A major difference among states in Europe and North America, on the
one hand, and Japan (and many other Asian states), on the other, is the
role played by environmental NGOs in the policy formation process. Whereas
environmental NGOs and even Green Parties have been central players in
environmental policy formation in the West, in Japan large environmental
NGOs failed to become institutionalized. Even though citizens groups played
a major role in pushing for the introduction of environmental laws in Japan
in the 1960s and 1970s, environmental NGOs played little role in the environmental
policy changes in Japan in the 1990s. Instead, these changes came in response
to the elevated levels of attention to environmental issues internationally.
Policy change was initiated by Japan's political leadership and shaped
by its economic and foreign ministries with some input by the Environment
Agency. Japanese environmental policy formation has been dominated by the
This paper addresses the question of how state-society relations in
Japan are being influenced by the internationalization of environmental
politics. An important aspect of this internationalization of environmental
policy formation is the new role played by international organizations,
multinational corporations, international environmental groups, international
expert groups sometimes known as "epistemic communities," multilateral
banks, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. NGOs
and INGOs have taken on an increasingly important and visible role in informal
and formal aspects of international environmental politics. Some observers
even have argued that the rise of these "non-state", "non-sovereign"
actors is leading to a transformation in world politics. No longer is international
relations simply a matter or inter-state diplomacy. Increasingly, international
organizations and non-governmental organizations are influencing the direction
of international politics.(2)
At the informal level, NGOs play an important role in environmental
education and in focusing attention on particular environmental issues.
While their actual impact on agenda setting and implementation remains
a matter for empirical study, certainly NGOs have become a more accepted
element of international negotiations. The United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 is symbolic
of this transformation. Over 1500 accredited non-governmental organizations
were present at this, the largest international conference in world history.
During this conference, NGOs held their own much publicized negotiations
to parallel and added a citizens' perspective to issues of environmental
Today not only are NGOs an accepted element in international negotiating
processes, their participation is now anticipated, even expected. In some
cases, NGO representatives are invited to address international negotiations.
In other cases, their opinions are solicited by national delegations. Some
government delegations include NGO members. The Montreal Protocol on Substances
That Deplete the Ozone Layer states that "Any body or agency, whether
national or international, governmental or non-governmental, qualified
in fields relating to the protection of the ozone layer, which has informed
the secretariat of its wishes to be represented at a meeting of the Parties
as an observer may be admitted unless at least one third of the Parties
present object."(3) Similar language
exists in the Convention on Climate Change negotiated at the UNCED. NGOs
are playing a growing role at the international level in agenda setting,
policy formulation, and policy implementation.
This development has created an interesting dilemma for Japan, a country
that desires a greater role in international environmental politics. Japan's
environmental NGO community is extremely small and poorly financed. Few
internationally-oriented environmental groups even existed before the late
1980s. If the Japanese state is to play a greater role in international
environmental agenda setting, then it is increasingly recognized within
the Japanese government and within Japanese industry, that Japan must also
somehow play according to Western rules and foster an NGO community. For
a strong state, this raises the intriguing question of how to foster an
environmental NGO community that is "acceptable" to the state,
that is, one that does not challenge the state too much from within.
The Importance of Domestic Institutions in International Environmental
Domestic institutions matter in international environmental politics.
This is apparent when one considers the different responses of states to
the international attention accorded the environment in the early 1970s
and again in the 1980s when global environmental issues hit the international
agenda. There have been relatively few times in history when the environment
has been big on domestic political agendas throughout the world. The years
leading up to the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
held in Stockholm in 1972 was one such time. This was a period when there
was a dramatic process of policy change and institution building for the
environment in most of the advanced industrialized countries. Many states
created environment bureaucracies. They passed more comprehensive laws
to address air, water, and noise pollution problems. They strengthened
measures to protect natural areas and plant and animal species. Writing
about this period Harold Jacobson and David Kay write: "Public concern
in other OECD countries about environmental issues developed at roughly
the same time that it did in the United States, and in the early 1970s
most of the major OECD countries adopted comprehensive environmental legislation
and created environmental protection agencies." Still, they noted
that, "Although many OECD countries began the environmental protection
activities more or less simultaneously, the approaches they have taken
have been far from uniform."(4)
Institutions are important for helping us to understand these differences
among states in their approaches to environmental policy formation and
who is involved in the process. Peter Hall defines institutions as the
formal rules, compliance procedures, and standard operating practices that
structure the relationship between individuals in various units of the
polity and economy.(5) Institutions structure
interactions among political actors, influence their goals, and in this
way affect political outcomes. They can influence access to the formal
policy formation process, mediate power relations among actors and establish
certain political incentives and constraints. In other words, institutions
are critical intervening variables that affect which voices have a say
in policy formation. They do not of course, in themselves create policies,
but rather they mediate the interactions among political actors involved
in the policy making process.(6)
Once institutional arrangements are created, they tend to be persistent.
