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Toward Inclusive Global Governance? Japanese Civil Society, the State, and G7/8 Summitry, 2000-2016.

THE GROUP OF 7 OR GROUP OF 8 (G7/8) SUMMITRY HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN challenging for civil society actors, but since the mid-1990s the G7/8 states have indicated a greater openness to civil society organization (CSO) participation in the summitry process. In the case of Japan, the sole participant from Asia at the G7/8 summit proceedings, the engagement of Japanese CSOs in the summitry had a circumscribed character. This particular state of affairs has, however, been slowly changing in the twenty-first century. Through examination of three G7/8 summits held in Japan--the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa summit, 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit, and 2016 Ise-Shima summit--I analyze the extent to which the norm of inclusive approach to the participation of civil society in global governance processes has been embraced by subsequent Japanese governments.

The article has three purposes. First, I aim to describe how the relationship between Japanese CSOs and the Japanese government has developed in the context of the summitry process. More specifically, I present and critically evaluate the channels and spaces for civil society representation, participation, and policy deliberation made available during the three summits. Second, on the basis of empirical findings, I explain the extent to which subsequent Japanese governments have embraced the idea of inclusive governance and accepted CSOs as relevant stakeholders in the summitry process. Third, I assess my findings in relation to wider debates around a pro-CSO norm in East Asian and global realms. (1) In summary, I argue that the norm of civil society inclusion in global governance processes has not yet been sufficiently institutionalized among Japanese elites, and the extent and conditions of CSO participation in the summits were dictated by the political philosophy of a given prime minister in power, resulting in an inconsistent and contradictory approach to nongovernmental actors. In particular, the limited political will to engage in a meaningful dialogue with CSOs demonstrated by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the 2016 summit can be seen as part of a broader trend in Japan toward the narrowing of civic space under the current conservative administration despite the country's democratic credentials.

In this article, I build on the existing body of research concerning the evolving relationship between the G7/8 and civil society as represented by works of Peter I. Hajnal, Hugo Dobson, and Philip Seaton. (2) 1 provide, however, a more in-depth overview of Japanese CSOs' involvement in the summitry process and I attempt to introduce views and voices of civil society actors to a greater extent than before, adding new empirical material to extant academic discourse. The findings from this article contribute to academic discussion on the role of "activism from above" in facilitating Japanese CSO access to international politics and adaptation of the international norm prescribing a greater recognition of civil society as partners by Japanese ruling elites. (3)

Theoretical Considerations: International Norm Compliance and the Lasting Importance of Domestic Political Opportunities

On a theoretical level, in this article I draw from a body of research on norm diffusion and socialization as well as studies that underline the continuing causal importance of the state in facilitating participation of CSOs in global governance processes. Civil society organizations are referred to throughout the text, apart from in places where other authors' preference for the term nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is acknowledged, to encompass "a broad set of non-state, non-profit actors." (4) Norms, in turn, are understood as "rules or normative principles that are somehow accepted in and by particular groups." (5) Significantly, norms are conceived here as possessing a prescriptive aspect, as they encompass accepted or desirable standards of behavior or "the basic actions expected of actors in a given issue area." (6) Finally, the concept of political opportunity is used to address the characteristics of a political context that play a crucial role in influencing and shaping civil society activism. (7) The relevant aspects of political context can include the degree of openness or closure of formal political access, the degree of stability of political alignments, availability and attitude of potential allies, and divisions among elites as well as repression and facilitation on the side of the state. (8)

According to Anders Uhlin, a pro-NGO norm "creates political opportunities for civil society activists" in terms of their access to international organizations (IOs); however, IOs and states still "have ample possibilities to limit civil society engagement to tokenistic participation without real influence." (9) This new pro-NGO norm, which emerged in the 1980s and portrayed NGOs as "partners in development" and "an enforcer of good governance," has contributed to expanding their presence and significance in global politics. This particular normative development, which was rooted in liberal democratic and neoliberal economic principles, established a new standard for state actors. That is, "in order to be a properly functioning free market and democratic nation in the 1990s and 2000s, it was now necessary to have a flourishing 'civil society' sector that included NGOs and other citizen-organized groups." (10)

In addition to the growing pertinence of discourses that promote inclusive governance, (11) the active push for CSOs to become "a direct participant in institutionalized global governance" (12) has ushered in incremental change in the presence of nongovernmental actors in global governance processes. Consequently, as John J. Kirton and Peter I. Hajnal argue, "The debate is no longer over whether civil society should be involved in international governance, but rather how much and how it should." (13) Similarly, Jan Aart Scholte expresses a conviction that, "since the 1990s, a general consensus has prevailed that CSOs are rightly involved in transplanetary regulation." (14) The existing literature demonstrates, however, that there are substantial differences between various international bodies as to the extent to which this particular norm and its "ought-to-ness" aspect (i.e., "how an actor should behave" (15)) has been embraced by them. (16) Significantly, the strength of a given norm can be "limited to a region or extend globally," (17) which brings to the fore the matter of different levels of norm recognition and compliance that emerge and exist in varying social, political, and economic environments. For instance, whereas the norm concerning civil society's participation in global governance has gained currency in Southeast Asia, (18) the extant studies reveal that despite its "people oriented" rhetoric, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) tends to expand a "range of opportunities for political representation, while narrowing the opportunities for political contestation." (19)

