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28 January 2005
5th Annual EU-UNU Forum Will Discuss NGO Participation in the Democratic Process

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have grown in number and influence, and play an important role in mediating state-citizen relations domestically and in shaping the agenda of world affairs. Such a robust and independent civil society is an essential pillar of democratic states, and gives flesh and meaning to the concept of "We the Peoples of the United Nations".

Over the past two decades, citizens' movements and NGOs in democratic societies worldwide have been seeking better representation in the political process. Japanese NGOs, however, are generally small and understaffed in comparison with their European counterparts, and face significant obstacles in developing and attracting increased support.

On Thursday, 3 February, United Nations University and the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan will co-organize the fifth annual European Union-United Nations University (EU-UNU) Tokyo Global Forum. In recognition of 2005 as the "EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges", the theme of this forum will be "Bridging the Gap: Involving Citizens' Movements and NGOs in the Democratic Process." Participants, including political leaders, academics, UN officials, and NGO representatives, will exchange views on how to optimize the role that civil society plays in supporting the democratic system of government.

The forum will open at 9:45 AM in the U Thant International Hall of UN House in Tokyo. Following opening remarks by representatives of UNU, the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, there will be sessions on "NGOs and Human Rights", "NGOs and Humanitarian Assistance and Development", "NGOs and Environment", and "Creating a Civil Dialogue". There will be over a dozen speakers, including Hiroko Hara, (President, Japan Women's Watch), Shokichi Kina (Member of the House of Councillors, Japan), Lotte Leicht (Director, Human Rights Watch Europe), and Tokiharu Okazaki (Executive Director, Friends of the Earth Japan). Additional information, including the forum programme and complete list of speakers, is available on the UNU website at For those unable to attend, the 5th EU-UNU Forum will be "webcast" live (and archived) at Also, a press briefing will be held on 2 February at 11:00 in Committee Room 2 at UN House, where representatives from EU and UNU will be available to answer question.

Simultaneous English-Japanese interpretation will be provided. Media representatives are cordially invited to attend. For more information, or to reserve a media space, please contact the UNU Office of Communications (tel. 03-5467-1243 & -1246; fax 03-3406-7346; e-mail


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