Powerful interests may have an interest in supporting the status quo and
preventing changes to institutional arrangements that will give other interests
in society greater influence. At times, however, institutions do change.
Institutional change may occur for a variety of reasons, but one reason
for change is linked to ideas. When new issues get onto agendas and attract
new supporters or when existing coalitions realign, institutions may be
altered. A powerful new idea can lead to the establishment of new policies,
new norms, or even efforts to alter state-society relations. Major crises
or events may trigger the restructuring of old institutions. It is possible
to view the influence of 1972 Stockholm Conference and the 1992 Rio Conference
on domestic political institutions in this way.(7)
Stephen Krasner offers one influential approach to the question of change
in institutions. His model of "punctuated equilibrium" is premised
on the notion that institutions are relatively stable for long periods
of time, but periods of crisis can cause a "punctuation" in the
system that can lead to abrupt changes to existing institutions and set
them on new trajectories. Kathleen Thelen and Sven Steinmo argue, however,
that this approach tends to externalize politics and obscure "the
dynamic interaction of political strategies and institutional constraints."(8)
Politics can change institutions just as institutions can influence politics.
Below we will see that the introduction of new international environmental
norms is leading to such a restructuring of institutions in Japan for political
The International Environment Hits the Japanese Policy Agenda
In the last years of the Liberal Democratic Party's hold on power, the
global environment became a major area of international and domestic policy
concern. Much of this had to do with the "greening" of former
Prime Minister Takeshita and his search for ways to respond to international
criticism that Japan was not doing enough for the international community.
As a result, in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Japan emerged as a primary
financier of overseas environmental programs and an active player in international
efforts to address global climate change problems. Heavily influenced by
the concerns and interests of Japan's powerful Ministry of International
Trade and Industry (MITI), in recent years, Japan has launched a one hundred
year plan for the promotion of new environmental technologies and alternative
energy sources entitled New Earth 21; initiated a Green Aid Plan to assist
developing nations in adopting environmentally friendlier technology; and
organized numerous regional and global conferences for the environment.
At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, Japan promised to play a leading role
in battling against pollution. While Diet deliberations over the Peace
Keeping Operations prevented then Prime Minister Miyazawa from personally
attending the conference, in a written speech he announced that Japan would
largely stabilize its C02 emissions around 1990 levels by the
year 2000 and that it would speed up the elimination of ozone depleting
substances. In addition, he promised that over the five years beginning
in 1992, Japan would spend between ¥900 million to ¥1 billion in
bi-lateral and multi-lateral aid for the environment.(9)
Unlike in the early 1970s when the environment got onto the agenda in
Japan as a result of grass roots pressures, global environmental issues
were put onto the policy agenda largely as a result of top-down policy
initiative. A general change in stance on the part of business, the LDP,
and the economic ministries made environmental policy change possible on
a scale not seen since the early 1970s. This meant that the Environment
Agency found varying degrees of support for its policy ideas where before
it had largely found only indifference or opposition.
The Japanese government's recent interest in becoming an international
environmental leader stands in sharp contrast with the posture Japan took
prior to 1988 to various environmental problems. Before 1988, the international
environment received but minimal attention from the Japanese public, environmental
groups, the media, or political parties. Japan's seeming lack of concern
for the effects of its economic activities on the global environment led
one major U.S. news magazine to charge Japan with committing "crimes
against the earth."(10) This and other
similar reports criticized Japan for contributing to tropical deforestation
as the world's largest importer of tropical hardwoods and attacked its
drift net fishing practices. They also strongly denounced Japan for its
trade in endangered wildlife products and for exporting polluting industries
to Southeast Asia. (11) While these reports
skimmed over Japan's domestic environmental policy successes--its high
energy efficiency, strong recycling record, and its control of certain
air pollutants--they reflected the low priority that was given to environmental
issues on a regional or international scale. Other than a small surge of
interest in international environmental issues in the period immediately
preceding the 10 year anniversary meeting of the United Nations Conference
on the Human Environment held in Nairobi in 1982,(12)
throughout most of the 1980s, neither domestic nor international environmental
problems received much public or policy attention in Japan.
A major reason for Japan's reactive stance on many international environmental
issues was that there were few domestic groups sponsoring policy change.
There also were few groups policing the activities of the Japanese government
and industry overseas. Without an active international environmental NGO
community in Japan, there was little criticism of government policies (or
lack thereof) in relation to tropical deforestation; the export of polluting
industries to Southeast Asia; drift net fishing; ocean dumping; or a number
of other international environmental concerns-- emanating from within the
Japan's Environmental NGOs
It is important to step back and ask why Japan's environmental NGO community
was so small. In the 1960s and early 1970s, thousands of locally-based
environmental citizens' groups emerged in protest to Minamata mercury poisoning;
Itai-itai disease (from cadmium poisoning); Yokkaichi asthma; severe
air, water, and noise pollution; and many other pollution problems. Japan
had among the strongest grass roots environmental movements in the world.