More importantly, despite the increasing involvement of civil society in global governance processes, the state remains a key player in the latter, and CSOs depend on states for "material resources and political access," (20) bringing to the fore the issue of political opportunities. Christopher L. Pallas and Anders Uhlin aptly point out that the dominant narrative on nongovernmental actors, which underlines CSOs' importance in realizing "direct stakeholder representation in international policy-making" and offsetting the impact of states, overlooks the fact that the latter "are still the primary members of the vast majority of global governance arrangements and that CSO participation and influence often rely on state sufferance and support." Consequently, a "state channel"--that is, cooperation between CSOs and state actors (executive, parliamentary and administrative branches of national governments and individual representatives of these institutions) for the purpose of influencing international organizations--has lasting importance in global governance. (21)

In the case of highly state-centered forums, such as the G7/8 and the Group of 20 (G-20), the importance of "state sufferance and support" plays an even greater role in creating and limiting opportunities for CSOs to access, contribute to, and influence proceedings and outcomes in the run-up to and during the main events. As an informal nonbureaucratic body without permanent headquarters or a secretariat, the G7/8 forum has not developed well-institutionalized channels of communication and cooperation with CSOs such as those offered by the UN agencies. Furthermore, varying institutional and administrative arrangements in member states--which are in place for the purpose of organizing summit events, implementing, and monitoring G7/8 process outcomes--have introduced an additional level of difficulty into the establishment and management of the engagement of CSOs in the summitry process. (22) All of these factors have contributed to the "unpredictability of civil society's access into summitry process" (23) that continues despite the overall trend toward a greater opening and embracing of civil society by the G7/8.

However, in their writings about informal forums such as the G7/8, Kirton and Hajnal predict that they "should have greater flexibility to involve civil society actors, especially when these bodies are dominated by democratic states with open societies that need to respond to their citizens' demands." (24) This observation corresponds with the argument on the emergence of a pro-NGO norm and its anchoring and embeddedness in democratic and liberal principles. Consequently, the G7/8 summits--the gatherings of (mostly) highly developed, rich, and democratic countries--are well suited to exploring how far a given government is committed to following the inclusive governance norm. The host states have full control over the organization of the summit and act as the main gatekeepers in terms of offering or refusing opportunities for CSOs' political access and dialogue. Therefore, the behavior of a given government toward civil society actors in this particular setting can be used to surmise the extent of its commitment to facilitating the participation of CSOs in global governance processes.

Research Method

The empirical data that I used for this article were fleshed out from the existing secondary literature on civil society engagement in the G7/8 summitry process (the case of the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa summit and the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit) as well as obtained from documentary sources published by CSOs involved in the summit proceedings (the case of the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit and the 2016 Ise-Shima summit). Moreover, the data gathered from documentary analysis are supplemented by information provided by CSO activists involved in the 2016 summit proceedings.

This article constitutes qualitative comparative research. I draw on a case study approach and "investigate a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its real-life context" (25) through analyses of three G7/8 summits hosted by Japan, soliciting the data necessary to answer the research question. Looking at the period between 2000 and 2016, I offer a temporal analysis of the trend toward recognition and implementation of an inclusive governance norm by three subsequent Japanese governments led by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, the dominant party in Japan's political scene.

I discuss each of the three summits individually with the following areas investigated. In the first dimension of the analysis, I focus on identifying the institutional support and infrastructure created to accommodate the participation of CSOs during the summit and to enable their access to the proceedings. Here, I also explore the circumstances of CSOs' interaction with mass media. Then I examine the type and level of access to policymakers and representatives of the G7/8 states afforded to CSOs (i.e., what the political opportunities for information provision, dialogue, and consultation looked like). These analytical dimensions enable an appraisal of the conditions for representation, participation, and deliberation created by Japanese governments that CSOs enjoyed during the three summits. An analysis of the impact of civil society activism on the outcomes of the summit is, however, beyond the scope of this article. Hence, I focus on analyzing accessibility or input conditions rather than policy outcomes in regard to the inclusive governance norm. (26)

G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, 2000: An Experiment

According to Kim D. Reimann, since the 1980s Japan has been under increasing pressure as a major international donor to embrace CSOs as partners in international development and to follow more closely the emerging standard for CSO engagement in global politics. Consequently, Japan has been subjected to an international socialization process that has encouraged Japanese state officials to rethink the relationship between CSOs and the government. (27) Nevertheless, the previous Group of 7 (G7) summits organized in Japan were not characterized by constructive dialogue between the government and civil society. Traditional left social movements, which espoused antagonistic attitudes toward the process, were at the forefront of addressing the G7. (28) An extreme illustration of these tensions was the firing of a missile over the venue by radical left activists during the 1986 Tokyo summit. (29)

In the context of the Group of 8 (G8), the explicit embracing of CSOs in 1998 was a confirmation that the inclusive governance norm had made inroads into the summitry process. The Kyushu-Okinawa summit took place two years after the Birmingham summit that had constituted a significant turning point in the relationship between civil society and the G8. In 1998, the Jubilee Coalition spearheaded the struggle for debt cancellation, and its efforts were recognized and prized by UK prime minister Tony Blair. (30) This particular development, and the recognition lavished by Blair on the Jubilee Coalition, marked an important turning point in the history of the relationship between the G8 and civil society. This warming of the relationship in response to the need to enhance the legitimacy of the G8, and to address the increasing presence of civil society in international relations, was reflected in the Japanese government's approach to civil society in the run-up to and during the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa summit. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori offered opportunities for political participation to CSOs seeking to influence the summit proceedings, which were a novelty in the Japanese context.

