"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Opening Remarks by Prime Minister SUGA at "Shared Values and Democracy" Symposium

[Date] December 21, 2020
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

I am SUGA Yoshihide, Prime Minister of Japan.

I wish to make a few remarks in opening the symposium "Shared Values and Democracy in Asia." This year marks the sixth anniversary of this symposium, which was launched upon the joint proposal by the leaders of Japan and India in 2014.

I thank Prime Minister Modi, who has kindly sent us a video message as this year's symposium is held online.

It gives me a great pleasure that this unique event which is a product of cooperation between Japan and India, the largest democracy in the world, has been steadily developing.

In Asia, diverse values have been nurtured since ancient times. Buddhism and Hinduism teach compassion. Confucianism teaches "Ren" or benevolence. Islam teaches tolerance. And in Japan, we have the spirit of "Wa" or harmony. These values have one thing in common: an attitude to cherish and respect diversity and tolerance. We can say that democracy in Asia have taken root, deeply and widely, and evolved based on such traditional thoughts and beliefs.

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. "If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant," said Gandhi, who devoted himself to realizing democracy while never resorting or surrendering to violence. He also emphasized, "Democracy was something that would give the weak the same chance as the strong."

Looking back at my life, I was born and brought up as a son of a farmer in the snow country of Akita. Back then, I had no foundation to start a political career, nor any blood relatives to count on in the world of politics; I dove into politics despite literally starting from zero. What I always have in my heart since then is a resolution to create a society where everyone can fully unleash their own potential. It is my firm belief that such a society can only be realized when differences of individuals are respected and equal opportunities are guaranteed for everyone.

I believe that there are many friends in Asia who share the same passion and spare no efforts for the development of their own nation.

Today, His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, former President of Sri Lanka, will give a keynote speech for this symposium. He has worked tirelessly for overcoming differences in languages and religions to achieve national reconciliation and consolidate democracy in Sri Lanka.

Indonesia, where I visited in October, also has a history of overcoming many challenges and successfully establishing democracy. Now, Indonesia is helping other countries to advance democratization through its initiative called the "Bali Democracy Forum."

Such experiences that Asian countries have gone through clearly speak of the fact that there are various historical and cultural backgrounds behind the consolidation of democracy and it takes a long time to nurture democracy.

With careful consideration to such backgrounds, Japan has actively extended assistance to build foundation and reinforce democracy through measures such as dispatching election observer missions and providing human resource development assistance. Japan will continue to stand side by side with each country and work together to further develop democracy in Asia.

Today's symposium has a session focusing on diversity and tolerance in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. During the session, prominent athletes will share their experience with you about their own efforts to realize fair Games without any discrimination.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games should be a venue where everyone respects diversity and demonstrate their fullest potential. I am determined to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games here in Tokyo next summer as a proof that humanity has defeated the virus. I will continue to spare no effort in preparation for the safe and secure Games.

I would like to conclude my remarks with my sincere wishes that through fruitful discussions on values and democracy in Asia, this symposium will greatly contribute to fostering mutual understanding and realizing a diverse and tolerant society where everyone can live in harmony.

Thank you.