4. Contemporary Issues Other Topics

Posted on August 01, 2018

II: The World Today as We See It

4. Contemporary Issues

Today, the world is undergoing a whirlwind of changes. At the cross section of our current times, the following trends and phenomena exist for today’s NPOs in Japan to confront:

  • As an indication that we live in a society of uncertainty, there is a prevalence of inwardness (or the tendency to be more domestically focused and less interested in global affairs or in international cooperation) and of pandering to populist discourse, both within and outside of Japan;
  • As is evident in the increasing amount of attention paid to childhood poverty in Japan, social inequality and stratification have had ramifications in all social arenas, and distortions and strains in society are becoming more apparent;
  • We have entered an era in which issues that pose a threat to regional sustainability – such as decrease in birth rate and aging of the population, or depopulation and local industrial decline – are not news and have become normalized, and these trends are accelerating;
  • While women’s entrance into and promotion within the workforce have been touted loudly, international comparisons reveal that fixed notions of normative gender roles have a strong foothold in Japan, and awareness of and improvements to women’s positions in society and protection of women’s human rights have been very slow to progress;
  • Climate change has become a huge risk factor in the global community as evident in frequent natural disasters, and vulnerable populations have been forced into a position where they are the most susceptible to its damages; and
  • When we look to the global community, in both the developed and developing worlds, there has been a rise in legislation and regulations that limit civic activities such as freedom of speech and assembly, and political narratives that strengthen such trends have also become more prominent.

In the midst of the above, we also see other trends:

  • Having experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, people within and outside of the directly affected regions have become more aware of the fact that uneventful everyday life is in fact irreplaceable and precious;
  • Disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction efforts have highlighted not only the importance of daily preparedness but also the value of being connected to neighbors in local communities;
  • An orientation toward social problem-solving has spread throughout society, whereby not only the government and NPOs but also social enterprises and other likeminded businesses, individuals with various occupational skills, and others across sectors have become aware that they have an indispensable role to play in solving problems;
  • With advancements in information technology, we have entered an era in which technological responses can be considered for every aspect of the issues NPOs must tackle; and
  • There is heightened interest in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations established in 2015, both within Japan and internationally, and there is a stronger drive toward gaining a comprehensive understanding regional and societal sustainability and for accelerating efforts that align with the SDGs.

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