In 2000, the Japanese government created the post of director-general for civil society participation to maintain contact with nongovernmental actors during the preparatory phase of the event ("ambassador in charge of civil society") and organized an international symposium devoted to the role of nongovernmental actors in conflict prevention. (31) Furthermore, an NGO center from which civil society actors could operate was set up. Having said that, certain members of the CSO community called attention to the government's instrumentalization of the center for the purpose of conducting surveillance on nongovernmental actors. (32) Additionally, government representatives and members of the mass media were free to visit the NGO center whenever they wished, whereas the same privilege was not extended to civil society actors. Only representatives of CSOs that obtained official recognition as journalists reporting on the summit proceedings were granted access to the media center and could participate in briefings. (33) This particular restriction suggests that, despite its relatively open approach, the host government was determined to retain a substantial degree of control over how nongovernmental actors could be involved in the summit proceedings. Regarding the facilities made available for CSOs during the Okinawa summit, a member of the CSO community observes that the remote location of the NGO center inhibited interaction with representatives of mass media, as "[only a] handful of reporters attended the press conferences that the NGOs held and nobody wrote about the NGOs' comments about governments' policies." (34) Furthermore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) officials responsible for contacts with CSOs visited the center to provide briefings but did not offer details on policies. (35)

Despite these shortcomings, the Kyushu-Okinawa summit was the first event at which a working space for CSOs was provided. Moreover, high-level consultations between CSOs and the government were arranged. Representatives of CSOs such as Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Amnesty International had an opportunity to meet Japanese sherpa Yoshiji Nogami. What is more, during the summit Prime Minister Mori held a meeting with representatives of nine CSOs, where he advocated for the relief of African debt, called for action on infectious diseases, and demanded the reduction of US military bases on Okinawa. This event constituted a new development in the history of G7/8 summitry in Japan. (36)

G8 Hokkaido-Toyako Summit, 2008: A Watershed

Commenting on the importance of the G8 summit in Hokkaido-Toyako, a prominent member of the Japanese CSO community observed that it was the first time CSOs had actively mobilized themselves and engaged in the summitry process. (37) This is not to say that Japanese nongovernmental actors were not involved in the summitry or postsummitry dialogue and consultations, but the large-scale mobilization of Japanese CSOs for the Hokkaido-Toyako summit constituted a qualitatively new development. The CSOs' choice to engage the G8 countries in a dialogue and treat the summit as an opportunity to advocate solutions to global challenges, rather than to denounce the event altogether, opened a new chapter in the relationship between Japanese civil society actors and the government in regard to G8 summitry. Furthermore, the summit was an important milestone in moving toward cooperation and links between internationally oriented Japanese CSOs and their counterparts from other regions of the world for pursuing common aims. (38) On the sidelines of the summit, other events were conducted, including an alternative summit and Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir. Despite a wide array of events surrounding the summit, the number of protest activities was rather low, and anti-G8 and antiglobalization activism was not a serious issue during the 2008 event. (39)

An umbrella organization, the 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, chaired by former leader of Japan International Volunteer Center Masako Hoshino, was launched in January 2007. According to Hoshino, Japan's hosting of the summit was treated as an "opportunity to meet all cross-sectoral NGOs [and] this is the first time for this to happen to NGOs in Japan." Regarding the Japan G8 NGO Forum and its work, she also observes that it "commemorates the initiation of advocacy by the Japanese NGOs." (40) This confirms the seminal importance of the Hokkaido-Toyako summit when it comes to the engagement of Japanese civil society actors, not only in the G8 summitry, but also in their involvement in international advocacy activities. While the engagement of Japanese CSOs in service provision has been gaining recognition in broader society, the advocacy-oriented activities have not enjoyed an equal level of acceptance. (41) Seen in this light, the efforts of Japanese CSOs to organize a concerted action during the Hokkaido-Toyako summit would serve as a demonstration of their capabilities and commitment to the task of international advocacy to both domestic and foreign audiences. "In the past, many people considered that Japanese NGOs were of very low quality when compared to NGOs in other developed countries," Hoshino observes, but argues further that "our wish was to make 2008 the year when Japanese NGO advocacy activities start." (42)

After the Kyushu-Okinawa summit, the trend toward increasing inclusion of civil society actors in the G8 summitry process, as well as increasing the institutionalization of dialogue between CSOs and host governments, continued despite occasional impediments. (43) Dialogue with the government was made easier by an inclusive approach to civil society represented by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. Similar to his predecessor, Fukuda pursued a policy of openness toward civil society participation in the summit through the provision of a dedicated workspace for CSOs and engagement in discussion with the latter's representatives. In the run-up to the summit in February 2008, a meeting with Masaharu Kohno, a sherpa of the prime minister, was organized. Furthermore, CSO representatives were present during a number of presummit events where they could voice their opinions (e.g., the environment ministers meeting, development ministers meeting, and finance ministers meeting). (44)