The literature that analyzes this period in Japanese environmental history
argues that strong grass roots pressures were behind policy change. Citizens'
movements, Opposition parties, local and prefectural governments, and the
Courts emerged to challenge the government's failure to recognize and respond
to the environmental crisis in Japan.(13)
These works suggest that it took the emergence of a highly pluralistic
policy community to force the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) into passing
what was at the time one of the world's most comprehensive set of environmental
In contrast, twenty years later grass roots pressures played little
role in getting the international environment onto the Japanese policy
agenda. Instead, the environment was put onto the policy agenda as a result
of top-down decision making at a time when the environment was a popular
international issue. Environmental NGOs played little part in the process
because they had little awareness of international environmental issues.
Frank Upham has persuasively argued that one reason the NGO community in
Japan is so weak is that the state essentially coopted the environmental
movement in the 1970s by responding to its demands. Concerned with the
power that citizens' movements were obtaining and their use of the courts,
the Japanese state felt a threat to its power from below. Upham argues
that as a result, the Japanese government introduced and implemented tough
new environmental laws--a process which others referred to as efforts by
the LDP to become a catch-all-interests party.(14)
Unfortunately, there is no available data on the actual number of citizens'
movements that still existed in Japan at the end of the 1970s. Still, there
are many accounts that argue that the importance of citizens' movements
in Japan declined as various groups disbanded or shifted their attention
to other concerns.(15) Of course some groups
remained, but they were primarily Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) groups. Citizens'
movements continued to push local recycling efforts or to call for the
greening of local environs. New citizens' movements emerged to protest
developments that threatened their living environment or their health.
One citizens' movement, for example, emerged to preserve their urban environment
by protecting a canal from being built over.(16)
Others remained active in pursuing issues that had not been adequately
resolved; like those which continued to raise demands on behalf of Minamata
and other pollution disease victims.(17)
There also was local opposition to the siting of nuclear power plants--a
policy priority for MITI.(18) Still, the
anti-nuclear movement remained a NIMBY phenomena. Anti-nuclear activities
rarely moved outside of the towns and villages where nuclear power plants
were to be located. MITI's and industries' decision to site plants in remote
coastal regions with small populations and low agricultural and economic
productivity, moreover, weakened the likelihood for intense opposition.(19)
Thus, despite the continued presence of a scattering of environmental
citizens' movements and anti-nuclear groups in the late-1970s and thereafter,
they had no where near the same force that they had in the early 1970s.
Furthermore, in sharp contrast with the situation in many Western European
and North American countries, Japan's citizens' movements failed to organize
into broader networks or to create major national environmental groups.
While there may be some cultural factors that explain this, I argue that
in fact the state created sufficient institutional barriers to effectively
prohibit the institutionalization of the environmental movement in Japan
in a Western-style NGO community.
Resource Mobilization Theories and the State
Early work on social movements assumed that there was a close link between
the grievances of a movement and its growth and decline. Motivated by shared
grievances and an underlying belief about structural causes and possible
modes of redress, social movements emerged.(20)
It follows therefore that the achievement of success or changing events
have the potential to reduce the salience of the issue around which citizens
mobilize. Mayer Zald and Roberta Ash, for instance, argued that under such
conditions certain kinds of movements--particularly those that were open
in recruitment and heterogeneous in membership and relatively specific
in their goals--have a high probability of either disappearing or transforming
themselves into conventional, bureaucratic organizations.(21)
Proponents of a grievance model of social movements might argue that
the decline in Japan's environmental movement occurred because the wind
was taken out of its sails. There is some validity to this argument. As
a result of policy changes made in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japan
achieved one of the world's most rapid and successful air pollution control
programs. By the late 1980s, Japan's total SOx emission level was 43% that
of West Germany's. Total NOx emissions were 48% that of West Germany.(22)
A 1977 OECD report suggested that Japan was an example of how environmental
regulation could be successfully integrated into a growing economy.(23)
Supporting the grievance model, Miyamoto Kenichi, a harsh critic of Japanese
environmental policies suggested that this favorable report triggered a
retreat in Japan's environmental policies. According to Miyamoto, the Environment
Agency took the OECD report to mean that the battle against industrial
pollution was over and that now attention was to be turned to urban amenities
and parks, since these were areas for which the OECD report criticized
The idea that environmental problems were solved in Japan, however,
overlooks the many serious environmental problems that remained. There
were still thousands of people waiting for certification as pollution victims
in the late 1970s. Water pollution was a serious problem both because of
a low percentage of homes having modern sewerage facilities and contamination
of drinking water. Japan's urban areas suffered from very low ratios of
green areas. Japan's national parks were sorely strained from heavy use
and inadequate efforts devoted to preserving pristine areas. Wildlife and
fragile coastal areas continued to be threatened by industrial expansion
and the building of new roads and airports, including those in Osaka, Narita,
and on Ishigaki Island. Asbestos regulations remained weak and illegal
toxic dumping a serious problem. Moreover, as in Germany, an ambitious
nuclear energy program was being pushed by the state. Thus, the potential
for citizens with grievances or those interested in preventative action
to mobilize was still there.
