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

INTERVIEW

We hope to look to the past activities of JPFP for clues in building this new era, expand our network of partners, set new agenda for population, and further our activities.

Member of the House of Representatives
JPFP Chair
Hon. Yoko Kamikawa http://www.kamikawayoko.net/

In December 2019, Hon. Yoko Kamikawa (Member of the House of Representatives, former Minister of Justice) assumed the post of the 7th Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP). For this issue, we interviewed Hon. Kamikawa on her thoughts after having being in the post now for more than six months, future direction of JPFP’s activities, and the relation between JPFP and “sustainable development,” with which she has been involved as Chair of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Parliamentarian League on SDGs Diplomacy. (Covered in this issue are excerpts from the interview. The full text will appear in the Autumn 2020 Issue of the Population and Development, a quarterly of the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA)).

―Today, we would like to hear your candid thoughts on the direction you would like to guide the JPFP.

Hon. Kamikawa JPFP is a supra-party parliamentary caucus established in 1974. JPFP’s first chair was former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, the second chair was former prime minister Takeo Fukuda, the third chair was former foreign minister Shintaro Abe, the fourth chair was former foreign minister Taro Nakayama, the fifth chair was former prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, and the sixth chair was former justice minister Sadakazu Tanigaki. All of these distinguished figures have left their mark in the history of constitutional politics in Japan.

When I was contacted for the post of the 7th Chair of JPFP last December, it was intimated to me that there was a strong expectation to have a woman parliamentarian for this top post. Even though I am still training myself as a politician, I made a leap of faith by accepting the offer in part for the sake of other women parliamentarians who will come after me. JPFP has a history and tradition of leading Japan’s diplomacy in the international community. At a time when global solidarity is needed in addressing a range of difficult challenges, I am resolved to do my best in exercising new leadership.

―In 1974, the year in which JPFP was established, you were still a university student.

Hon. Kamikawa  In 1974, I was studying international relations at a university. At that time, The Limits to Growth, published from the Club of Rome, grabbed public attention in Japan as well as in other countries, and there was a real sense that population explosion mostly happening in the developing world was an imminent threat. How can we stabilize exponential growth in world population? Failure to control it would make it impossible to build a peaceful and sustainable society on this planet. I have heard that JPFP was established out of such a sense of crisis.

At a time when a globally-minded nonpartisan parliamentary caucus was something uncommon in Japan a half century ago, JPFP was established as the first group in the world with a platform for “sustainable development”. The aim was to have elected parliamentarians listen to the voices of the people independent from the government or international organizations, and promote diplomacy in direct solidarity with parliamentarians in other countries. I believe that we should continue to uphold such foresight of JPFP as our guiding principle.

― It was the activities of JPFP that helped to gradually give shape to parliamentarian activities on population and development around the world. What are your thoughts on this point?

Hon. Kamikawa  In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted at the United Nations General Assembly with the agreement of 193 countries. As you may know, the basic concept of “sustainable development” became well-known when it was expounded in “Our Common Future”, the final report published by the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987. WCED is also known as Brundtland Commission because it was chaired by the then Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. However, it is not well known that it was Japan that proposed the establishment of WCED and that provided the funding and initiated concrete action for its establishment. It was established because former prime minister Takeo Fukuda, the 2nd chair of JPFP, made the proposal to the whole world. In that sense, there would have been no SDGs without the activities of JPFP.

―Compared with the last half a century, what do you think about the position of Japan in the international community today?

Hon. Kamikawa It was our predecessors who developed the principles underlying JPFP’s activities and who made JPFP’s achievements possible. These are invaluable assets in terms of soft power in Japan’s diplomacy. And even though Japan’s ODA is decreasing and we are seeing the rise of emerging economies, Japan’s presence in terms of soft power is increasing. I will make efforts towards letting the wider public know how much Japan has contributed to the international community.

We are living in difficult times, but it is essentially the role of politicians to find hope in times of difficulty. The philosopher Alain once said, “Pessimism comes from the temperament, optimism from the will”. The role of politics is not to get caught up in negativity but to face the challenges squarely, plot the path to resolving the challenges, and take concrete action with hope. I think as long as we maintain this attitude in politics, we can inspire hope and bring about a better society.

―Lastly, can we have a few words on how we can create a hopeful society?

Hon. Kamikawa Japan is facing a decline in population due to low fertility and population ageing at a level unprecedented in human history. The situation surrounding each of us individuals is also becoming increasingly difficult. In such an age, we can appreciate “being together with others” more than ever before. After the Sumatra Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake, words of encouragement and support and relief materials poured in from all over the world to help the victims. From the beginning of this year, a new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) unknown to humankind spread around the world, which is calling for our collective wisdom in the development of vaccines and drugs, establishment of treatment protocols, and information sharing.

These are times when we need, more than anything else, to help and support each other on a global scale. In terms of mutual global support, the role of parliamentarian activities is also changing. Whereas our role in the past was to pass on Japan’s experience to developing countries, we need now to form partnerships with governments, companies, and civil society, both in developed and developing countries, and bring our collective wisdom to bear in achieving SDG17. In this context, we hope to look to the past activities of JPFP for clues in building this new era, expand our network of partners, set new agenda for population, and further our activities. This requires the active involvement of JPFP members. To gain our members’ understanding and support for JPFP’s past and future activities, I vouch to engage deeply in policy dialogue and to translate our policies into concrete action.

―Hon. Kamikawa, thank you very much.

Interviewed in August 2020

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

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