At the end of April 2008, a Civil G8 Dialogue was organized by the Japan G8 NGO Forum in cooperation with the MOFA, and held in Kyoto, to gather CSOs' views and present them to the G8 sherpas. Over 200 people participated in the event. Regarding the consultation with sherpas, twenty-one representatives of CSOs participated in the meeting, with the majority coming from abroad. (45) In addition, a ninety-minute consultation between Prime Minister Fukuda himself and members of the Japan G8 NGOs Forum took place in June 2008. (46) The dialogue with representatives of the Japanese government before and during the summit, and the views voiced by them concerning the contribution of CSOs to tackling global challenges, seemed to be a positive indication of widening political opportunities for nongovernmental actors to meaningfully contribute to the summitry process. For instance, in his message to participants of the Civil G8 Dialogue, Minister of Foreign Affairs Masahiko Komura admits that it is important for the summit's success to promote a '"participatory approach for international cooperation,' i.e., not only to strengthen the ties among the developed countries, but also to share the ideas and approaches among the governments and the NGOs." Takehiko Nakao, representing the Ministry of Finance during the Civil G8 Dialogue, in turn observes that "the government has more interest in advocacy of NGOs. I believe there will not be a favorable result without cooperating with NGOs. Democracy's role is to reflect opinions of various people. I think the government has to listen to what NGOs have to say." Finally, Kohno notes that cooperation between the private sector and civil society is critical for resolving global and regional issues. (47) In summary, on at least a discursive level, a number of senior figures in the Japanese government acknowledged the status of Japanese civil society actors as valuable partners in dialogue.

In addition to relatively robust dialogue with the government, civil society actors enjoyed access to the International Media Center (IMC), and NGO media centers were also provided in Sapporo in cooperation with local government. (48) A right to access the IMC was secured after "repeated negotiations" with the MOFA. Members of CSOs were able to attend press conferences and observe the delivering of statements, which allowed them to react quickly to the latest developments during the summit and to provide immediate responses to members of the press. An NGO working space, including an area for civil society actors to hold their own press conferences, was located close to the IMC, which facilitated visits from journalists. According to the Japan G8 NGO Forum, more than 20 press conferences were organized by civil society actors, with around 100 CSO members visiting the IMC and engaging in information provision. The process of establishing a working relationship with representatives of mass media had begun in the run-up to the summit through the organization of informal events and a variety of presummit meetings that increased the visibility of the Japan G8 NGO Forum in the mass media. (49)

G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Mie, 2016: A Setback

Unlike in the case of preparations for the G8 Hokkaido-Toyako summit, which started in January 2007, the process of developing a civil society platform for the Ise-Shima summit began relatively late in November 2015. (50) The expectations of foreign civil society actors in relation to the 2016 summit played a role in spurring the activities of Japanese civil society actors, which resulted in the creation of a common civil society platform. Ultimately, two networks were created for the purpose of coordinating civil society activities at the G7 summit: the Japan Civil Society Platform on 2016 G7 Ise-Shima Summit (henceforth the Japan Civil Society Platform, or JCSP) and the Tokai Citizen's Summit Network. (51) During the preparation process, the participating CSOs overcame a number of challenges, including funding issues and staff shortages. The core secretariat overseeing the preparation process consisted of people recruited for the purpose, coming from the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) and Global Call to Action Against Poverty Japan, and with additional help provided by staff from other CSOs. (52) In spite of these difficulties, in the run-up to the summit the Japan Civil Society Platform (or its participating organizations) liaised with its international counterparts, most importantly the G7 Global Task Force, during the strategy planning meetings in Tokyo (December 2015) and Rome (February 2016) (53) to coordinate efforts to influence the upcoming event. A number of advocacy and information dissemination activities were also conducted before the G7 summit to build awareness of the event's significance among Japan's general populace.

Consultations with the authorities commenced in December 2015, and negotiations with the government were found to be more challenging than those for the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit. According to Masaki Inaba, the dialogue between CSOs and the government was wrought with difficulty, though he makes a distinction between the relationships with different entities within the MOFA (i.e., the summit secretariat and Economic Affairs Bureau). In the former's case, he talks about building mutual trust between the two sides, and considers there to have been an improvement on the previous summit. Conversely, he describes the Economic Affairs Bureau, which was in charge of the G7 agenda and dialogue with the G7 sherpas, as negatively predisposed to dialogue with CSOs. Overall, CSOs were surprised by the efforts that they had to exert to "pry open the closed door of the government," which occurred despite many of the G7 countries having institutionalized consultations with civil society, the existence of the Civil G7 Dialogue, and the experience of communicating with government during the 2008 summit. (54)

