apparent a year or two from now.

We have had important discussions on the Comprehensive National Land Development Plan, which is a comprehensive, basic plan on Japan’s national land development and use. Japan’s economy is not as dynamic as before, and its population is decreasing. I think we need to discuss this issue on land development and use in conjunction with the issues of work-style reform and regional revitalization. You might have heard the term “satoyama capitalism”. There may be new possibilities arising from diversification of lifestyles and initiatives for regional vitalization.

―Lastly, do you have any message for JPFP?

Hon. Tanigaki JPFP’s activities and Japan’s initiatives in the field of population is well-recognized globally. JPFP is perhaps the only parliamentary caucus originating in Japan that has a global network. I think this is something we can be proud of globally.

We can expect difficulties to continue in and outside of Japan, and it may not be easy to continue our activities to address these important issues. I hope to see cooperation among the ruling party and opposition parties under the leadership of Chair Hon. Yoko Kamikawa and also to see our work passed down to the next generation.

― Thank you very much for letting us interview you today.

Interviewed in November 2020

※The titles shown are those held at the time of interview.

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