CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Japan Civil Society at a Crossroads

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 30, 2011

The CIVICUS CSI is pleased to announce the publication of the Analytical Country Report from our partner in Japan. The CSI was implemented between 2008 and 2010 in Japan by the Center for Nonprofit Research and Information (CENPRI) and the Osaka School of International Public Policy

The report finds that the modern concept of civil society in Japan was only introduced in recent years, despite its existence since early history. In 1998, the Law to Promote Specified Nonprofit Activities (NPO law), the first law to promote civic activities with minimum government intervention, was enacted, and this saw a burgeoning of the sector. With more than a decade now passed since the law, Japanese civil society sector finds itself at a crossroads, where decisions of civil society and government will determine whether it can become an influential sector to make society better or whether it will not be able to meet the growing expectations.

The comparison of scores for each dimension with other countries participating in the CSI project revealed that Japanese civil society has a high perceived impact, well established organisations and a favorable environment for civil society. On the other hand, as weaknesses, it is found that Japanese CSOs do not always perform well in practicing core values. The research raises concerns about poor working conditions for employees, and low awareness about environmental issues, while despite the higher score, the Level of Organisation dimension requires attention to organisations’ financial instability and the lack of sustainable human resources. Low levels of political engagement are also a cause for concern.

Finally, although the External Environment dimension scored remarkably high, indicating that civil society has space to develop, there are concerns, such as low levels of public trust, that should influence the level of association. Additionally, this dimension pointed out missing important issues to be addressed, such as civic education and reform of the taxation system.

The report, compiled before the recent tragic earthquake, overall paints a picture of a civil society that is committed, robust, and encouragingly ready to play its part in addressing the challenges that Japan now faces.

To read the full report, click here

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