Responding to the urgent need to address the threats to democracy in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world, JCIE and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in cooperation with the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, co-organized a second meeting of the Sunnylands Initiative on Enhancing Democratic Partnership in the Indo-Pacific region (Sunnylands Initiative)* in Odawara, Japan. The retreat brought together approximately 30 prominent practitioners and scholars from across the region who are working to support democracy, including from Australia, Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.
The Odawara Retreat served as a platform for participants to discuss and develop concrete strategies for defending and strengthening democratic governance and human rights at a critical moment for democracy in the region. Over the course of two days, participants shared their perspectives on the state of democracy in the region and developed consensus around the need to strengthen democratic solidarity and demonstrate that democracies can deliver better tangible benefits than its alternatives, and on the role of the private sector and importance of youth engagement. The discussions also addressed ways in which Japan could exercise its leadership, particularly in the lead-up to the G7 Summit in Hiroshima in May 2023. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, US Ambassador to Japan, and Hon. Gen Nakatani, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on international human rights issues, also joined the participants in Odawara for part of the program.
Following the retreat, participants issued the Odawara Statement to highlight the urgency of the need for democratic solidarity and share their recommendations for addressing this urgency with policymakers, experts, and the broader public across the region. As part of this effort, participants met with a group of Diet members, senior members of the government, and journalists to exchange views on the observations and recommendations articulated in the Odawara Statement, specifically noting opportunities for Japan’s leadership.
Key points from the Odawara Statement:
- One of the lessons from the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the rule of law and freedom of expression are indispensable for the prevention of aggression. Safeguarding freedom and democracy is crucial to our national security and interest.
- Democracy is more than just an election process; it must also include civil liberties and the rule of law. Democracies must work together to protect democratic values and safeguard a rules-based order in our region.
- We should step up democratic partnership at the government and civil society levels. We urge governments to raise the priority of their support to democratic governance and norms in their foreign policy, development cooperation, and national security strategy. The Sunnylands process will facilitate collaborative initiatives and networking among all democratic stakeholders to promote democratic values.
- The greatest protections for democracy are a vibrant civil society and an independent media. We propose to strengthen support for civil society organizations and the media, including the possibility of establishing a new mechanism to do so. We urge strong leadership by regional democracies such as Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea.
JCIE co-organized the retreat as part of our overall efforts in the Democracy for the Future program, a multi-pronged initiative to explore and expand Japan’s support for democratic governance that is based on the values of liberty, accountability, the rule of law, and individual dignity and empowerment.
*The Sunnylands Initiative is a partnership of democratic organizations, think tanks, and public intellectuals who are committed to advancing a shared vision for cooperation among Indo-Pacific nations and peoples to strengthen democratic governance, practices, and norms across the region. The members endorsed a statement of shared democratic principles as the Sunnylands Principles at the inaugural meeting held at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California, in January 2020, which was co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, NED, and the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.
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