Another possible explanation for the decline of the environmental movement
in Japan focuses attention on the role of the state and the resources it
makes available to social movements. Resource mobilization theorists have
argued that while grievances may be important to social movement formation,
grievances are an ever present part of society. Proponents of a resource
mobilization approach argue that grievances are not necessarily a sufficient
explanation for the rise or maintenance of social movements. Rather, they
point to the importance of resources that movements attract from constituent
or non-constituent supporters. These resources might include information,
media coverage, financial donations, leadership, or time-- the elements
necessary for movements to carry out their goals.(25)
Adding to this list of resources, Jack Walker pointed to the important
of institutional factors and in particular, the role of the tax system,
government grants and contracts, and foundation support in supporting interest
group formation in the United States.(26)
One can hypothesize that in systems where such support is lacking, social
movements or interest groups that challenge the state are likely to fail
in the long run.
It is extremely difficult to gain tax exempt status in Japan--considered
almost a prerequisite to a group's survival in the U.S. and Germany. In
Japan it is necessary to obtain approval from the "competent authorities"
before an NGO can obtain non-profit status. The "competent authorities"
are those local or national level government offices with some jurisdiction
over an issue area. Obtaining approval from national ministries has proved
a tremendous barrier of entry for national level environmental groups.
Nancy London argues that "(t)he lack of predictability in the incorporation
process often has a debilitating effect on smaller, private nonprofit initiatives....
(S)maller endeavors are often stymied at the start, not knowing where or
how to begin and not able to commit time and money to a process whose outcome
is so uncertain."(27) Yukio Tanaka,
the founder of Friends of the Earth Japan, noted that when he set up office
in 1979 he did not even try to get approval from a ministry because he
did not want the kind of control that would give the ministry over the
organization. Nor did he think that he would receive approval. Instead
the group has operated without non-profit status.(28)
Greenpeace Japan has had to operate with primary financing from Greenpeace
In an article describing the difficulties of achieving non-profit status,
Matsubara Akira of the Research Institute of Civil Systems wrote:
It is highly troublesome for an NGO to acquire the status of juridical
person....(T)here is a problem that the minimum fund required to establish
a public interest organization is not officially defined. Some 30 million
yen is said to be necessary for an incorporated association to operate,
and 500 million is said necessary for an incorporated foundation (zaidan
hôjin) to start with, but the true figures remain unclear. It
sounds quite unfair, compared with the fact that a profit corporation can
obtain the status of juridical person with only 3 million yen in capital....(29)
This may explain why informally organized citizens' groups in Japan were
reluctant or unwilling to consider establishing more formal organizations.(30)
Of the 187 NGOs listed in the Japanese NGO Center for International Cooperation's
directory, only 25 had achieved incorporation and thus, tax-free status.
The majority of NGOs in this listing supported the bulk of their activities
through membership donations.(31) Given
the small size of the average NGO, this suggests that there are sizable
financial constraints on Japanese NGOs. The small size in terms of membership
and budget of most NGOs has meant that they simply have not had the resources
necessary to tackle more than one or two environmental issues at a time.
Data compiled from a directory of NGOs in Japan with at least some environmental
interests, confirm that NGOs tended to remain local in their focus and
were typically very small. The main exceptions were World Wide Fund for
Nature Japan which was established in 1971, and had a membership of 37,370
in 1992; the Nature Conservation Society of Japan, which was established
in 1951, and had a membership of 25,000 in 1992; and the Wild Bird Society
of Japan, which was established in 1934 and has sustained the largest membership
of any environmental group in Japan. Its membership stood at 45,000 in
1992. Based on figures in JANIC's Environmental NGO directory I estimate
that the combined membership of Japan's environmental NGO community conducting
some international environmental activities (even if this was not their
main focus) was about 170,000 in 1992. This figure assumes no overlapping
membership and is therefore probably too large. Eighty percent of the NGOs
that conducted at least some international environmental activities had
combined individual and organizational memberships of under 2000.(32)
While this figure excludes groups with a purely domestic environmental
focus, it is safe to say that even in the early 1990s Japan's NGO community
was extremely small for a country with a population of over 125 million.
Of the other internationally oriented environmental groups only a small
handful had activities even remotely related to stratospheric ozone depletion,
global warming, desertification, or tropical rainforest destruction. These
were Friends of the Earth, Japan (founded in 1979); the Osaka Association
of Consumer Groups (out of which formed the Citizens Alliance for Saving
the Atmosphere and the Earth in 1988); OISCA International, which among
its technical training activities, promotes afforestation in Asia (founded
1961), the Sumiyaki no Kai, founded in 1985 to promote traditional Japanese
charcoal making techniques abroad, and Defense of Green Earth, which tackles
problems of desertification (founded in 1982). Most of the groups most
visible today, like Greenpeace and Japan Tropical Forest Action Network,
were not founded until 1987 or later.
