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Civil Society Gathers at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit

Liz Noh
G7 Research Group
May 25, 2016

Located outside the main International Media Centre, in a narrow building nestled between two football fields, about 60 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are gathered, hoping to get their message to the G7 leaders. They represent a network of more than 350 groups in Japan.

The main topics on their agenda are sustainable development and the environment, from a Japanese perspective.

For example, Moyai is an anti-poverty group that wants to raise awareness about the homeless in Japan. Moyai means "helping each other" in Japanese. The issue of homelessness is particularly difficult in Japan because it is viewed as a personal failure. There are very few resources available to help the homeless in Japan. Moyai's campaign is "the world's most uncomfortable bed," accompanied by images a bed of cobblestones, concrete among rats, garbage and a sewer.

"We want people to see how the homeless live in Japan. Poverty is not only an issue in developing countries," says Ren Onishi, a Moyai representative.

Another anti-poverty group is Save the Children. In Japan, one in six children live in poverty, according to the organization's representative, Yoko Ono. That means they live in households living below the median income, which is 1.2 million yen (about US$11,000). In fact, about 16% of households in Japan live below the median income, which is considered high among developed countries.

Under environment, Japanese NGOs want to focus on the nuclear issue, which is not mentioned in the G7 agenda. One group, No More Hibakusha, representing the victims of nuclear weapons, has a particular interest in this issue.

On the outskirts of the G7 summit site, these NGOs want to work together with the G7 leaders to achieve a common goal to create a sustainable world because everyone is linked together in existence.

"Existence" is the word of the day, written in Kanji or Chinese characters by calligrapher Takahiro Tokuyama.

Everyday during the G7 summit, he will draw a new character of the day at the NGO headquarters.

Looking ahead to the next G7 summit to be hosted by Italy, a representative of Italian NGOs says he has high expectations at this summit. He hopes the Japanese leadership will set the agenda for the future. Japan and Italy have worked together in the past on issues as malaria and tuberculosis.

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Liz NohLiz Noh has been a member of the G7 and G8 Research Group since 1995, specializing in Japan and East Asia. She has attended ten G7/8 summits. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 15 years' experience in print and broadcast media. She was a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, and won an Amnesty International Media Award in 2004 for "North Korea: The Hidden Gulag," a radio documentary that she produced. She also lived and worked in Tokyo for five years, where she was an editor for NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, and Kyodo News.


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