Admittedly, the dialogue with the MOFA resulted in the organization of the Civil G7 Dialogue, which included a meeting between the G7 sherpas and representatives of CSOs that took place in March 2016. (55) Financial support from the MOFA also enabled Japanese CSOs to invite representatives of several African and Asian NGOs to participate in Civil G7 Dialogue. Additionally, members of international CSOs, such as Interaction, Save the Children, the Global Poverty Project, ONE, International Medical Corps, and the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network, attended the event. (56) As before, views and recommendations for consultation with sherpas were gathered during the Civil G7 Dialogue. However, this time the meeting with sherpas took place behind closed doors, with only selected members of the CSO community participating in the event. (57) In contrast, during the 2008 Civil G8 Dialogue, the exchange of views between representatives of CSOs and the G8 governments was conducted in front of all participants gathered for the event. (58) Furthermore, this particular approach to dialogue between civil society and representatives of the G7 leaders differed from the more open and inclusive manner of interacting with CSOs seen during the 2015 Schloss Elmau summit in Germany. During the 2015 summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel took a proactive approach to engaging in dialogue with multiple civil society actors. Commenting on Merkel's approach, analysts from the G7 Research Group point out that she encouraged "other nations to be open to greater civil society participation in the dialogue process" and "made dialogue with civil society organizations a key component of Germany's G7 presidency." (59) Ultimately, CSOs chose twenty representatives from among themselves to participate in the meeting. This number was significantly higher than the initial one envisioned by the MOFA. (60) Furthermore, just before the G7 main event, the Citizens' Ise-Shima Summit was organized for the purpose of gathering proposals on fifteen pertinent problem areas of the day, including health, poverty, education, sustainable development, and disaster risk reduction. (61) The declaration issued by the Citizens' Ise-Shima Summit, and recommendations originating from civil society, were later delivered to the government and the MOFA. (62)

In 2008, Prime Minister Fukuda met with representatives of the CSO community, but at the 2016 G7 summit Prime Minister Abe did not follow in his predecessor's footsteps. Putting aside possible scheduling difficulties for organizing such an event, (63) the suspicion had been that Abe simply did not want to meet with members of CSOs, and concerns were also raised about the leader's ability to communicate with the latter. (64) Overall, these views could be seen as reflective of the CSO community's general lack of faith in Abe's approach. Furthermore, whereas the CSO side managed to secure a consultation session with the Japanese subsherpa, there was no separate meeting with the Japanese sherpa, Yasumasa Nagamine. (65)

Another challenge for CSOs during the summit was the matter of access to representatives of the foreign press. In 2016, the International Media Center and CSO working space were located in separate buildings, although in close proximity, and the security checkpoint area made the process of crossing between the two spaces arduous. (66) More worrisome, an official foreign press handbook prepared by the MOFA did not contain information about the CSOs' space, which made it difficult for foreign journalists to find the CSO press conferences. CSOs could not hold their press conferences in the IMC and did not have access to a briefing room for the press. (67) Furthermore, members of the CSO community were discouraged from approaching unknown journalists to distribute materials and provide information. It was MOFA employees who were tasked with ferrying CSOs' informational materials to the IMC. (68) These limitations forced on Japanese civil society actors were met with incredulity and resistance from foreign CSO representatives. (69) Additionally, the space that was allocated to CSOs in the IMC was relatively small and inconspicuous.

Following intensive discussions with the MOFA, the abovementioned challenges were addressed and the situation improved on the second day of the summit. In the opinion of one of the CSO representatives, these issues could have been caused by the relative powerlessness of the section within the summit's preparatory office that held responsibility for managing CSO participation in the event. Due to a lack of time, CSOs did not manage to mobilize politicians to act on their behalf and exert influence to improve the formal conditions of CSO participation. (70)

In summary, the abovementioned constraints seem to point toward a willingness of at least certain members of the Abe administration involved in the organization of the Ise-Shima summit to exert tighter control over contact between CSOs and representatives of media. Despite these difficulties, domestic coverage of CSOs' activities in the run-up to and during the summit was relatively high, increasing public visibility of their endeavors in local and national mass media. (71)

The activities of CSOs relating to the summit, their evaluation of the event, and the challenges that emerged during the preparatory process and the summit itself were discussed with the MOFA in mid-June of 2016. JCSP submitted a document listing ways in which the relationship between the government and CSOs could have been improved, including the matter of CSOs' access to the IMC and missing information on the CSO working space in the mass media information pack. (72) Although the issue of access to the IMC was also brought up in the post-2008 summit exchange between CSOs and the MOFA, (73) the extent of the issues concerning access to the mass media appears to have been even greater in 2016.

In general, the most recent G7 summit in Japan was a setback as far as the cultivation of a constructive relationship between nongovernmental actors and Japanese authorities is concerned. A possible reason for this state of affairs is that the matter of opening and maintaining a robust dialogue with CSOs in the run-up to and during the Ise-Shima summit was not a priority for Prime Minister Abe's administration. The summit was a demonstration of Abe's leadership capabilities and a showcase to boost Japan's position in the international community. According to Hugo Dobson, Abe eschewed Japan's traditional role in global summitry (i.e., the role of internationalist middle power) during his second term in office and concentrated his efforts on advancing "a more narrowly focused, nationalist and revisionist agenda focused on staunching Japan's perceived material and moral decline particularly in relation to rising China." During the 2013 Lough Erne summit, Abe concentrated his attention on securing the support of other G8 leaders for his plans to revitalize the Japanese economy ("Abenomics"), his stance on North Korea, and cooperation on security with the UK. During the Schloss Elmau summit in 2015, Abe's priorities were maritime security in the South China Sea, territorial issues in the East China Sea, and the newly created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIID). (74)

The quest to reaffirm Japan's great-power status continued during the 2016 Ise-Shima summit. Abe reiterated Japan's commitment to shoring up the global economy, continued to focus on the ongoing North Korean threat and maritime security on the summit's agenda, and won the support of other G7 leaders for his concept of quality infrastructure investment. (75) Hosting the G7 summit allowed Abe to demonstrate unity with like-minded democratic global powers and to showcase the strength of Japan's relationship with the United States during President Barack Obama's historic visit to Hiroshima. The dialogue and closer cooperation with Japanese CSOs before and during the event was unnecessary to achieve Abe's summit goals. Overall, Abe's predecessors during the 2000 and 2008 summits felt compelled to respond positively to the new standard concerning CSOs' access to global governance forums--which had been endorsed by the country's international peers--with an eye on maintaining Japan's standing in the international community and demonstrating its continued adherence to international norms. Conversely, Abe partly bucked this trend in his pursuit of a more robust and assertive role for Japan in the international arena.