Large NGOs are noticeably absent from most areas of politics in Japan
with the exception of labor. Members of NGOs are often viewed with a certain
degree of suspicion. Many Japanese consider environmental NGO activists
to be on the fringe of society. NGOs, moreover, have had little access
to the formal policy formation process.
One way that different groups can participate in this process is by
serving on advisory committees (shingikai) to the ministries. The ministries,
however, have the right to select who will sit on these committees. This
means that there is little place for NGOs which may be critical of government
actions to formally participate in the policy formation process. They simply
will not be asked to participate.
Another serious problem for environmental NGOs in Japan is that there
is no equivalent to the US Freedom of Information Act. NGOs and even the
Environment Agency have argued that they are at a strong disadvantage in
influencing policy in Japan because of this. The Environment Agency and
NGOs, for instance, are left in the dark as to how MITI establishes its
long-term energy supply and demand forecast. Since energy policy is closely
tied to global climate change response options, this has put the Environment
Agency at a strong disadvantage in establishing its own proposals for action.
Protesting the lack of a freedom of information act in Japan, in 1994 the
Citizens' Energy Research Institute produced a book that uses the figures
released by MITI to work backwards in trying to figure out what kind of
model must have been used in coming up with Japan's long term energy supply
and demand forecast. The book's introduction begins, "it is also a
problem that the basis upon and process by which the forecast is established
is not made open to the public. It should cause surprise that something
as important as the long term energy forecast is decided upon by the energy
industry-- one section of the population, without adequate debate or reliance
on a democratic decision process and behind a wall of secrecy."(33)
Compare this with the situation in Germany which also had a major citizens'
movement in the early 1970s. German citizens' initiatives were in a better
position than their Japanese counterparts to organize nationally for a
number of reasons. In Germany, there was more organizational know-how stemming
from a long history of conservation groups. Tax laws were not an obstacle
to group formation as they were for the movements in Japan. Non-governmental
organizations can relatively easily gain status as a charitable or voluntary
organization (Gemeinnutzigkeit). In addition, the government provides
support to some non-governmental organizations, like the Deutscher Naturschutzring,
an umbrella organization of conservation-oriented environmental groups.
Membership fees to NGOs also are tax deductible.(34)
Generous public financing of political parties, moreover, provided Green
lists with the resources necessary for mobilization and since the electoral
system demanded that new parties obtain at least 5% of the vote to win
parliamentary representation, there was considerable incentive for the
diverse elements that merged to form the Green Party-- the ecologists,
socialists, and New Leftists-- to work together to achieve their goals.(35)
The ability or inability of local citizens' movements to reorganize at
the national level is tied to the resources that the state makes available
to them. Of course, other factors are involved, including cultural factors
and levels of environmental education. Still, the state has considerable
ability to influence the levels of activity of NGOs through the institutional
incentives or barriers it establishes.
The size of Japan's NGO community pales in comparison to Germany's.
In Germany, where it is relatively easy to obtain tax free status as an
environmental group, the Deutscher Naturschutzring had a membership
in 1985 of 95 groups and 3.3 million individuals. The Bund für
Vogelschutz had a membership of 140,000; the BBU had a membership of
350 groups and 150,000 members; and Greenpeace had a membership of 75,000.(36)
In recent years, the number of internationally-oriented environmental
NGOs in Japan has actually grown substantially, and these groups are trying
to play a more active role in promoting environmental policy change. A
handful of these groups have started to produce position papers and to
advise ministries, agencies, and political parties in an attempt to make
them more aware of environmental issues and to provide them with different
viewpoints. Kurosaka Miwako, who represents World Resources Institute Japan,
sits on numerous environmental advisory committees.(37)
Iwasaki Shunsuke, President of the Japan International Volunteer Center,
was instrumental in organizing Japanese NGOs into the People's Forum for
the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The aim of
this umbrella organization was to bring Japan's community of environmental
activists together in order to present a united voice at the UNCED. The
NGO People's Forum represented consumer groups, rainforest activists, lawyers,
Minamata victims, climate experts, and many others. They produced an alternative
national report to UNCED which provided a different perspective on Japan's
past progress and future plans for the environment than the one presented
by the government's report. The NGO report argued that Japanese corporations
and official development aid have had a negative impact on the global environment
and also discussed the important role that grass roots movements can play
in changing Japan into a more environmentally friendly society.(38)
Still, because of their small size, these groups have been limited in the
impact that they can have on policies that have been formulated largely
within the bureaucracy.
