Objectives of the Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan

The 20th century was a century of rapid globalization. As a result of revolutionary breakthroughs in science and technology, even the Pacific - the world's largest body of water - now allows easy access and exchange among the countries on its rim, much like an inland sea.

The Asia Pacific region is characterized by its immense geographical area and cultural diversity. Interaction between diverse peoples, religions, values, and cultures can - in addition to friendly exchanges - at times lead to misunderstanding and even friction. This is because physical contacts between peoples and countries do not automatically lead to understanding and the building of goodwill among individual countries/peoples. During the 20th century, which featured many wars and revolutions, the development of various means of transportation linking both shores of the Pacific Ocean more often than not resulted in conflicts. And at times, instead of fostering cooperative relations, full-blown wars have erupted.

Fortunately, however, during the last quarter of the 20th century, we have mostly seen peace in the Pacific Ocean in tandem with rapid economic growth, particularly in the region of East Asia. In 1989, following the end of the Cold War, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (APEC) was successfully organized, heralding the informal unification of Asia and the Pacific, which were previously entirely different regions.

As advocators of the "Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan", we place our primary emphasis on the progress of civilizations in the Asia Pacific region. However, in no way does this mean that we deny the importance of other regions as well as the need for cooperation with broader spheres. It is only an affirmation of our firm belief that the Asia Pacific region will play a significant, if not major role in determining the development of the international society in the 21st century. This vast region - featuring heterogeneity and diversity - possesses exceptional vitality and dynamism, and more importantly, tremendous potential for future development.

With the advent of the new millennium, we envisage a formation of an Asia Pacific union, where the diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and cultures can serve as a source of vitality and creativity rather than as a source of disagreement. To realize this "symbiosis among diverse cultures" of the region, we are organizing the "Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan," as an event that will promote intellectual exchanges and communications between the civilizations in order to pave the way toward the 21st century.

We possess a strong motive for selecting Awaji Island as the conference venue. The northernmost part of Awaji Island was the epicenter of the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake of January 17, 1995, which took the lives of more than 6,400 people and utterly demolished all lifelines and other modern urban facilities of the area. Soon after the earthquake, however, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge was finally completed, linking Awaji Island with Honshu, the main island of Japan. Furthermore, the Awaji Island International Garden City project was launched with the theme "Communication between People and Nature." Currently the International Gardening and Landscaping Exhibition - "Japan Flora 2000" - is being held in the Garden City under the same theme. Consequently, we believe that it is of utmost significance to hold the "Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan" on Awaji Island, in order to promote the creation of a new civilization for the 21st century. In addition, there are three other reasons for holding the conference here on Awaji Island.

First, it will enable us to demonstrate that people have not succumbed to the devastating earthquake. We take immense pride in the fact that we rebuilt a new civilization that exists in total harmony with nature, while at the same time overcoming the damage inflicted by the violent force of nature itself.

Secondly, the bitter experience following the disaster taught us the lesson that in addition to the national government, citizens and local communities can also play a vital role in rebuilding communities destroyed by the disaster. During the three months following the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, a total of 1.2 million volunteers came to the disaster stricken area, and people who had hitherto not known each other gracefully and selflessly helped one another. This fact convinced us strongly of the importance of developing local communities and civil societies that can help victims, particulary in situations where governments are powerless to help. In addition to natural catastrophes, political and economic crises can also torment citizens. To prepare for any of these disasters, it is essential that citizens autonomously establish a civil system for assisting victims, and develop local communities where private citizens, rather than governmental officials, take the initiative in addressing local problems.

Thirdly, Awaji Island is an ideal venue for this international forum since the area was the site of international exchanges and cooperation immediately following the earthquake. Local citizens will never forget the generous aid and encouragement that we received from more than 60 countries from around the world. To date, we have spared no effort in rebuilding the quake-ravaged area, and have compiled and maintained detailed records of the disaster, while also preserving portions of the faultline so that the tragedy shall not be forgotten. Moreover, immediately after the earthquakes in Turkey, Taiwan and other parts of the world, the local citizens extended aid and support to the earthquake victims. We could not but help these victims; the generous aid that we once received from the international society urges us to do so. For these reasons, we advocators of the international forum firmly believe that there is no better place to hold this conference - with the theme "symbiosis among diverse cultures" - than Awaji Island. We also feel that the forum, which will highlight the communication and exchange among citizens of the Asia Pacific region, will lead to the establishment of a more peaceful and cooperative relation between the citizens of this region.

In conclusion, the objectives of the "Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan" are to promote mutual understanding and exchange among citizens, cities, and localities rather than nations, and to promote intellectual and spiritual exchange among citizens, thereby creating a new vision for the 21st century. In August 2000, organizers of the forum will commence preparation for the grand event at the "Awaji Yumebutai - Awaji International Garden City." The forum will feature lively discussions by leading figures from Japan and abroad, seeking new ideas for the Asia Pacific region, and to create a new regional identity that is comprised of the diverse civilizations of the region.

August 2000

Advocators of
the Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan
Tadao Ando
Professor, Graduate School of Law,Kobe University
Makoto Iokibe
Chairman of the Board, Hyogo International Association, Governor of Hyogo Prefecture
Toshitami Kaihara
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