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Movements around the G8 Summit (2008): the Situation in Japan

An overview of the relationship between leftists and NGOs.

The alterglobalization movement in Japan

The forthcoming G8 Summit this year will be held between July 7th and 9th in Hokkaido, Northern Japan. The related ministerial conferences will be held in various parts of the country between March and June.

For example in the Kansai area (Western Japan),

  • the meeting of the Ministers of Environmental Affairs will take place between May 24th and 26th in Kobe,
  • the Ministers of Financial Affairs will meet on June 13th and 14th in Osaka, and
  • the Ministers of Foreign Affairs will meet on June 26th and 27th in Kyoto.

Since the beginning of this year, NGOs, Leftists, trade unions, green political parties etc. have organized several events and networks concerning the G8 meeting. The position of these networks and organizations range widely from those opposing the G8 (mainly the Leftists) to those offering opinions and alternative ways of the G8 (mainly NGOs).

Research on such Global Movements (including “anti-globalization movements”, “alter-globalization movements”, “alterglobal movements”, “globalization movements”, “transnational activists”…) has identified various actors such as NGOs, Leftists, trade unions, environmental movements, women’s movements, and farmers’ collectives.

In Japan, Leftist movements (new lefts and their several sects), dating back to the 60s, still have a strong influence within (social) movements sector of Japan. However, due to their violent past during the 70’s 1 and subsequent struggles among sects, even now NGOs are reluctant to work with the Leftists. Then, in the case of Japan how do the various actors work together?

NGOs and Leftists: The Situation in Kanto

In the Kanto area (the Eastern part of Japan, such as Tokyo), NGOs and Leftists work independently. The NGOs mainly discuss and offer possible alternatives to the G8 in the “G8 Summit NGO Forum”.

“2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum” was formed in January 2007 “as a civil platform by Japanese NGOs’ broad coalition for the 2008 G8 Summit in Toyako, Hokkaido. On the 31st of July 2007, 101 NGOs are affiliated with the forum. These NGOs are working on areas such as Environment, Poverty elimination and Development, Human rights and Peace. Through these working areas, the forum coordinates messages of the civil society in international policy processes on global issues.” (www.g8ngoforum.org/english)

The “G8 Action Network” of the Leftists, however, refutes the G8, pointing to its undemocratic character.

“G8 Action Network” is the anti-neo-liberal globalisation network of various Japanese organizations and movements (32 groups 142 individuals as of 2008/3/1). “It is calling on all social movements, peasant organizations, women, migrants, urban and rural poor, fisher folks and civil society from all over the world who are resisting free trade in its many forms, war and militarism, the privatisation of essential services and natural resources, illegitimate debt and the domination of global finance, and fighting for and building real people based solutions to global warming, to come and join us in the week of action against the G8 here in Japan.” (www.jca.apc.org/alt-g8)

What becomes highly important here is the fact that the NGOs and the Leftists started to walk separate routes last year. 2 This separation was induced by the founding of the NGO Forum in order to gather together the various NGOs in Kanto area. The newly established NGO Forum was bound by a manifesto which prohibited anti-G8 activities. Thus the Leftists were excluded from this forum.

The Situation in Kansai

In Kansai area (mainly Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe), the NGOs and the Leftists are looking for possible ways to work together. Mutual executive committees were created in cases such as the “Citizens Environmental Summit (CES)” in Kobe (May 25-26), and the “Symposium toward G8 Summit” in Osaka (February 23).

What makes Kansai different from Kanto is that the NGOs and the Leftists in Kansai held a successful common forum last year, an alternative forum (May 5-6, 2007 at Doshisha University) to the 40th commemorative meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). More than 50 domestic and international NGOs and 1000 people in total participated in this forum. There were 17 workshops, and also some demonstrations. The executive committee of this forum consisted of five organizations, such as the Kansai NGO’s Council (office), AM net, ATTAC Kansai group, Japan Conference of unions affiliating Public Service International and Research center of “Environment and Sustainable Society.”


The current situation of Global Movements in Japan concerning the G8 can be classified through the relationships between the Leftists and the NGOs.

These movements can be divided into

(1) a split-pattern between NGOs and Leftists (e.g in Kanto) on one hand, and

(2) a cooperative pattern (e.g. in Kansai) on the other hand.

The author thinks that a cooperative pattern may have the greater potential, as this approach can be accepted by a greater plurality of actors.


1 For example, Rengo-sekigun incident (1972): The Rengo Sekigun (United Red Army) murdered disloyal elements at one of their mountain hideouts under the name of “purge”, and there was a shoot-out at the Asama Mountain Lodge between the police and the Red Army.

2 The Basic Principles for Activities of the NGO Forum: To facilitate proactive advocacy activities when it is not possible to make joint proposals or reach agreement through discussion./ To conduct its activities in a democratic manner, with an emphasis on achieving consensus among all participating NGOs./ To give importance to the process of discussion among NGOs as well as achieving results through advocacy./ To oppose any advocacy activity that employs violence or illegal means. (www.g8ngoforum.org/english/about)


Source: http://japan.indymedia.org