International Environmental Leadership and the Need for NGOs
The Japanese government's interest in having Japan emerge as an international
leader in the areas of ODA and the environment is closely tied to Japanese
economic and foreign policy interests. The environment appeared to be a
relatively easy and non-controversial area for the Japanese state to step
into. Thus, it came as something of a surprise to Japanese policy makers
when their rapid increases in expenditures for environmental ODA, for example,
were criticized internationally as possibly causing more harm than good
to the environment. The international community was skeptical of environmental
policies which emanated from the Japanese ministries with little citizen
input and little NGO policing. In particular, strong doubts have been raised
internationally about Japan's desire to be an international environmental
leader when Japan has no major environmental NGO community watching and
critiquing the actions of the state.
An unintended and unexpected consequence of the Japanese leadership's
decision to play a more proactive role on international environmental issues
is that international norms are now pressuring it to enhance the role of
NGOs in society. This lies contrary to the efforts the state has made in
the past to create a "harmonious" and relatively "conflict-free"
society. International participation requires a certain degree of conformity
to international norms and rules of behavior. Essentially, the presence
of a strong NGO community has become a norm for advanced industrialized
states. NGO representatives are expected to play an important role in agenda
setting, policy formation, and policy appraisal in international environmental
protection. Because of the small size of Japan's NGO community, however,
this has been difficult for Japan.
Initially, the Japanese government paid little attention to the NGO
issue. In 1989, for example, in an effort to enhance its visibility in
international environmental politics, the Japanese government hosted the
Tokyo Conference on Global Environmental Protection. While the meeting
itself was a success, Japan was heavily criticized for excluding NGOs from
the meeting. Because the government refused to allow environmental activists
from Asia, Africa or South America to participate, the Japan Tropical Forest
Action Network, the Japan International Volunteer Center, Greenpeace Japan,
and the Japanese Consumers' League reacted by holding their own international
conference on the environment. The three-day conference attracted over
1500 people and considerable international attention.(39)
The Japanese government found itself facing something of an uphill battle
in winning international recognition of its plans to play a more proactive
role in environmental protection efforts. Declarations by political leaders
of Japan's intention to take on a more active international environmental
protection role initially were treated with considerable skepticism. In
a major report prepared by a study commission for the German Bundestag,
entitled, "Protecting the Earth: A Status Report with Recommendations
for a New Energy Policy," it is written: "Japan's Government
and public are well aware of the risks involved in a warming of the Earth's
atmosphere and the need for a global environmental policy....Occasionally,
however, one cannot help thinking that many announcements fall into the
category of "global warming" rhetoric, i.e. not in all cases
are such announcements accompanied by a real desire to make adjustments
and implement them."(40) This was
a sharp criticism of Japanese performance in international environmental
negotiations by the government of another powerful state.
To address these image problems, the Japanese government has had to
build-up its domestic environmental research capacities and to strengthen
the position of the Environment Agency in relation to international environmental
issues. In addition, the Japanese government has been forced to confront
the question of whether or not to promote the existence of NGOs in society.
As a result of influence on international norms and ideas (which are
strongly supported by Japanese NGOs which would like to see institutional
obstacles to their maintenance removed), the Japanese state has initiated
some institutional changes. The internationalization of environmental politics
and the Japanese leadership's' decision that the environment is an important
foreign policy area has essentially forced the Japanese state to reconsider
the role of NGOs in society.
Institutional changes to remove some of the barriers to NGO formation
and maintenance in Japan are also being considered. In the interest of
enhancing its international image, for example, in 1991 industry made the
surprising suggestion of working together with environmental groups and
even offered to fund their activities. To this end they organized a meeting
to which they invited several of the more "accepted" environmental
groups in Japan. Their proposal intrigued many of these groups, but in
the end it was eventually voted down by the NGO Forum Japan, a newly organized
body representing approximately 100 non-governmental organizations ranging
from anti-pollution movements to international NGOs.(41)
Wary of being corporatized by industry, their traditional target of criticism,
the majority of NGOs resisted this unprecedented offer.
Although this effort failed, other steps have been taken. The Japanese
government, for example, created the Japan Fund for the Global Environment.
Run by the Japan Environment Corporation, a governmental entity under the
Environment Agency, the aim of the semi-private, semi-public fund was to
promote NGO activities in the field of environmental protection and sustainable
development. With an initial endowment of ¥1 billion and a ¥500
million grant for fiscal 1993 operations, the fund now supports 47 Japanese
NGOs working on domestic environmental issues, 3 overseas NGOs and 54 Japanese
NGOs working on environmental protection in developing countries.(42)
Another important change has been the formation of a system that was
set up to allow depositors in Japan's Postal Savings system, which accounts
for a huge percentage of private savings accounts in Japan, to donate the
interest from their accounts--tax exempt-- to NGOs. Finally, there is currently
a bill under consideration to reform the tax system in Japan to make it
easier for groups to obtain non-profit status. The debate surrounding this
bill's formation speaks both to the changing attitudes towards NGOs in
Japan and the continued distrust of their activities.