A second and more troubling explanation is that the superficial engagement with CSOs by the government of Prime Minister Abe constituted yet another example of a broader Japanese trend toward narrowing civic space. For instance, the 2013 State Secrecy Act, which limits the freedom of the press, (76) and the 2017 anticonspiracy law, both of which were spearheaded by the Abe administration, have enormous potential to stifle dissent and penalize civic protest in the country. The anticonspiracy law in particular, which officially targets organized criminal groups and conspiracies to commit terror-related offenses, has elicited powerful criticism from Japanese nongovernmental actors, who fear that it may be used to criminalize grassroots actions and freedom of expression. (77) Consequently, considering the interaction between CSOs and the government during the 2016 summit within the wider context of Abe's other policies that could curtail civic freedoms helps explain Abe's weak commitment to dialogue with Japanese civil society and his tendency to limit political opportunities for CSOs' meaningful participation in the summitry process.

Conclusion: Heeding the Letter, but Not the Spirit of the Norm?

During the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa summit, the government of Prime Minister Mori, in response to a changing international norm, recognized the need to engage (cautiously) in a dialogue with CSOs following the novel approach to the G8--civil society relationship launched in Birmingham two years prior. Furthermore, the fact that the 2000 summit was the first event at which a working space for civil society actors was provided could be understood as a demonstration of Japan's leadership qualities in the charting of new paths to the inclusion of civil society in the G8 summitry process. This was meant to demonstrate that Japan, as a highly developed and democratic state, was able not only to meet the new international standard but also to pioneer innovative measures to enhance CSO participation in the summitry process, surpassing the country's peers in the G8. Nonetheless, the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit was a watershed event in reshaping relations between Japanese civil society and the government, further embedding the approach to constructing relationships based on consultation and dialogue. In summary, the approach taken by the government during the 2000 and 2008 G8 summits demonstrated that the international norm concerning inclusive governance had gained a level of recognition and acceptance among Japanese policymakers, which has led in turn to a progressive opening of political opportunities not only for CSO representation but also for deliberation.

Nevertheless, the approach by Prime Minister Abe's administration to CSO involvement in the 2016 Ise-Shima summit demonstrated that the conservative power wielders and certain sectors of bureaucracy were still not sufficiently persuaded by the merit of the abovementioned norm. Abe's government recognized the general validity of the norm that CSOs should be represented in the G7/8 summitry process and complied with its "ought-to-ness" by ensuring that CSOs had formal access to the summit proceedings. At the same time, however, the government--using its gatekeeper status--attempted to limit and control the means of entry of civil society actors to the forum. Moreover, opportunities for policy deliberation between representatives of the Japanese government and CSOs in 2016 were limited in comparison to the 2008 summit. The climate of goodwill and openness toward increasing dialogue with CSOs that was observable among Japanese decisionmakers in 2008 also largely disappeared, negatively impacting political opportunities for nongovernmental actors.

The case of Japan is instructive. The country is a highly developed democratic state and if, as noted above, informal forums populated by democratic states should be increasingly open to the involvement of civil society actors, the Japanese government should display a growing commitment to the inclusion of CSOs in the summitry process (especially after 2008). Yet as the 2016 summit demonstrates, this development is not a straightforward matter. Political ambitions and the philosophy of the current conservative regime of Prime Minister Abe, whose legislative initiatives could lead to the circumscribing of activities by civil society actors and limiting of civil liberties in Japan, overrode a greater and deeper conformity with the inclusive governance norm. Hence, despite Japan's democratic credentials, the uneven trajectory of the relationship between CSOs and the government in the context of the G7/8 summits demonstrates the ongoing struggle of securing representation in global governance forums and in winning a greater recognition for CSOs in the deliberation processes that take place within an increasingly difficult political climate.

These three examples of the G7/8 summits held in Japan have demonstrated that the norm concerning the inclusion of civil society in global governance processes has ultimately taken a limited hold among certain sectors of Japanese ruling elites, despite encouraging signs. In the larger context of international norms' diffusion and compliance, the trajectory of the three G7/8 summits hosted by Japan is demonstrative of a broader problem in East Asia--namely, a halting and often thin recognition of inclusive governance by regional political elites who still favor the state-centered view of global governance. To recall the view of ASEAN presented earlier in this article, the 2016 Ise-Shima summit was similarly a case where the focus was on providing CSOs with opportunities for political representation while limiting their prospects for political dialogue and contestation.

