WASHINGTON — A new paradigm for U.S.-Japan relations is evolving after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. At the 2011 U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) Annual Conference this past week, leaders from both sides of the Pacific came together to discuss moving forward with recovery, sending the message that the U.S. commitment to support Japan remains strong.
The theme was “Innovate, Educate, Collaborate: Moving Forward the U.S.-Japan Partnership.” Experts in such areas such as clean energy, education and non-profit sector building told a crowd of more than 300 people that the U.S. and Japan can serve as global leaders in these fields.
Forging strong public-private partnerships has emerged as a successful strategy for stimulating entrepreneurial collaboration, and supporting Japan during the rebuilding process. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Japan weeks after the earthquake and tsunami to announce the creation of a public-private partnership for reconstruction.
At the conference, Clinton emphasized the multitude of ties between the two countries: “Our strongest relationships have not lived only in the halls of power; they live in the hearts and minds of the American and Japanese people, not just in some cold assessment of our common interests, but in the warmth of common experiences, family ties, friendships, and the common values that bind us together.
“Ten years ago, as a senator from New York, I saw first-hand what our friendship meant. When Japan sent firefighters from 7,000 miles away to help with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I was moved, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s just the kind of friend that Japan is to America and to many countries around the world.”
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. President Yasuchika Hasegawa, and Rakuten Inc. Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani also spoke.
As part of the U.S. response to the disaster, the USJC established the U.S.-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund. More than $2.6 million has been donated to the fund and disbursements have been made exclusively to Japanese NGOs/NPOs (nongovernmental organizations/nonprofit organizations) to support this growing sector in Japan.
The council has expanded its role to supporting partnerships between U.S. and Japanese NPOs and NGOs by utilizing its national network of Japanese American leaders. Support for the organizations has come in the forms of financial contributions, volunteerism and advisory support. In May, a USJC delegation traveled to Tokyo and convened leaders of the fund’s beneficiary organizations in order to share information and determine next steps.
Almost seven months after earthquake and tsunami, a delegation of these Japanese NGO/NPO leaders came to Washington to participate in conference, including Kensuke Onishi, CEO of Peace Winds Japan, chairperson of Civic Force, and director of Japan Platform. He spoke on a panel about sector building along with GlobalGiving President Mari Kuraishi, and InterAction president and CEO Samuel A. Worthington.
There was a luncheon session on the “Japan Brand” and an afternoon plenary titled “Moving Forward with Recovery.” As a part of the session, community organizations from across the U.S. were recognized for their extraordinary contributions to relief and rebuilding efforts in northeastern Japan.
The work of both large-scale and grassroots organizations shows the diversity of Americans that support Japan and believe in the importance of an enduring U.S.-Japan partnership, said USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye, adding that Japanese Americans were uniquely positioned to help.
“Japanese Americans played a catalytic role in their communities because of their shared heritage with the people of Japan,” said Hirano Inouye, who was in Tokyo with the Japanese American Leadership Delegation on March 11. “The council’s national network of Japanese Americans led large-scale and even statewide fundraising initiatives and inspired others to step up and provide assistance including financial contributions, volunteerism and advisory support.”
The organizations recognized at the conference included the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California ($3.6 million raised), GlobalGiving ($5.9 million) and the Japan-America Societies ($21 million).
The corporate sector also continues to contribute. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business and Civic Leadership Center, American corporations have given more than $298 million to disaster relief in Japan.
The next step for USJC is to move forward with a new initiative called TOMODACHI, a partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo led by Ambassador John V. Roos. TOMODACHI brings together the best of public and private resources from the U.S. and Japan to ensure sustained partnership that supports Japan’s long-term recovery and global competitiveness while strengthening U.S.-Japan relations.