It remains to be seen what the long-term impact of these institutional
changes will be for state-society relations in Japan and whether or not
a strong Western-style NGO community can emerge in Japan. Still, it is
clear that attitudes towards NGOs are slowly changing on the part of citizens
and the state. On this point, a Greenpeace member remarked that in the
past, at international conferences she would rarely get a chance to talk
directly with officials from MITI, the Environment Agency, or the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. She explained that, at first, Foreign Ministry officials
use to "run away" when she introduced herself as a representative
of Greenpeace. This she attributed to the negative association Greenpeace
had with the whaling issue. But now, officials from the ministries know
her by name and they even ask her what she thinks about some issues. "That
may be just diplomatic, but it still suggests a change."(43)
Implications for Japanese Policy Making
Japanese politics are in a period of transition. The end of the Liberal
Democratic Party's 38-year hold on the reigns of government was accompanied
by a splintering of this party and a major drop in electoral support for
its old rival, the Japan Socialist Party. New political parties have emerged.
Furthermore, in the next election a new electoral system will be put into
operation which will bring yet further changes to Japanese politics.
These changes to Japanese politics come from within. But there are also
forces that are altering Japanese politics from without. Ironically, the
desire of the government to play a more visible role in international environmental
politics has meant that the Japanese state has had to find ways to support
Japan's NGO community. The internationalization of environmental politics
has pushed the Japanese state to make important institutional changes that
in the long-run could reduce its power in policy formation vis-a-vis internationally-linked
It will take a long time for the impact of these changes to be fully
appreciated in Japan. In the future, however, Japanese citizens should
have a greater direct voice in international environmental policy formation.
Already in international negotiations, Japanese NGOs are playing an important
role as they critique government policies. Although still small at home,
their presence in international fora gives them added political clout since
their viewpoints are often picked up by delegations from other countries
and the foreign media.
1. This argument is presented in much more detail
in Miranda A. Schreurs, "Domestic Institutions, International Agendas,
and Global Environmental Protection in Japan and Germany," Ph.D. Dissertation,
University of Michigan, 1996.
2. James Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics:
A Theory of Change and Continuity (Princeton: Princeton University
3. Montreal Protocol, Article 11:5, quoted in Kal
Raustiala, "Non-Governmental Organizations and International Environmental
Governance," Paper prepared for presentation at the John F. Kennedy
School of Government, Harvard University, April 8-10, 1994, p. 9.
4. David Kay and Harold Jacobson, eds., Environmental
Protection: The International Dimension, (Totowa, NJ: Allanheld, Osmun,
& Co., 1983), p. 6.
5. Peter Hall, Governing the Economy: The Politics
of State Intervention in Britain and France (New York: Oxford University
6. For a related discussion see John Ikenberry, Reasons
of State: Oil Politics and the Capacities of American Government (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1988).
7. Peter Gourevitch's second-image reversed suggests
a similar possibility. Domestic structures themselves may derive from the
exigencies of the international system. In order to participate at the
international bargaining table in a period when international environmental
issues were gaining increasing prominence, it could be argued that states
found it necessary to develop new environmental institutions to legitimize
their participation and strengthen their position in international negotiations.
Peter Gourevitch, "The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources
of Domestic Politics," International Organization, Vol. 32,
No. 4, 1978, pp. 881-911.
8. Kathleen Thelen and Sven Steinmo, "Historical
Institutionalism in Comparative Politics," in Sven Steinmo, Kathleen
Thelen, and Frank Longstreth, eds., Agendas and Instability in American
Politics (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 15.
9. Unable to attend UNCED because of domestic political
problems, Prime Minister Miyazawa prepared a video recorded speech. U.N.
General-Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, however, refused to allow the
video presentation for fear that it would set a bad precedent for future
summit meetings. Thus, the speech was distributed in written form by the
100 strong delegation of Japanese government officials present at the conference.
A transcript of the speech is reprinted in Asahi Shimbun, June 14,
1992, p. 3.
10. "Charging Japan with Crimes Against the
Earth," Business Week, October 9, 1989.
11. See for instance, "Putting the Heat on
Japan," Time , July 10, 1989, pp. 50-52; "Tokyo Nods its
Head Toward the Environment," New Scientist, September 16,
1989, p. 24; "A New Item on the Agenda," Time, October
23, 1989, pp. 58-60; and, The New York Times, July 31, 1992, p.
A7. It should be noted that since the time of publication of these various
reports Japan has stopped drift net fishing and has agreed to bans on the
import of ivory and hawksbill turtle shells. In addition, in 1992 MITI
announced plans to tighten its controls on trade in internationally designated
species of endangered wildlife.
12. In the early 1980s, Japan became signator to
several international environmental agreements for the protection of wild
plants and animals. Of particular importance are the Convention on Wetlands
of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat and the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wil Fauna and Flora. Japan,
moreover, proposed the establishment of the World Commission on Environment
and Development as part of the United Nations Environmental Program.