The issue of limited or shrinking space for civil society is by no means exclusively a problem of East Asia. In February 2017, in the run-up to the G-20 Hamburg summit, a group of prominent international CSOs wrote to Chancellor Merkel regarding the narrowing of the space for civil society or outward repression of the latter by some members of the G-20 forum. The authors of the letter referred to data gathered by CIVICUS, according to which only Germany earned an "open" rating for its protection of the civil society sphere. (78) Japan, alongside the other European G-20 members as well as the United States, Canada, and Australia, was classified as having a "narrowed" civic space. (79)


Kamila Szczepanska is a lecturer at the Department of East Asian Politics, faculty for East Asian Studies at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. Her research interests include Japanese politics and international relations, civil society and social movements in Japan, East Asian actors in regional/global governance, and the "history issue" in East Asia.

(1.) Apro-CSO norm is derived from the term "pro-NGO norm" used by Kim D. Reimann in her study on the growing significance of nongovernmental actors in international politics. Kim D. Reimann, "A View from the Top: International Politics, Norms and the Worldwide Growth of NGOs," International Studies Quarterly 50, no. 1 (2006): 45-67.

(2.) Peter I. Hajnal, The G8 System and the G20: Evolution, Role and Documentation (London: Routledge, 2007); Hugo Dobson, "The 2008 Hokkaido-Tokayo G8 Summit: Neither Summit nor Plummet," Asia-Pacific Journal 6, no. 11 (2008),, accessed 10 February 2017; Hugo Dobson, "The G8, the G20, and Civil Society," in Paolo Savona, John J. Kirton, and Chiara Oldani, eds., Global Financial Crisis: Global Impact and Solutions (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 245-260; Philip Seaton, "The G8 Summit as 'Local Event' in Hokkaido Media," Asia-Pacific Journal 6, no. 11 (2008),, accessed 10 February 2017.

(3.) Kim D. Reimann, The Rise of Japanese NGOs: Activism from Above (London: Routledge, 2010).

(4.) Christopher L. Pallas and Anders Uhlin, "Civil Society Influence on International Organizations: Theorizing the State Channel," Journal of Civil Society 10, no. 2(2014): 185.

(5.) Geoffrey Brennan, Lina Eriksson, Robert E. Goodin, and Nicholas Southwood, Explaining Norms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 4.

(6.) Hugo Dobson, Japan and United Nations Peacekeeping: New Pressures and New Responses (London: RoutledgeCurzon), p. 28.

(7.) Anders Uhlin, Civil Society and Regional Governance: The Asian Development Bank and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016), p. 19.

(8.) Hanspeter Kriesi, "The Political Opportunity Structure of New Social Movements: The Impact on Their Mobilisation," in J. Craig Jenkins and Bert Klandermans, eds., The Politics of Social Protest: Comparative Perspectives on States and Social Movements, (London: UCLA Press, 1995), p. 167; Sidney G. Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 76-80.

(9.) Uhlin, Civil Society and Regional Governance, p. 22.

(10.) Reimann, "A View from the Top," p. 59.

(11.) Ibid., pp. 59-62.

(12.) John J. Kirton and Peter I. Hajnal, "Introduction, Observations, and Conclusions," in John J. Kirton and Peter I. Hajnal, eds., Sustainability, Civil Society and International Governance: Local, North American and Global Contributions (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), p. 3.

(13.) Ibid., p. 27.

(14.) Jan Aart Scholte, "Conclusion," in Jan Aart Scholte, ed., Building Global Democracy? Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 311 (emphasis added).

(15.) Dobson, Japan and United Nations Peacekeeping, p. 28.

(16.) Reimann, "A View from the Top," pp. 63-64.

(17.) Dobson, Japan and United Nations Peacekeeping, p. 32.

(18.) Uhlin, Civil Society and Regional Governance, p. 64.

(19.) Kelly Gerard, ASEAN's Engagement of Civil Society: Regulating Dissent (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 156, 158 (emphasis in original).

(20.) Reimann, "A View from the Top," p. 63.

(21.) Pallas and Uhlin, "Civil Society Influence on International Organizations," pp. 184-185.

(22.) Hajnal, The G8 System and the G20, p. 103.

(23.) G7 Research Group, Report on Civil Society and the 2015 G7 Schloss Elmau Summit, 6 July 2015, p. 48,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(24.) Kirton and Hajnal, "Introduction, Observations, and Conclusions," p. 8 (emphasis added).

(25.) Robert K. Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods (London: Sage, 2009), p. 18.

(26.) On the discussion on accessibility (input) and effectiveness (output) in democratic governance, see Pallas and Uhlin, "Civil Society Influence on International Organizations," p. 198.

(27.) Reimann, The Rise of Japanese NGOs, pp. 159-162.

(28.) Interview, 12 July 2016, Bochum, Germany (via Skype).

(29.) William Andrews, Dissenting Japan: A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture from 1945 to Fukushima (London: Hurst, 2016), pp. 158, 179.

(30.) Hajnal, The G8 System and the G20, p. 106; G7, Response By the Presidency on Behalf of the G8 to the Jubilee 2000 Petition, 16 May 1998,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(31.) Peter I. Hajnal, "Civil Society, the United Nations and the G7/8 Summitry," in John J. Kirton and Peter I. Hajnal, eds., Sustainability, Civil Society and International Governance: Local, North American and Global Contributions (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), p. 288; Frank J. Schwartz, "Introduction: Recognising Civil Society in Japan," in Frank J. Schwartz and Susah J. Pharr, eds., The State of Civil Society in Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 18. In 2002 a permanent position of ambassador in charge of NGOs (NGO [phrase omitted]) was created,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(32.) Glenn D. Hook, Julie Gilson, Christopher W. Hughes, and Hugo Dobson, Japan's International Relations (London: Routledge, 2012), p. 376.

(33.) Peter I. Hajnal, Preliminary Assessment of the Role of Civil Society at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, 23 July 2000,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(34.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum Report, 2008, p. 14,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(35.) Ibid.

(36.) Hajnal, The G8 System and the G20, p. 107; Dobson, "The G8, the G20, and Civil Society," p. 247; Hook et al., Japan 's International Relations, 377.

(37.) Interview, 12 July 2016, Bochum, Germany (via Skype).

(38.) Ibid.

(39.) Dobson, "The G8, the G20, and Civil Society," p. 247.

(40.) Chimaki Kurokawa, "Social Frameworks for Civil Society in Japan: In Search for Japanese Model," in Henk Vinken, Yuko Nishimura, Bruce L.J. White, and Masayuki Deguchi, eds., Civil Engagement in Contemporary Japan: Established and Emerging Repertoires (New York: Springer, 2010), p. 63.

(41.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum Report, p. 2.

(42.) Ibid., pp. 2-3.

(43.) Hajnal, "Civil Society, the United Nations and the G7/8 Summitry," p. 309.

(44.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum Report, pp. 8, 14.

(45.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, Civil G8 Dialogue 2008 Report, June 2008, pp. 3, 58-81,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(46.) Dobson, "The G8, the G20, and Civil Society," p. 247.

(47.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, Civil G8 Dialogue Report, pp. 7, 62, 81.

(48.) Dobson, "The G8, the G20, and Civil Society," p. 247.

(49.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum Report, pp. 11, 14.

(50.) Interview, 3 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(51.) Japan Civil Society Platform on 2016 G7 Ise-Shima Summit (JCSP), G 7 [phrase omitted]: 2016 [phrase omitted] G 7 [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] (G7 Ise Shima Summit and Japanese Civil Society: Japan Civil Society Platform on 2016 G7 Ise Shima Summit Activity Report), December 2016,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(52.) Interview, 3 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(53.) JCSP, G 7 [phrase omitted] (G7 Ise Shima Summit), pp. 30-33.

(54.) Ibid., pp. 4, 42.

(55.) In the run up to the Ise-Shima summit, representatives of Japanese CSOs did not participate in any G7 working groups and task forces. Personal communication (email) with the author, 17 August 2017.

(56.) JCSP, G 7 [phrase omitted] (G7 Ise Shima Summit), pp. 39-40. The overall number of those attending the 2016 event, including foreign participants, was lower than in 2008.

(57.) Interview, 3 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(58.) 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum, 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum Report, p. 8.

(59.) G7 Research Group, Report on Civil Society and the 2015 G7 Schloss Elmau Summit, pp. 13, 46.

(60.) Interview, 3 June 2016.

(61.) Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), The Citizens' Ise-Shima Summit,, accessed 25 August 2017.

(62.) JCSP, [phrase omitted] (Delivering the Citizen Summit Declaration and Recommendations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), 30 May 2016,, accessed 15 August 2017.

(63.) JCSP, G 7 [phrase omitted] (G7 he Shima Summit), p. 42.

(64.) Interview, 3 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(65.) JCSP, G 7 [phrase omitted] (G7 he Shima Summit), p. 45.

(66.) Interview, 3 June 2016 and 7 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(67.) Ibid.

(68.) JCSP, G 7 [phrase omitted] (G7 he Shima Summit), 44, 46; Interview, 7 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(69.) Interview, 6 June 2016 and 7 June 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

(70.) Interview, 12 July 2016, Bochum, Germany (via Skype).

(71.) JCSP, [phrase omitted] (Media reports), accessed February 10, 2017,[phrase omitted].

(72.) JCSP, G7 [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] (A Request to Build a "Shared Organizational Memory " Toward the Next G7 Summit Based on the Relationship Between the Government and Civil Society at the G7 he Shima Summit), 8 June 2016,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(73.) Ohashi Masaki, G8 [phrase omitted] (Reflecting on G8 Hokkaido-Toyako Summit), 15 July 2008,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(74.) Hugo Dobson, "The Curious Case of Japanese Leadership in Global Summitry, June, Global Leadership Initiative," Global Policy (2015),, accessed 10 February 2017.

(75.) Government of Japan, Opening Statement by Prime Minister Abe, 27 May 2016,, accessed 10 February 2017; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 2016, G7 he-Shima Principles for Promoting Quality Infrastructure Investment,, accessed 10 February 2017.

(76.) Lawrence Repeta, "Japan's 2013 State Secrecy Act--The Abe Administration's Threat to News Reporting 2013," Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 12, no. 10 (2014),

(77.) Mekong Watch, Joint Statement in Opposition to an "Anti-conspiracy " Bill that Will Suppress Civil Society, 29 May 2017,

(78.) International Civil Society Center, Letter to Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, 10 February 2017,

(79.) CIVICUS, "As Germany Hosts G20, CIVICUS Highlights the Group's 'Hidden Core of Repression,'", accessed 15 August 2017. See also CIVICUS, "Monitor: Tracking Civic Space,"

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Author:Szczepanska, Kamila
Publication:Global Governance
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Apr 1, 2018
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