13. Some of the best English language works on this
period include: Julian Gresser, Koichiro Fujikura, and Akio Morishima,
Environmental Law in Japan, (Cambridge, MA; MIT Press, 1981); Norie
Huddle, Michael Reich, and Nahum Stiskin, Island of Dreams, (New
York: Autumn Press, 1975); Helmut Weidner and Shigeto Tsuru, eds., Environmental
Policy in Japan, (Berlin: Ed. Sigma Bohn, 1989); Margaret McKean, Environmental
Protest and Citizen Politics in Japan, (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1981); Susan Pharr and Joseph Badarracco, "Coping With Crisis:
Environmental Regulation," in Thomas K. McCraw, ed., America vs.
Japan, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1986); Michael Reich,
Toxic Politics: Responding to Chemical Disasters; (Ithaca and London:
Cornell University Press, 1991); Steven Reed, Japanese Prefectures and
Policymaking, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986); and,
Frank Upham, Law and Social Change in Postwar Japan, (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).
14. Frank Upham, Law and Social Change in Postwar
Japan, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 28-67.
15. See for example Ellis Krauss and Bradford Simcock,
"Citizens' Movements: The Growth and Impact of Environmental Protest
in Japan," in Kurt Steiner, Ellis S. Krauss, and Scott C. Flanagan,
eds., Political Opposition and Local Politics in Japan (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1980).
16. On this subject see for example, Saburo Horikawa,
"Townscape Conservation as an Agendum of Urban-oriented Environmental
Sociology in Japan: A Study from the Otaru Canal Conservation Case, 1973-1991,"
presented at the ISA, Zeist, the Netherlands, June 17-21, 1992.
17. Reich (1991), op. cit.
18. On issues related to nuclear plant siting see
Hayden Lesbirel, "Implementing Nuclear Energy Policy in Japan: Top-Down
and Bottom-Up Perspectives," Energy Policy, April 1990, pp.
19. Hasegawa Koichi, "A Comparative Study of
Social Movements for a Post-Nuclear Energy Era in Japan and the United
States," paper presented at the XXIII World Congress of Sociology
of the International Sociological Association, July 18-23, 1994, Bielefed,
20. Ted Gurr, Why Men Rebel (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1970). Ralph Turner and Lewis M. Killian, Collective
Behavior (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1987).
21. Mayer N. Zald and Roberta Ash, "Social
Movement Organizations: Growth, Decay, and Change," Social Forces
,Vol. 44, 1966.
22. OECD, The State of the Environment, (Paris:
OECD, 1991). Japanese data is for 1986; other data is for 1987.
23. OECD, Environmental Politics in Japan,
(Paris: OECD, 1977).
24. Miyamoto Kenichi, Nihon no Kankyô Seisaku
(Tokyo: Ohtsuki Shoten), p. 33.
25. John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald, "Resource
Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory," American
Journal of Sociology, Vol. 82, 1977, pp. 1212-1241.
26. Jack Walker, Mobilizing Interest Groups in
America: Patrons, Professions, and Social Movements, (Ann Arbor, MI:
The University of Michigan Press, 1991).
27. Nancy London, Japanese Corporate Philanthropy
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 39.
28. Interview with Yukio Tanaka, April 1994.
29. Matsubara Akira, "NGOs in Japan: Problems
of Legal Framework and Management Issues," Research Institution of
Civil Systems paper.
30. McCarthy and Zald, op. cit.
31. This data was compiled from Japanese NGO Center
for International Cooperation (JANIC), NGO DAIREKUTORI, 1994 (Tokyo:
JANIC, 1994). The data is based on a 1992 survey conducted by JANIC.
33. 2010 Nen, Nihon Enerugi Keikaku, p. 1.
34. My thanks to Jeaninne Cavendar-Bares for agreeing
to conduct an interview for me to obtain this information. Interview with
Reinhard Loske, April 1994.
35. E. Gene Frankland and Donald Schoonmaker, Between
Protest and Power: The Green Party in Germany, (Boulder, San Francisco,
and Oxford: Westview Press, 1992).
36. Dieter Rucht, "Von der Bewegung zur Institution?
Organisationsstrukturen der Ökologiebewegung," in Roland Roth
and Dieter Rucht, eds., Neue soziale Bewegungen in der Bundesrepublik
Deutschland (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1987).
37. From numerous discussions with Miwako Kurosaka
38. For a discussion of the NGO People's Forum and
other NGO activities and environmental developments in Japan see an interview
with Iwasaki published in Rick Davis and Maggie Suzuki, eds., The Japan
Environment Monitor. See also Asahi Shimbun, January 23, 1992,
39. New Scientist, September 16, 1989.
40. German Bundestag, ed., Protecting the Earth:
A Status Report with Recommendations for a New Energy Policy (Bonn,
1991), p. 826.
41. The Japan Times, May 20, 1992, p. 3.
42. Japan Environment Corporation, "Chikyû
Kankyô Kikin Tayori," 1994.
43. Interview with Yasuko Matsumoto, April 1991.